Man with pain in his ankle sitting on a rock.

Swollen feet and thick ankles: 17 causes and solutions

Swollen feet and swollen ankles: 17 causes and their solutions!

What happens if your ankles or feet get swollen? 

Swollen ankles and swollen feet are symptoms that you will likely notice very quickly. At the very latest, when you have difficulties putting on your shoes. Even if this is easily noticeable - it can be difficult to identify the cause of these issues, as foot swelling can have a wide variety of causes: Too little exercise, vein problems, edema, or even heart and kidney problems. We identified 17 potential causes for the swelling of your ankles and how best to treat them. Many of the reasons listed here can be reduced by taking note of your salt and water consumption, but there are also some causes for which it is best to consult your primary physician immediately. After initial examinations, the doctor will refer his patients to an internist or vascular specialist (angiology, phlebology) if necessary. The risk factors are as diverse as the causes. The time of year, diet, hormone phases prior to the illness, and the choice of shoes can significantly increase the risk of foot swelling.

1.  Swollen ankles due to bad shoes

We start the list with the most obvious cause: shoes that are too small. You will soon discover this cause for yourself. Probably your shoes are not comfortable at all, and they pinch off your ankles and feet. The cure to this problem is obvious: buy a size bigger next time.

2.  Swollen ankles caused by a warm climate

You may not think about it, but the summer weather has its drawbacks too. When it gets hot, you can start to suffer from edema. How?
When the weather is very hot, your body gets hot. Your body will want to get rid of the heat. A clever way for the body to do this is to widen the veins, including the veins in the lower body. This will bring more blood to, among others, the feet, ankles, and legs. However, when it gets colder again (like in the evening), the veins will go back to normal size. It may then happen that the veins fail to completely pump back the (extra) blood in the feet to the heart. In this case, there will be an accumulation of fluid in your lower body, like in the feet—the result: thick feet and ankles.
  • Thick feet due to warm weather can be prevented and controlled by first drinking a lot of water. Water makes it easier to remove moisture from your feet.
  • Take it easy with the salt. Even though salt makes you thirstier, at the same time, it also ensures that you retain more moisture in your body. And that fluid can accumulate in your legs.
  • Don't sit still for too long. Exercise is really important. It keeps your calf muscles active, so they can help with blood circulation. This prevents fluid from accumulating in your legs or feet.

3.  Osteoarthritis can cause swollen ankles.

An osteoarthritis is a form of arthrosis. Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage begins to function less and less well and can eventually even disappear altogether. When osteoarthritis is in the foot, it means that the cartilage function in the foot will continuously decrease. The video below explains the concept of osteoarthritis in detail: 

Solutions for Osteoarthritis

  • Go to a doctor. He or she can make a good diagnosis and see how serious osteoarthritis is.

 4. and swollen feet caused by Longhaul flights

Air travel can also be the cause of swollen ankles and feet. When you travel by plane, you often sit still for a long time. Many passengers suffer from swollen feet and ankles. This is because the calf muscles normally help to pump up the blood. When you sit still for a long time, you don't use these muscles, so the blood circulation doesn't get the necessary support from the calf muscles. 
The result:
  • Fluid is left behind in the lowest parts of the body, the ankles, and feet. Also, read our blog, with more tips, about flying.

Solutions for swollen feet during flights

  • Try to move while you're flying, so your blood circulation can be stimulated.
  • Don't sit with your legs crossed. This will constrict your veins, which is very bad for blood circulation.
  • Wear travel socks; these improve blood circulation.

5. Lack of Exercise

Standing too long or sitting too for extended periods can cause you to get thick feet and ankles. This is because, in both cases, you don't use your calf muscles enough.
You're probably wondering why standing or sitting for too long doesn't stimulate your calf muscles enough and what exactly this has to do with your thick feet.
Normally, the calf muscles help pump up oxygen-depleted blood, causing it to get out of your legs. This happens through contractions of the calf muscle. But if you stand or sit for a long time, the calf muscle doesn't make enough contractions to actively help pump the blood up.  This results in fluid accumulation because the blood is not pumped up well enough.
  • More movement. As already described, the movement promotes blood circulation. Good tips for more movement can be found here.
  • A solution is to wear compression socks, because they give a mild pressure on, among others, the calves. This improves blood circulation.

6. Swollen Ankles and feet during pregnancy

Despite the fact that pregnancy is generally a positive situation, it also has its drawbacks. Pregnant women can suffer from swollen ankles much more easily. This has several causes. The first cause is the hormonal balance during pregnancy. When you are pregnant, everything changes in your body.
What do these changes have to do with getting swollen feet?
Because of the hormonal changes, the wall of your blood vessels becomes a bit thinner. This ensures that fluid can flow from the blood vessels in the tissue. In addition, pregnancy also causes the amount of blood in your body to increase, which leads to greater pressure on your lower body, specifically in your legs.
Do you suffer from thick feet in combination with high blood pressure during your pregnancy?  If so, please consult with your doctor immediately.
  • Drink a lot of water
  • More exercise
  • Get massages
  • Avoid salt

7. Ankle injuries

Another cause of swollen ankles and feet can be an injury to the ankle. For example, you may have a sprained ankle, or the ankle ligaments may be torn. Often the ankle then becomes thick. It is unlikely that you won't notice this, as tearing ankle ligaments can be very painful. In addition, your ankle often turns blue. In this case, see your doctor.
  • Don't take off your shoes immediately if you twisted your ankle. This can only cause the ankle toswell up.
  • Hold the ankle higher than the rest of the leg. This way, less fluid can get into the ankle, and the swelling will be less.
  • Go see the doctor; here you can get a real diagnosis.

8. Veins that are not working properly

The veins in your legs would also not be able to function properly. When this happens, the pressure in the veins will increase. This leads to fluid leaking through the vein wall, causing fluid to accumulate in the legs and feet. This is certainly no fun, as treatment consists of bandages on the legs. When the swollen legs are back to normal, you will have to use compression stockings.
  • Go to a doctor. He or she will be able to continue the treatment, which will probably mean bandaging your legs

9. Swollen feet due to nutrition

You can also suffer from thick feet and swollen ankles because of the diet you eat. An example of a product that causes thick feet and thick ankles is salt. By consuming a lot of salt, your body will retain more and more moisture. This is due to the sodium in the salt. More moisture in the body causes more fluid to accumulate in the feet and legs.
Another example is alcohol. You don't really expect it, but by using alcohol, the body will also retain more water. This happens especially after you have consumed alcohol.
  • Watch your salt intake and drink less alcohol. There are several apps and websites that will help you monitor your salt consumption.

10. Inflammation (and Diabetes)

Inflammation in the feet can also cause the feet to swell. An inflammation often occurs because there are infections in the feet. These infections can get into the foot through blisters and wounds. If you don't suffer from nerve problems, you will notice blisters and wounds on the foot by themselves, but people with nerve damage are less able to do so. Nerve damage can be caused by diabetes, among other things. In this case, it is very important that you check your feet regularly so that you don't miss any wounds or blisters. This can cause infections and inflammations and swelling of your feet.
  • Regularly check your feet for wounds, to prevent that a possible wound can start to inflame, without you noticing it.
  • Taking a pedicure can also help. Make it clear that you suffer from diabetic foot syndrome.

11. Thrombosis

This is a very serious cause of swollen feet and ankles. It can be dangerous. Thrombosis means that there is a blood clot in a vein. A blood clot is actually a solid lump of blood, to which more and more blood cells attach themselves. If this happens in the leg, the leg swells up, because the blood cannot flow back to the heart properly. The blood is blocked by the clot. In this case, you suffer from thrombosis.
Is every swollen leg a thrombosis?
No. You can recognize a thrombosis leg by a remarkable swelling, combined with a red, shiny glow. In addition, the leg will also be very hot and painful. Often this happens only on one side of the body at a time. If you have a thrombosis leg, see a doctor. The doctor can find out if you actually have a blood clot in your leg. This can be dangerous because a blood clot can also suddenly make its way to the heart or the lungs.
  • Go to a doctor. Only he or she can make a professional diagnosis.

12. Swollen ankles due to obesity

Excess weight can also be the cause of thick feet. If you are overweight, you will get thick feet faster than people who are not overweight. This is because people who are overweight store more fat in their abdomen, which can get in the way of blood circulation. As a result, blood from the legs cannot be pumped up easily, resulting in fluid accumulation in the lower body.

13. Swollen ankles and feet during menstruation

Menstruation can also be one of the culprits. Like pregnancy, hormones are the cause. After ovulation, women's hormone levels can fluctuate sharply. As a result, some parts of the female body may swell. In addition to the breasts, feet, and ankles, for example, can also swell. A woman also retains a lot more fluid before she starts her period. This also makes it easier to get thick feet.
  • Drink more water. During menstruation, you retain more moisture. By drinking a lot of water, it is easier for your body to get rid of this extra fluid.
  • Eat less salt. Salt ensures that your body retains moisture correctly, so try to take in less salt.

14. Thick feet and swollen ankles due to medication

Some medications can also cause your feet to swell. A well-known example of this is 'the pill.' But that's not all. People who have diabetes often have to take pills because of their blood sugar levels. This medication makes it difficult for the body to remove sodium. As already explained, sodium ensures that fluid is retained. Thick feet can be a result of this. There are other medications and treatments that can cause you to get thick feet. These include ibuprofen, chemotherapy, treatments against Parkinson's disease, heart medication, and medication against epilepsy.
  • Go to a doctor. He or she can make a good diagnosis and see whether it is likely that the medication is causing you to have thick feet.

15. The Achilles tendon

Another cause of swelling in the feet may be the Achilles tendon. Since the Achilles tendon has to endure a lot every day, it can happen that the Achilles tendon becomes inflamed. In this case, the Achilles tendon becomes very sensitive, and the pain can extend to the heel. The Achilles tendon can also become very stiff. This inflammation is also called Achilles Tendinitis. The feet can even swell from this inflammation.
The video below (in English) shows you how you check yourself if you have Achilles Tendinitis:
  • It is still advisable to consult with your doctor. He or she can make a proper diagnosis and see to what extent the Achilles tendon is inflamed.

16. Gout

Gout can also cause your feet to swell. You can get gout in so-called gout attacks, which means that gout occurs suddenly. It is an inflammation that usually occurs in the foot, or even only in the big toe. In this case, the inflamed joint becomes red and swollen. The video below (also in English) explains exactly what gout is:
A gout attack can last up to 3 weeks. If you also have fever symptoms, it is strongly advised that you consult with your doctor.
  • Keep moving. This prevents the muscles from becoming stiff.
  • Go to a doctor. He or she can make a good diagnosis and see whether gout is indeed the cause of your condition.

17. Additional underlying conditions

Tick feet can also be a symptom of other diseases. In this case, there is something wrong with the blood circulation, because of a deficiency, for example, the heart. In this case, you will suffer from thick feet and ankles for a longer period of time, and you probably cannot attribute any of the above causes to your situation. Also, in this case, go and see a doctor.
Solution: -Go to a doctor. He or she can make an official diagnosis.


These were the 17 most common causes of swollen ankles and their respective solutions. As you can see for yourself, the solutions are mainly related to exercise and nutrition. These two factors have an immense influence on our body and, therefore, also on the fluid we retain. For some causes, it is important to be careful, as there can be serious consequences. If you want to prevent thick feet, then wearing compression stockings is a very good option to consider. Compression stockings improve blood circulation, while you don't have to do anything about it yourself. Hopefully, we have been able to help with your problem with thick feet, and you'll get rid of it quickly.