Couple sitting in a airplane with compression socks.

Why do I get swollen feet and ankles while flying?

Swollen feet and swollen ankles

Many travelers suffer from it: swollen feet or ankles. Your shoes pinch or your legs feel particularly restless. This is something that can turn your trip into a complete nightmare and often occurs in the car, train, but especially on the plane. In this blog, we will give you the cause of swollen ankles while traveling and some useful tips on how to prevent them.

Swollen ankles while flying

Swollen feet and ankles have a simple underlying cause: lack of movement. This is not surprising, as during long trips, you sit in the same position for a long time, which has a negative effect on your circulation. In our blog about swollen feet and ankles, you can find a detailed explanation of how blood circulation in your legs works and the consequences of insufficient physical activity. 

Blood transports oxygen, nutrients, and waste products. Once the oxygen and nutrients are absorbed by your muscles and tissues, the blood must return to your heart. Normally, your calf muscles help to pump the oxygen-poor blood "back up." But when you are inactive for a long time, your circulation does not receive the necessary support from your calves.

How do I prevent swollen feet and ankles during my flight?

It is best to avoid tight-fitting clothing; this can impede blood flow and prevent the skin from getting enough oxygen from outside. Wearing slightly wider and breathable clothing can prevent this. For example, try comfortable-fitting sweatpants and well-fitting sneakers for a comfortable trip.

Walking before travel

Before boarding the plane, take a brisk walk. Regardless of the length of the flight, taking a good walk can greatly improve blood circulation.

Over time, blood circulation will slow down and increase the likelihood of swollen ankles, but by taking a brisk walk beforehand, you can delay this process. Fortunately, most airports have plenty of space for walking.

Make sure your legs are not crossed

Sitting with legs crossed is disastrous for circulation. Although many people find this comfortable, crossed legs can have some adverse effects. By crossing your legs, you pinch off the veins, which is bad for blood circulation. 

Wear compression socks

STOX Energy Socks has special compression socks called Travel Socks, which are specially designed for people who travel a lot by plane or car. These socks are made of merino wool and regulate the temperature in your legs. This reduces the risk of travel thrombosis by almost 19 times compared to wearing normal socks.

Exercise during the flight

Stay as active as possible on the plane. During a car ride, you can quickly make a pit stop and take a walk, but during a long flight, it's more difficult. Try to walk down the aisle every now and then.

If you have enough legroom, you can do the following exercise. Lift your leg and hold your foot 10 centimeters off the ground. Make 10 circular movements and then change direction. You can also do another exercise by lifting your heels as high as possible while keeping your toes on the floor. Hold your heels in this position for 10 seconds and then lower them again. Repeat this exercise 10 to 15 times, and your leg muscles will warm up again!

Post-flight tips against swollen feet

After the journey, you can get your leg muscles back to work by going for a walk. If you suffer from sleepy or restless legs, we recommend building it up slowly.

While sleeping, try to elevate your legs above your body, for example by using a pillow. Additionally, it is wise to limit your salt intake, as salt retains moisture.

Last but not least, we recommend continuing to wear compression travel socks for several days after the trip, so that all the fluid with waste products can be drained away.