How To Reduce Swollen Feet From Traveling

If you’re a frequent flyer or road trip regular, you may already be familiar with the feeling of swollen feet and ankles after traveling. Although this is a common experience, you may be wondering what causes this bodily response and what can you do to prevent it. 

No matter your destination, it’s natural to want to feel your best while traveling, so how can you prevent swelling and stay comfortable whether you’re seated or immobile for long stretches?

Keep reading to explore how travel contributes to swollen feet, what experts recommend to alleviate your discomfort, and how to reduce swelling in feet after travel.


How Does Travel Contribute to Swollen Feet?

Some degree of foot and ankle swelling while you travel is totally normal, and can be the result of a few different factors. If you find yourself constantly questioning, “Why do my feet swell when I travel?”, here’s a look at some of the causes of swollen feet, whether you’re traveling by plane, train, or automobile.



You may notice that your feet have swollen a few hours into your journey because you’re dehydrated. Dehydration can cause‌ your blood to become thicker, preventing proper circulation and making it easier for blood to gather in your veins around your feet and ankles, especially if you’re inactive for long periods of time. 

Unfortunately, this can be exacerbated by everyone’s favorite plane snacks: salty pretzels, chips, peanuts, and the like. Increased sodium intake can lead to excess water retention, which increases the amount of fluid in the body outside of your cells. This can cause fluid buildup and swelling in your limbs, making it crucial to drink plenty of water if you plan on enjoying salty snacks when you travel.

When you’re traveling, drink plenty of water and avoid salty snacks that may only exacerbate your dehydration. Opting for snacks like fruits and veggies can also help your body stay hydrated and maintain proper blood circulation during your travels.


Lack of Movement

Another common culprit for pesky in-flight foot swelling, also called edema, is lack of movement and exercise. When you’re seated in a car or on a plane, you may stay in the same position for a long period. This limited amount of movement can cause the blood in your body to gather in your feet and lower legs. 

While you typically walk, stretch, and change your sitting position several times throughout a normal day, regularly exercising and moving your body can be trickier when you’re on a plane or traveling by car. To avoid foot and leg edema, be sure to stand up and move your legs regularly. 


Uncomfortable Footwear

If you notice that your feet always tend to swell when you travel, your footwear choices may also be to blame. Since the lack of movement and potential dehydration can restrict your circulation, it’s important to seek out the best travel shoes for your feet that won’t exacerbate these issues. 

Tight or ill-fitting footwear can increase swelling on a long flight or road trip, so you’ll want to prioritize comfort when getting dressed for a trip.


Expert Tips for Reducing Swollen Feet During Travel

While foot swelling during travel is pretty common, there are some steps you can take to reduce or prevent it altogether. Here are some tips to promote blood flow and cut back on ankle and foot swelling, so you can have a comfortable and relaxing journey.


Cut Back on Sodium Before You Board

While what you eat during a flight can definitely impact how your body feels, it’s important to have balanced, nutritious meals before you travel, too. Prior to takeoff, try to avoid sodium-rich foods as much as you can. 

Instead of going for a pre-flight fast food burger, opt for fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. These food choices can also help you feel full longer, curbing your craving for mid-flight munchies (which may be high in sodium). 


Walk Around When You Can

While it may be difficult to get up and at ‘em, try to take walking breaks whenever possible, especially if you’re sitting for a long period of time. This may mean walking up and down the block when you stop to refill your tank at a gas station or walking up and down the aisle as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off. 


Store Your Bags and Carry-Ons in the Overhead Compartment

While it may not seem like it’ll have a huge impact on your feet, it’s important to have as much foot and legroom as possible while traveling. 

If you can store your bag, purse, or backpack in an overhead compartment rather than under the seat in front of you, this extra bit of room allows you to stretch your legs and move your feet during the flight, helping to promote proper blood circulation.


Try to Avoid Crossing Your Legs

Although sitting cross-legged in the passenger’s seat during a road trip may seem comfortable, this position can actually contribute to swollen ankles and feet. If you’re traveling by plane, you’ll also want to avoid crossing your legs during the flight. 

Crossing your legs can worsen issues you may have with poor circulation and blood flow, leading to discomfort and swelling, which are only made worse by sitting in the same position for several hours.


Choose the Aisle Seat Whenever Possible

If you have the option to choose where you sit when booking your flight or upon boarding the plane, always go for an aisle seat if swelling is a concern. You’ll be able to move and stretch your feet more freely and stand up or walk down the aisle whenever the captain turns the “fasten seatbelt” light off. 


Stretch and Exercise Your Ankles and Feet

While you may not always be able to choose where you sit, there are plenty of exercises and stretches that can help you minimize swelling from any seat. Rolling your ankles, doing calf raises, and wiggling your toes are all simple ways to help promote circulation and prevent swollen ankles and feet from becoming your reality.


Choose the Right Shoes

If you know you’ll be behind the wheel or on an airplane for several hours, it’s crucial to dress comfortably, especially when it comes to footwear. Proper footwear should allow your feet to breathe. 

Many travelers opt for comfortable walking sneakers or other lace-up options so they can adjust the tightness of their shoes to account for any swelling. For additional ease, you may want to look for a pair of slip-on sneakers, like the Uptown Knit Skimmer Flat. Proper fitting footwear can also prevent discomfort by ensuring the shoes don’t restrict blood flow or circulation to your feet and toes. 


Practical Remedies to Ease Swollen Feet from Traveling

If you’re de-boarding your flight and you notice your shoes feel more snug than before, your feet and ankles have probably swollen during travel. Fortunately, there’s no need to worry. Here’s how to reduce swollen feet from traveling with a few simple strategies:

  • Raise and rest your feet – To help redistribute some of the blood that’s gathered in the veins in your feet and ankles, try elevating your feet (preferably above your heart). You can prop them up on furniture or use pillows to keep them lifted while you sleep.
  • Use compression socks If you think your foot swelling is the result of dehydration and excess water retention, you may want to try using compression socks for some relief. Compression socks are available in a variety of thicknesses and strengths, so you may want to try thinner, lighter-weight options if you’ve never used them before.
  • Boost your magnesium levels – Excess fluid retention may be a sign of a magnesium deficiency, so if the swelling persists, you may want to consider adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet. These include spinach, almonds, potatoes, and brown rice.

Although minor to moderate swelling is completely normal after traveling, especially if you were on a long flight, you should look out for signs of a more serious condition called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Signs of DVT may include a foot or leg that is red or hot, pain and tenderness, or one foot that looks significantly more swollen than the other. 


Choosing the Right Footwear to Reduce Swollen Feet While Traveling

When you’re searching for the best travel shoes, especially if you’re going to be on a plane, it’s crucial to find footwear that allows your toes to move and breathe. This means you’ll want to look for shoes with a wide enough toe box. 

You’ll also want shoes that can adjust to minor swelling, which is why sneakers and slip-on shoes, like the Uptown Loafer, are popular amongst travelers. Regardless of your style, prioritizing comfort, cushioning, and proper arch support are easy ways you can use your footwear to reduce swollen feet and ankles when you travel.


Keep Your Feet Comfortable Wherever You Travel with Vionic

No matter your destination, prioritizing your foot health when you travel can help you steer clear of any unwanted swelling or discomfort. But who says comfort can’t also be stylish? 

At Vionic, we put your feet first, with a collection of fashionable shoes, boots, sneakers, and sandals, including the best travel shoes for women, all equipped with built-in orthotics, so you can feel confident and comfortable when you head out on your next adventure.

With proper arch support, cushioning, and a variety of width options, you can find a pair of comfortable shoes you love without sacrificing your personal style. The next time you travel, put your best foot forward with Vionic.



Action on Salt. Salt and Water Retention. 

Healthline. 10 Home Remedies for Swollen Feet. 

Optima Foot and Ankle. Is Foot Swelling During Air Travel a Concern? 

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