Have you ever gotten to your destination and realized your feet are too big for your shoes? This has happened to me on many occasions, because the airplane makes my feet swell. I'm short, so they don't really sit flat on the floor and they dangle. All the blood has a party down there and my feet are fatter than usual. This makes wearing any sort of attractive shoe (i.e. something other than sneakers/trainers) pretty difficult. In LA, we walked so much that I had to peel my shoes off my feet and they had swelled to the point where I could even get my flats on, because they didn't have any give. This is the day I swore I would never forget to pack a pair of flip flops (or those foldable ballet flats) ever again.
How to avoid leg and foot swelling
This is seriously a big problem. Not only can bad circulation in your legs and feet be really uncomfortable, but it can affect your whole trip and, in some cases, cause blood clots. Ouch! Nobody want that, because it just means a trip to the hospital. If you're prone to fat feet like I am, then I've got some tips to help your feet remain mostly normal and not make your trip seem like you're walking around in bear traps.
Do these things actually work? I have no idea, but I have a pair, so I'll try them out on my 9-hour flight and report back. Supposedly, they keep the circulation in your legs going. I don't know if they use magic or what, since they seem just like regular socks to me, but if they will keep me comfortable and from swollen lower extremities (that might or might not also fall asleep every so often) I really don't care.
Where comfortable, non-restrictive shoes.
You know what else I'll never do again? Wear boots on the plane. On my first trip to Europe, I thought wearing boots would be smart. It was the middle of fall, it was going to be chilly, boots look really cute with jeans. Well, they would have, if I had taken them off during the flight and not had to practically cut myself out of them after traveling for about a day. Once I got them off, I couldn't put them back on the entire trip. After Day 3 I just didn't try anymore. In fact, I wore the same pair of walking shoes everyday for two weeks. Is it no wonder that I still have those shoes in my closet even though I don't wear them anymore? Those boots are probably lucky they didn't end up in the bottom of the Thames. This was a total live and learn moment. Stick to shoes that have some give. I prefer ballet flats, but moccasins, loafers and sneakers work just as well, too.
Wear loose-fitting clothing
This is right up there with not wearing boots. You don't want to constrict your blood-flow in any way. My plan for the plane is always to wear pants that breathe - this flight will have me wearing my stretch, made for travel, Hudson jeans - that still look good and then layer a t-shirt or tank with a cardigan, so I can take off or put on a layer as needed. I always carry my jacket with me. It is there if I need to wear it, but I can also use it as a blanket or pillow, or throw it on the floor when I choose to not wear shoes at my seat to keep them from touching whatever's down there.
Get up and walk around every hour
I know you can't always do this, but it's a good reason to have an aisle seat. You won't be the only one doing it, so don't feel awkward. Pretend you need to go to the restroom, or actually go and wash your face or go do some (super-restrictive) stretches in there. If you can't get up and walk around, stand up at your seat or do some of these other things.
Do isolation exercises
You might get a weird look from your neighbor, but it's probably just because they wish they had thought of this first. Do some isolation exercises in your seat, like pointing and flexing and drawing circles in the air with your toes, to get the circulation going in your ankles, shake your legs, too. Make sure you sit with your legs uncrossed. As natural as this feels, it isn't good for your blood-flow.
I really do suggest this for everything, but water can really help you stay healthy and keep your body doing what it's supposed to. Avoid alcohol and coffee that can easily dehydrate you.
Stay away from salty foods
Yes, I love those fancy little pretzels and snack mix they bring around too. I also like to bring my own salted nuts and other snacks, but avoiding as much salt as possible can eliminate bloating and extremity-swelling.
Once at your destination, put your feet up when you can, get a foot rub, take a bath or just soak your feet. Try some peppermint foot lotion/mask/bath salts. Walking around is great exercise, but it can take a toll on your feet, so anytime you find a way to pamper your toes, do it.
If you missed the first three parts of this series, check them out here:
Part 1 - Combating jet lag
Part 2 - Staying moisturized
Part 3 - Staying healthy
Do you have issues with swelling during long flights or trips with lots of walking?