Travel: Ways to reduce leg swelling on long-haul flights


“What the hell are you wearing?!” asked N as I stepped out of Adelaide customs wearing a dress, compression socks and thongs.

The truth is I wasn’t having a fashion faux pas on purpose – my ankles and feet were so swollen from my 22+ hours in the air that I couldn’t even put my shoes on.

My London to Singapore journey in economy class was an absolute nightmare, with flight attendants rushing around me with ice packs in an attempt to reduce my rapidly-growing cankles.


When I arrived in Singapore, my travel buddy did everything she could to help reduce my leg swelling – bought me compression socks, encouraged me to keep moving, forced me into a massage chair. Everything helped, but my legs were quite swollen and felt strange as we boarded the plane to Adelaide.

Such an experience should have put me off long-haul travel for life, however I have learned to reduce my cankle size with the following steps:

1. DIET: At least 48 hours before flying, I try to follow a healthy diet by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables and avoiding salt, sugar, alcohol and caffeine. I also drink a lot of water before and during the flight. Some websites also suggest drinking an isotonic drink, such as a Powered, however I am yet to try this method.

2. CLOTHING: Ensure there is nothing tight around your waist and wear compression socks or stockings.


3. MOVEMENT: As soon as the seat belt sign goes off, you should start stretching your legs as well as  walking around the plane. Aim to get up and move at least once every 30 minutes. Stuck in the window seat and don’t want to push past the grumpy person sitting next to you? Try lots of ankle rotations and draw circles on the floor with your big toes.

4. ELEVATION: I always travel with an inflatable foot rest. Spare seat next to you? Make sure you put your legs up. If you have a loving partner, he/she may even let you lay your legs across them for part of the flight!

5. AFTER THE FLIGHT: Make sure you walk around as much as possible. I also like to use the stairs instead of elevators/escalators to really stretch my legs out. If you immediately wish to rest or nap, ensure your legs are propped up on a pillow. I find this improves circulation and stops them aching so much!

Do you suffer from cankles  during long-haul flights? What are your best strategies for coping with this travel problem?



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