If we had only one word to describe the main reason that feet tend to swell, we’d say, “gravity.”
Pumping blood up the feet and legs and back to the heart is a constant, gravity-defying feat — even when you’re healthy.
Muscle action, particularly in the calves, constricts the blood vessels to spurt fluids ever upward to the next level on their journey back to the heart. By the same token, insufficient muscle action can allow these fluids to pool in the feet, ankles and legs. When this pooling occurs it causes swelling, also known as edema.
Consider Common Causes of Swollen Feet
Fluid retention is just a sign that something’s not quite right. Make sure to talk to a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
The range of diagnoses associated with swelling is fairly wide. Here are some of the more common ones:
Lack of sufficient exercise.
- Circulatory issues, such as peripheral vascular disease (PVD).
- Blood clot.
- Varicose veins.
- Heart, liver or kidney damage or failure.
- Complications of diabetes.
- Certain medications.
- Improper diet.
- Surgery to the lower body, such as knee, foot, or ankle surgery.
It’s Swell Not to Swell
Even in healthy people, standing or sitting for long periods without leg movement sets the stage for edema. We also know you can’t always avoid these situations during work or travel. Still, there are things you can do to relieve and even prevent everyday swollen feet:
- Applications of cold: cool foot baths, cold compresses, ice packs.
- Compression hosiery.
- Compression massage.
- Dietary improvements.
Any of these remedies can help relieve edema, and might also work to help prevent or at least minimize the feeling of your shoes getting tighter as the day wears on.
Admittedly, prevention takes planning. You have to decide to do it and then you have to figure out how to do it consistently. Can you fit a few minutes of walking into your lunch break? Is there a way to elevate your feet a little under your desk?
Not familiar with compression garments? Pressure from special socks, stockings and sleeves provide a substitute for muscle action to reduce pooling of fluids. They supply graduated support, meaning they fit more tightly at the bottom and gradually loosen as they go up the lower extremity. The hosiery shouldn’t bind, but it can take time to get used to the tighter feeling, so you might start with a product offering light support.
Diet-wise, excess sodium is a common culprit. Try tackling it in three ways:
- Cut back on salt.
- Drink more water.
- Eat more fruits and vegetables.
Plant foods, especially of the deep orange and green leafy persuasions, can really boost potassium and magnesium levels. A better balance between these minerals and sodium is good for your blood pressure and for reducing edema, too.
FootSmart® Blog: Swollen ankles at the end of your day.