With air travel mre affordable and common, seeing your family and other loved ones has gotten a lot simpler.
Security notwithstanding, with more knowledge of what’s best for our feet are improving, but the danger of foot pain is still present. From minor cramps to more serious structural damage, attention must be paid to the feet during travel.
- Stay hydrated – drinking plenty of water a day before your trip and during your trip is crucial. This will prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Limit your salt, or sodium, or sodium intake. Sodium can retain water which, rather than letting the water flow through the body, can cause swelling.
- Consider electrolytes. Electrolyte drinks, such as Gatorade, can also help ward off dehydration and issues with circulation. Note, however, many electrolyte drinks also have a fairly high sodium content, so drinking a little extra water is still necessary.
- Walk. Walking around on the plane is essential for good blood flow. On flights over two hours, it is important to get up and walk about and even stand if possible for a few minutes. If you drink electrolytes and water, you will surely need to get up and walk…to the restroom! Consider this a blessing: walking is good.
- Keep your feet free. Try to keep the area around your feet as free as possible, and don’t bury your feet under luggage. If your feet get cold on a flight, consider slippers, but make sure those slippers let your feet breathe. The last thing you want is sweaty feet for hours – harmful fungi can develop.
- Massage your hooves! Keeping the blood flowing is the big deal on a flight. It is quite unnatural for your feet to be stationed—and stationary—well below your heart for several hours at a time. In addition to walking, give your feet a nice massage. Wearing slip-on shoes is a very good idea here, and make sure your socks fit well – a too-tight elastic band at the top will not help the blood go where it needs to go!
- Don’t cross your legs. Crossing the legs can restrict your already compromised blood flow. Of course, you have to shift for comfort, but keep it to a minimum, and try not to fall asleep in that position.
- Choose comfortable shoes. Though this may seem obvious, it’s amazing how many people come to their flight wearing high heels or other constricting foot gear. Aside from being just uncomfortable, some types of shoes unevenly distribute the weight in your foot, leading to structural damage, pain, and entrapped nerves.
A Word on DVT and Compression Stockings
You may have heard of Deep Vein Thrombosis, otherwise known as DVT. A DVT is a blood clot that can form anywhere in your body, but the majority of DVTs form in the legs. While people can live for a long while with a DVT, a DVT should be considered a medical emergency. The risk of a clot traveling through the bloodstream and blocking your blood flow is real and can lead to death.
While a DVT can develop in any situation, it has been correlated with air travel, particularly in flights over 4 hours. The majority opinion of the medical community holds that the association of DVT and flying does exist, but has most likely been overstated. Still, the risk of DVT deserves some attention. The list of risk factors for developing DVT during air travel is long, but those with known circulatory issues are at greatest risk. In their cases, compression stockings have been shown to be effective at preventing the development of DVTs. These stockings are available at most pharmacies. In addition to compression stockings, though, all of the above tips help preclude DVTs, too.
- Gavish I, Brenner B. Air travel and the risk of thromboembolism. Intern Emerg Med. 2011 Apr;6(2):113-6
- Clarke MJ, Hopewell S, Juszczak E, Eisinga A, Kjeldstrøm M. Compression stockings for preventing deep vein thrombosis in airline passengers. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD004002. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004002.pub2.