August 10, 2021

Swollen Feet and Ankles: Treatments to Try

Home remedies to reduce pain and water retention

A man with his hair in a bun massaging the feet of a pregnant woman who is laying on a couch

Have you ever looked down at your ankles and feet and barely recognized them as your own because of swelling? It happens, whether it’s from long days on your feet, hours of travel, surgery or pregnancy.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But there are ways to relieve swelling from everyday causes — and sometimes you can even prevent it, says podiatrist Georgeanne Botek, DPM. Kick up your feet for a few minutes to learn how.

What causes feet and ankles to swell?

Swelling (or what doctors refer to as edema) happens when your body retains fluid in your lower legs, ankles and feet. It most often occurs on both sides of your body. The result is uncomfortable and can keep you from moving freely.

Possible causes of swollen feet and ankles include:

  • Lifestyle factors, such as inactivity or being overweight.
  • Medical conditions that affect the movement of fluid in your body. The list would include diseases targeting your heart, kidneys, liver and veins.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Shoes that don’t fit right.
  • Injuries.

“When it comes to swelling, it’s about management and getting through the day,” Dr. Botek says. “There’s nothing that’s necessarily curative, but you can take steps to ease pain and discomfort.”

How to help swollen ankles and feet

Potential solutions to your swollen feet or ankles could already be in your kitchen cabinet or scattered around your living room. And, if not, a quick trip to the store might be all it takes to find some relief.

Here are a half-dozen easy-to-try home remedies worth some consideration.

Compression socks

A hug sometimes seems like it can make everything better — and that sentiment applies to swollen feet and ankles, too.

Compression socks offer a gentle squeeze to your legs that promotes better blood circulation. This helps prevent fluid from collecting in your ankles and feet, which works to minimize swelling and pain.

Advertisement

Finding compression socks won’t be difficult. They’re widely available at various stores, ranging from pharmacies to shoe retailers and online. They also come in a variety of weights, from light, medium and heavier weight.

Dr. Botek suggests starting with lightweight socks. Be sure you select a pair that isn’t too tight for your body. Put them on in the morning and wear them as long as you remain comfortable.

Elevation

Gravity never stops working. If you have swollen feet or ankles, let gravity work for you.

Elevating your legs above the level of your heart helps drain built-up fluid from your lower extremities, says Dr. Botek. Basically, you give your circulatory system a little assistance by letting gravity do its thing.

Best of all, the process is simple. Just prop up your legs using pillows, books or anything else that’s available. Various yoga poses — such as lying on the floor with your legs raised and pressed against the wall — can also help.

Epsom salt

Fans of Epsom salt baths talk glowingly of the restorative power brought by a 15- to 20-minute tub soak. The fancy title for this treatment, by the way, is transdermal magnesium supplementation.

Is there a ton of science behind the claims of how Epsom salt reduces inflammation and draws out toxins? Not really… but people swear by it. Many doctors promote it, too, given its ease of use, low cost and minimal risk.

Magnesium-rich foods

Water retention and the accompanying swelling can be a sign of a magnesium deficiency, notes Dr. Botek. In that case, adding magnesium-rich foods to your diet could be a tasty solution to your painful problem.

Foods that are high in magnesium include:

  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, cashews, flaxseed, peanuts and pumpkin seeds).
  • Legumes (black beans, lima beans).
  • Fiber-rich whole grains (quinoa).
  • Low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt).
  • Greens (spinach).
  • Dark chocolate.

Magnesium supplements

Supplements offer another way to get a boost of magnesium. Taking 200 mg to 400 mg of magnesium a day may help reduce swelling, Dr. Botek said. (Talk to your doctor before taking the supplement, though — especially if you have a kidney or heart condition.)

Advertisement

Hydrate

So the solution to an issue with retaining fluid is to drink more fluid? As crazy as that sounds, the answer is yes. Here’s why.

Your body naturally holds onto fluids if it senses your tank is running low — and that retention can lead to swelling. Drinking more water also can help flush excess sodium and other waste from your system, Dr. Botek says.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommends that women consume 2.7 liters (91 oz) of water per day from beverages and food. The number is 3.7 liters (125 oz) for men. As a rule of thumb, 80% of that total comes from beverages and 20% from food.

Tips to reduce ankle and foot swelling

Simple lifestyle changes ­— such as exercise and weight loss — also can help reduce or prevent swelling while also improving your overall health, says Dr. Botek. She suggested activities such as walking and swimming.

Other recommendations include:

  • Increasing your overall movement, as sitting or standing in one place for too long can increase swelling. Just moving your knees and flexing your ankles may help.
  • Limit your salt and carbohydrate intake.
  • Trying essential oils such as peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender or chamomile.

For best results, try using more than one therapy at a time, Dr. Botek says. For example, if you walk for exercise, maybe use compression socks, too ­— and then make sure to elevate your feet later in the day.

When you should see your doctor

Call your physician if you develop:

Also, monitor your feet. Shoes that are too tight due to swelling can often cut into your skin and create wounds. Plus, those snug shoes restrict circulation, which only serves to increase the problem.

Most importantly, if swelling only occurs on one side of your body, consult your doctor immediately. You could be at risk for deep vein thrombosis.

Related Articles

Woman Shoe Shopping
August 2, 2020
7 Questions You May Be Afraid to Ask About Stylish Shoes

Pick shoes that make your feet happy and are good for your overall health

Person testing their blood sugar with their home kit
February 29, 2024
Type 1 vs. Type 2 Diabetes: What’s the Difference?

Type 1 diabetes happens when your body doesn’t make insulin, while Type 2 happens when your body can’t use insulin properly

female healthcare provider speaking with patient in medical setting
January 10, 2024
Can Too Much Sugar Cause Diabetes?

There is an indirect link between the sweet substance and the condition

close up of female pulling hairs from a brush
January 10, 2024
Is My Thyroid to Blame for My Hair Loss?

The endocrine gland in charge of hormone production may be causing your hair to shed or stop growing

person adding blueberries to bowl of granola cereal
January 8, 2024
Can People With Diabetes Have Sugar?

The short answer: Yes, but you need to eat it in moderation and keep track of how much you consume

person about to take a walk outdoors
November 16, 2023
How Walking After Eating Impacts Your Blood Sugar

Even a short walk can make a positive difference

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
October 16, 2023
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals that make life easier aren’t always so easy on the human body

beer glass sitting beside diabetes testing equipment
October 11, 2023
Diabetes and Alcohol: Do They Mix?

Blood glucose monitoring and drinking in moderation can help you avoid hypoglycemia

Trending Topics

White bowls full of pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and various kinds of nuts
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating

A healthy diet can easily meet your body’s important demands for magnesium

Woman feeling for heart rate in neck on run outside, smartwatch and earbuds
Heart Rate Zones Explained

A super high heart rate means you’re burning more than fat

Spoonful of farro salad with tomato
What To Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable with these dietary changes

Ad