Five Unbreakable (Foot) Rules for Air Travel

Slip ons like these are great for the airport, but switch to lace up sneakers once you get on the planeThere are so many things that can ruin a trip through the airport: flight delays, backed up security lines…I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes just reading this short list. While many of the ills of air travel are, sadly, unavoidable, there is one problem you can take action to prevent: mid-and-post-flight foot pain.

There are many reasons that air travel can make your feet hurt, but the top two reasons are:

  1. Long walks between terminals while lugging heavy baggage
  2. Long periods of time spent sitting, with knees bent and feet on the floor, as all the blood in your body pools in your swiftly-swelling feet (aka gravitational edema)

Want to leave foot pain behind as you head up in the air? Follow these five simple rules for your feet!

  1. Choose supportive shoes with a little (but not too much) give: Just like on land, it’s important to have shoes that support your arches and allow your feet to breathe. The importance increases when you’re in the air as you want your feet to have enough room to swell mildly, but enough support to keep the swelling in check. Sneakers and tennis shoes are both great options, but the main rule to keep in mind is that the shoes have enough room in the toe box to allow your toes to wiggle, even when your socks are on.
  2. Keep your shoes on your feet: There are so many reasons why this is important (hello, smells?!?) but the key purposes for keeping your shoes on are to protect your feet from germs and other gross stuff that accumulates on airplane floors and to keep your feet from swelling too much (see rule no. 1 for review.)
  3. Rock your socks: Socks can be help in the fight against foot swelling (especially if they are compression or supportive knee socks.) They can also help regulate your body temperature, keeping your feet from getting too cold or so clammy that they become a breeding ground for athletes foot.
  4. Forget the flip flops: While these flimsy shoes do allow your feet to breathe, they offer zero foot support and zero protection from potential hazards like dropped bags and rolling beverage carts. Leave them in the suitcase for pool and beach visits only!
  5. Pack an extra pair: Sure, sneakers are awesome for in-flight purposes, but they can be a pain to tie and un-tie while you’re rushing through security checkpoints. Simple solution? Choose a supportive slip on shoe for the airport portion of your travel plans, then pack a pair of plane-perfect kicks in your carry-on to change into once you hit the seat in the airplane!
Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.