Swollen Foot
and Ankle Treatment

Suffering from a swollen foot?  You are not alone.  Most people will experience some type of foot and ankle swelling at some point in their life. 

Foot swelling can be caused by a number of things such as an injury, high blood pressure, pregnancy and various medical conditions.   Swelling can come on gradually for no obvious reason or may develop suddenly following an injury.  There may only be a small area of localized swelling or it may be profuse.  It may only affect one foot, or both.

Here, we will look at some of the best ways to reduce the symptoms of a swollen foot and ankle.   If you have not already done so, we suggest you also visit the Common Causes of Swollen Feet section to find out about the ten most common causes of swelling in the foot.

Top 10 Ways to Treat a Swollen Foot

1)  Elevation

One of the best ways to start treating a swollen foot is to elevate it.  This doesn’t mean just sitting with it resting up on something.  Ideally, you want the swollen ankle to be elevated above the height of your heart.  This allows gravity to draw the swelling down and allow it to get back into circulation rather than pooling in your feet. 

Elevation is one of the best treatments for a swollen foot

Aim to spend twenty minutes with your leg elevated at regular intervals during the day.  At night time, prop your foot up on pillows so it remains elevated while you sleep.  Do make sure your knee is supported too else you’ll wake up with a very stiff and sore knee.

2)  Compression Bandage

Wearing a tubular compression bandage such as tubigrip is a great way to reduce swelling.  Tubigrip is a specially designed bandage that is tubular in shape that sits around your foot and calf.  It is made up of tiny elastic threads covered in a soft fabric which exert pressure evenly over the area. 

Tubigrip compression bandage helps to reduce foot and ankle swelling

Tubigrip works most effectively when it is worn double thickness (i.e. two layers) and is extremely comfortable to wear providing just the right amount of compression to reduce swelling without feeling tight or restrictive.  It can be worn all day but should always be removed at night – you should never sleep in tubigrip.  Tubigrip comes in a range of sizes, lengths and colors. 

Visit the Tubigrip Compression Bandage section on our sister site to find out more about how it works, how to use it effectively and what size is right for you.

3)  Exercise

Regular exercise, such as running or cycling, is another simple treatment tool and prevention measure for a swollen foot.  Exercise improves circulation which can help to reduce foot swelling by helping to pump fluid back up into the blood stream to the heart.  You can also do simple exercises at home to get the foot and ankle moving to help reduce the swelling - visit the foot exercises section to find out more.

4)  Less Salt, More Water

Drinking water helps reduce salt levels, a common cause of a swollen foot

High sodium (salt) levels are a common cause of a swollen foot.  Following a low salt diet can help reduce water retention that often results in swollen feet.  Avoid processed foods which are often high in sodium and don’t put extra salt on your food. 

Drinking more water (aiming for 6-8 glasses per day) helps to dilute the sodium levels and flush the salt out of your system. Also, avoid drinks containing caffeine as they often contain sodium increasing water retention.

5)  Avoid Long Periods of Standing or Sitting

If the foot stays still, swelling pools around the foot and ankles making them puff up more as the day goes by.  Any time you are sitting or lying down for any length of time, pump your feet up and down, draw circles with your feet and lift the heel up and down to get the excess fluid pumping back up the leg into circulation again.  Try and get up regularly and walk around.  Or if you are required to spend long periods on your feet, try to sit down when possible and elevate your feet.

6)  Ice Therapy

Ice therapy is a great way to reduce the symptoms of a swollen foot following an injury

Applying ice to a swollen foot can help to reduce swelling especially if the swelling is a result of an injury.  Ice helps to reduce the amount of localized bleeding which in turn reduces swelling.  Ice packs should be used for ten minutes at a time every couple of hours. 

There are a number of different ways to apply ice to a swollen foot from frozen veg to specially designed ice packs.  Ice should never be placed directly on the skin else it can cause an ice burn.  Visit the Ice Therapy section to find out more about how to safely and effectively use ice.

7)  Massage

Massage is a great way to get rid of excess fluid around the feet

Massage helps to increase circulation and can be used to gently push fluid away from swollen feet.  Get someone to help so you can relax during your massage. 

Prop your feet up with pillows so that gravity can help out.  Start at the toes and gradually work up to the lymphatic drainage points behind your knee in fluid, stroking movements to push the fluid up and away.

8)  Diuretics aka Water Tablets

Diuretics are a type of medicine that reduce fluid build-up by increasing urine production.  They are most commonly used when a swollen foot is caused by heart failure.  They are not appropriate for every case of swelling so do discuss them with your doctor before taking them.

9)  Avoid Tight Clothing & Foot Wear

Avoid wearing tight shoes if suffering from swollen feet

Avoid wearing clothes that are tight especially around the thighs to allow circulation to flow freely in the legs.  Also avoid wearing shoes that are too tight as they can restrict blood flow. 

A good tip is to go shoe shopping at the end of the day as our feet often swell slightly as the days goes by.  Choose shoes with laces or Velcro so that they can be made looser or tighter as foot swelling fluctuates.

10)  Weight Loss   

Losing excess weight reduces the force and pressure going through your feet and can help to relieve the symptoms of a swollen foot.  This is only appropriate if you are over-weight.  Always discuss weight loss programmes with your doctor.

Safety Advice

Most of the time, a swollen foot is nothing to worry about.  However, there are a few occasions when it can be a medical emergency.  If you have sudden, profuse swelling, redness, warmth, pain, shortness of breath or a temperature, see you doctor immediately. 

Also, if your swollen foot fails to improve after a few days, get it checked out.

What Next?

In order to choose the best treatment for you, it is important to know what is causing your swollen foot.  Most times, the swelling is merely a symptom of an underlying problem so it is important to work out what is going on. 

Visit the Common Causes of Foot Swelling section to find out more about the ten most common causes of swelling and the different types to help you work out the root cause of your swollen foot.

For other ideas on treating foot pain and swelling, visit the Foot Pain Treatment section.

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See Also

Common Causes of Foot Pain

Diagnose Your Pain

Foot & Ankle Anatomy

Treatment Options for Foot Problems

What Causes Foot Swelling?



Visitor Comments

"Thank you so much! Your website is a fountain of information! I was worrying about top of foot pain, and your suggestions for strengthening and stretching are helping immensely."
Retha, US

"Your info took me straight to the problem. Well described and clearly explained."
Rick, US

"Thanks for having these exercises available! I performed a few and they have helped tremendously with my foot pain."
Jennifer, UK

"Thank you for this information, it is very useful."
Seluleko, Zimbabwe

"Some really good suggestions and information"
Denise, US

"I have suffered these symptoms for over a year seen two doctors and a physio. None of them diagnosed this. Hope its not too late to put your advice into practice." Lezlee, UK

"Certainly it has helped me to understand and educate me on the issue."
Madhuri, India

"Very interesting! All good information. Tried a few stretches, already feels good."
Cindy, US

"3 days ago I thought I was going to need foot surgery. I NEVER thought that stretching my calf would relieve the excruciating pain at the top of my foot. Thank you!!"
Rich, US