When it comes to sore and tired feet, one of the most common complaints we hear about is swelling. Swelling can be scary, even if it’s not actually dangerous; it can make it harder to fit in to your shoes and, in some cases, it can be a sign of a more serious underlying problem. Let’s explore some of the potential causes of foot swelling, and give an idea of how you can help manage this upsetting symptom.
The Many Causes of Edema (Swelling) in your Feet
Figuring out why your feet are swelling up isn’t always that simple for one reason: many different problems can cause your feet to swell. So, while simply looking at your feet won’t immediately tell us why they swelled, there are some common causes that often pop up with our patients.
Shoes are a major cause of swollen feet, especially in women who are determined to cram their toes into pointy stilettos, and who walk around all day in heels that throw off the entire balance of their weight. Long periods of sitting can also make your feet swell, as your blood pools in your feet and works harder to flow back up to your heart from your extremities.
There are situational causes, like carrying extra weight, carrying a baby or staying sedentary for too long that may cause your feet to swell. Allergic reactions, sunburns and even tight socks may also cause you to experience this side effect.
Certain health conditions may also cause your feet to swell: swollen feet are a side effect of congestive heart failure, kidney disease, blood pressure, diabetes and gout. Vein conditions may also leave you with swollen feet, as can secondary foot and ankle problems including Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, ankle sprains, injured tendons and broken bones. Heck, your feet may swell up just because you’re fighting off an infection or have a blockage in your lymph glands.
As you can clearly see, there’s no one reason why your feet start swelling, which means you’ll likely need to see your doctor if you experience persistent edema that lasts beyond a long night of dancing or an extended airplane trip.
Understanding Your Swollen Feet
Once you’ve stepped inside your podiatrists office, he or she will examine all your relevant symptoms to discover the cause of your swollen feet. If you’re having trouble catching your breath and your feet are swollen, we’ll probably recommend a heart checkup, as this could be a strong warning sign of imminently serious problems like a heart attack. If only one of your feet is swollen, however, and you don’t have many other symptoms, we’ll probably examine you for an underlying foot injury that may be the cause of your edema.
Finding the Right Treatment for Swollen Feet
There are many different ways we can manage swelling in your feet, and the course of treatment we recommend will depend on what other symptoms you are experiencing.
If we suspect that water retention is the reason for your foot swelling, we may recommend reducing your salt intake and upping the amount of fluids you take in, as this can help flush excess liquids out of your feet and the rest of your body.
If swelling is more persistent, we may suggest that you invest in a pair of compression socks that can help with your blood flow and prevent the kind of foot swelling that’s associated with venous insufficiencies.
And if your foot swelling seems to be a result of excessive pressure on your feet, we’ll suggest more frequent breaks from standing, during which time you’ll do your best to put up your feet and give them a break from all that pressure! If you’re feeling really indulgent, you’ll give yourself a gentle massage during these breaks, or even stick an ice pack on your feet to help calm down the swelling.
The Right Shoes Can Combat Foot Swelling
Of course, nothing is as important in the fight against swollen feet as the shoes you put on each day. The pair you wear should, first and foremost, feel comfortable from the very first moment you slip into them—there should be no ‘breaking in’ period necessary.
You should also get your feet re-measured if you’re experiencing frequent foot swelling. Things like weight gain and pregnancy can alter your shoe size, even as an adult, and tight shoes can make your feet swell even more. Making sure you choose the right size shoe can help prevent this problem.
Finally, look for a pair with a low, wide heel—totally flat shoes put too much pressure on your arch, but skinny stilettoes are a problem too. Look for a pair with good support and a solid, slightly angled base to offer your best protection against swollen feet!