Foot Health for Travelers
- If you have any existing foot conditions, be sure to consult your primary care physician or a foot health professional for advice on what limitations or precautions (if any) you should take. If you have diabetes, make sure to pack any medications you may be taking in sufficient quantities for the length of the trip, and consult your physician for any necessary dietary or medical advice.
- Keep your feet clean. Use proper hygiene when you’re away from home to help minimize the probability of picking up infections and diseases. Follow these tips for proper foot hygiene.
- Exercise and stretch your feet regularly. Here are some simple exercises you can use to help keep your feet vigorous and flexible: http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/exercises-for-healthy-feet.
- Give your feet a rest. After a long day of being on your feet, massage them and elevate them for a while to enable the blood to circulate more easily (being on your feet for extended periods means the veins have to work against gravity to return blood to the heart). During periods of extended walking or standing, take advantage of opportunities to take a break and get off your feet whenever you can.
- Protect your legs and feet if you’re seated while flying, on a train, a bus, or in a car for extended periods. Move them and get up and walk around as frequently as possible so that you are less likely to be affected by circulation problems.
A special consideration for long distance travelers, about which much has been written, is deep vein thrombosis (DVT), or the formation of blood clots, usually in the legs, associated with flying and/or traveling while seated for long periods. When flying for extended periods (four hours or more), the risk of DVT is three times higher than normal; and it is especially important that people who have had a prior incidence of DVT and those who have chronic vein issues take precautions. Studies have also shown higher-than-normal risk of DVT in the following groups: females, especially if using oral contraceptives or if pregnant, in those with prior history of DVT, those who have undergone recent surgery (within one month), those who suffered recent trauma of the lower limbs, those with cancer, those undergoing estrogen-progestin treatment, and those with reduced mobility, congestive heart failure, severe obesity, known thrombophilia (abnormally high tendency to develop blood clots), and people older than 65. If you plan to take a long airplane flight, and especially if you are a regular traveler on flights lasting four hours or more, it is wise to consult your physician to determine if you should take precautions such as taking anti-coagulants, wearing compression hosiery, or other steps he or she might recommend.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH recommends doing these things during periods of extended travel:
- Walk up and down the aisles of the bus, train, or airplane. If traveling by car, stop about every hour and walk around;
- Move your legs and flex and stretch your feet to improve blood flow in your calves;
- Wear loose and comfortable clothing;
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol.
Practicing good preventive foot health while traveling can help you get the most out of your trip, whether it’s a fun vacation, a business trip, or a combination of the two. Always take care of your feet proactively, and don’t wait until they start to hurt or give you problems.
Reviewed by Rachel Rader, DPM
Scientific Advisory Board Member, Institute for Preventive Foot Health
Last updated 7/20/2017
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