6 Tips for Comfortable Feet on Long Flights

by  Darren Murph | Jun 27, 2014
Woman on plane
Woman on plane / yuran-78/iStock

We all know that long-haul flying certainly isn’t easy on the body, especially given the constraints of seating arrangements that are only getting tighter and tighter. In most cases, there’s usually not much to be done to improve matters -- but we did think of a few ways to make the journey a little easier on your feet. And considering how much stress is put on them on a typical day, not to mention hours of security lines and waiting around, a little relief here can do wonders in helping you feel better over all.

1. Use an inflatable foot rest.
It’s surprising how much more comfortable you can be with your feet lifted off of the ground just by a few inches. Design Go makes a lightweight, easily packable foot pillow that inflates with just a few puffs, elevating you closer to a lie-flat position. Like the neck pillow, the cushion is a somewhat dorky gear that we still love and think is totally worth the $13 if cramped legs are one of your biggest issues with flying. We also love that it can do double duty as a raised pillow for the tray table, great for those who’d prefer to sleep forward.

Alternatively, you can prop up with your carry-on by stowing it in front of you strategically. Briefcases can create a slight lift on its side or higher elevation standing up. Backpacks also work quite well if turned around, so that the top is pointing back towards you.

2. Grab a ball.
Feeling cramped after standing in line all day and then being stuck in one seat for hours on end? Bring a small, dense ball -- think golf or wiffle -- that you can roll under your feet for an impromptu, subtle massage. That should banish some tension with much less awkwardness than swinging that foot up, propping it up on your knee right next to your neighbor, and giving it a full knead with both hands.

3. Comfortable, loose pants.
If you weren’t aware, your feet are connected to your legs. Obvious, sure, but many flyers hop onboard wearing pants that are more suitable for the board room than Seat 43C. Loose, ventilated pants do wonders for feet comfort on long flights -- they don’t hinder circulation and they promote motion when you’re seated. Look for fabrics like cotton, linen, moisture-wicking materials designed for exercise.

4. Couple up.
If you're sitting side-by-side with a loved one, you're in luck. Try this: Stretch your legs out so that one foot ends up in your neighbor's under seat area. If they do the same, you'll both enjoy far more stretching room. Contrary to popular recommendation, we don't suggest bulkhead seats in this case for two reasons: one, your feet have less room to stretch before hitting the wall; and two, bulkhead seats typically have immovable arm rests that restrict motion.

5. Wear slip-off shoes.
While many flyers just kick their shoes off entirely, airplane floors can get quite cool. By wearing a pair of lightweight, breathable, slip-on shoes, you can get in and out of your footwear with minimal effort (and wiggle room). Plus, your toes will be able to breathe more easily if you need to leave your shoes on for warmth.

6. Get up and walk.
Another simple one, but it has to be said. Generally speaking, the front and rear of the aircraft are the best places to head when you’re looking to get the blood pumping, while bathroom and galley areas typically provide enough room to stretch. It's best to walk or stretch once every hour that you aren’t sleeping.

Have any other comfort tips to share? Let us know in comments below!

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