How to Prevent and Treat Foot and Ankle Swelling

September 30, 2022

Foot and ankle swelling can happen for any number of reasons. Whether you’ve spent a long time on your feet or you’ve got an injury, our foot and ankle specialists have tips to prevent foot and ankle swelling from happening and advice to help you treat and reduce inflammation after it’s happened.

tying shoe

How to Prevent Foot & Ankle Swelling

If you’re prone to foot and ankle swelling, preventing it is the best course of treatment. Here are some ways you can prevent inflammation.

Exercise Regularly

When you exercise, you get your blood flowing, which moves the excess fluid in your feet and ankles to decrease swelling. You can start slow with 15 to 30 minutes of low-intensity activities, like walking or bike riding.

Drink Enough Water

Water helps your body flush excess sodium and other toxins that may contribute to swelling. Experts recommend a daily water intake of approximately 15.5 cups for men and 11.5 cups for women. You may need to modify your water intake depending on your health, environment and activity level.

Reduce Your Salt Intake

Eating too much salt elevates your sodium levels, increasing the amount of fluid your body retains. If you’re puffy in the face or feeling swollen in your feet or ankles, you should look at how much salt you consume and find ways to cut back.

Go for a Swim

Swimming has several health benefits, and reducing inflammation is one of them. Submerging your body in water increases circulation, and the water pressure compresses tissue in your legs–both of which can reduce swelling in your feet and ankles.

Planning on going for a swim? Learn more about common swimming injuries and how to avoid them.

How to Treat Foot & Ankle Swelling

Treating Swelling from Sprains and Strains

Orthopedic injury, like an ankle sprain or strain, is one of the most common causes of swelling in the foot or ankle. This swelling occurs quickly following the injury and may be accompanied by bruising.

RICE—rest, ice, compression and elevation—is a common course of treatment to decrease or prevent swelling in these instances. We’ll explain how it works.


Rest the affected leg as much as possible by minimizing weight-bearing activities. Putting weight and stress on your injured foot or ankle may increase pain, delay healing or even worsen the injury.

You shouldn’t eliminate foot and ankle movements altogether. Gentle ankle stretches and ankle pumps can increase blood flow, which promotes healing and decreases swelling.


Applying ice to the foot or ankle will help reduce the swelling. To protect the skin, place a layer, like a paper towel, between the ice and your body. Apply ice for 10 to 20 minutes every hour or two for the first 48 hours. Do not apply ice for more than 20 minutes as it can cause further tissue damage.


Wrap the ankle in an elastic bandage such as an Ace bandage, compression sock or sleeve to further reduce swelling and internal bruising. When applying an elastic bandage, ensure it fits snugly but not too tight. If you feel numbness, tingling or increased pain, your bandage is too tight, which can cause further swelling above and below the injury. Apply the wrap by starting at the base of your foot, where your toes meet your body and wrap firmly as you make your way up the limb.


Elevate the swollen foot or ankle above the heart to further decrease swelling. Doing so helps the extra fluid move back toward the heart and circulates to the rest of your body.

Treating Other Causes of Foot & Ankle Swelling

Other causes of swelling in the foot or ankle are more challenging to prevent and treat. If you’re at risk for edema, blood clots or heart disease, you should seek medical treatment.

In these cases, swelling may indicate a heart condition, infection or venous insufficiency, a condition where your veins have trouble sending blood from your limbs back to your heart. A doctor can accurately diagnose the cause and create a treatment plan to reduce swelling while improving your overall health and well-being. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Wearing a compression stocking or sock
  • Losing weight
  • Creating an exercise plan
  • Decreasing salt intake to reduce water retention
  • Increasing anti-inflammatory foods, like tomatoes, leafy vegetables and fatty fish

When to See a Doctor for Foot and Ankle Swelling

There are many reasons for foot and ankle swelling. In many cases, inflammation is a normal response to strenuous activity, heat or diet and generally resolves on its own. However, if symptoms persist for 48 hours or longer or you’re in pain, it’s time to follow up with a doctor.

At Orlin & Cohen, our foot and ankle subspecialists are among Long Island’s most experienced, and our network of offices is open seven days for comprehensive care that’s quick and convenient with same-day appointments. Request an appointment.