When you're traveling, narrow seats, limited leg room and a lack of mobility can combine to create poor circulation in your feet. When circulation to the feet is limited, feet will feel swollen, cold and cramped, an extremely painful affliction that only adds to the stresses of air travel. It's important to plan and prepare ahead of your flight to prevent your circulation from becoming impaired.

About Blood Circulation

Blood circulation is essential for your overall health, spreading oxygen and nutrients throughout your entire body. Conditions like hypertension -- the hardening of varicose veins and arteries -- can diminish your blood circulation, leading to cramping and discomfort in the part of the body not receiving enough blood flow. Many people experience poor circulation in their hands and feet, especially during cold weather or in cramped conditions, such as a long car ride or lengthy plane flight.

Airplane Issues

A restriction in blood circulation during air travel can be caused by sitting with your feet flat on the floor for the duration of a flight. This stagnant position results in blood pooling in your leg veins, contributing to foot swelling by forcing fluids out of the blood and into the surrounding tissue. For people who take birth control pills or recently had a major surgery, the risk for blood clots and poor circulation can be even higher during air travel.


According to Dr. Luis Navarro, M.D., you can minimize circulation issues in the feet as well as the rest of your body by preparing yourself in advance of your flight. Drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine and don't drink alcohol for several days before your board your plane. You can also dress smart to prevent circulation problems. Wear loose-fitting clothing, and wear graduated compression stockings with open toes to maximize your blood flow. For some medical conditions, a doctor may prescribe a blood-thinning medication to ease circulatory issues during air travel.


Elevate your feet six to 12 inches above your heart to assist circulation if you're having issues. Consider taking a supplement containing Vitamins C and E, which promote better circulation. To keep your blood flowing during your flight, flex your ankles frequently, and try to get up and walk toward the cabin restroom when permitted. Keep shifting in your seat as often as possible, and don't cross your legs. If a problem persists after your flight, consult your doctor immediately.