Balloon Feet: How to Handle Foot Edema During Pregnancy (BONUS: Shoe Shopping!)

With the third trimester has come some rather impressively swollen feet. My hands have been a little puffy throughout most of the pregnancy keeping me from wearing my wedding ring (I have separation anxiety; I want to wear my ring again so badly!) but my feet have been free from swelling…until a couple weeks ago. My feet look like balloons and I cannot wear a single pair of my shoes, not even my trusty flip flops.

Trying to find ways to relieve my sometimes painful swelling, I’ve learned a few things:

  • Are Swollen Feet Inevitable?: About 3/4 of all pregnant women experience foot edema during pregnancy…if you’re one of the lucky 1/4, congrats! Know that I’m jealous.
  • Salt and Swollen Feet: It’s a bit of a myth that cutting salt out of your diet will “fix” swollen feet. If you have a very high sodium diet, pregnant or not, it’s very possible you might also experience some excess fluid retention that could be combated by decreasing your sodium intake. However, foot edema during pregnancy is not caused by high sodium. (That being said, again, if you have a high sodium diet, it’s definitely a healthy choice to reduce your sodium intake, especially during pregnancy.)
  • What Causes Swelling?: Foot edema during pregnancy is caused by fluid retention, stress on your lower extremities from carrying that extra baby weight, and expansion of your bones. Here’s a fun thought…your bones are actually spreading as a part of your changing body and many women experience permanent foot growth. Got to have a good foundation to healthily carry babies, but I dread the thought of outgrowing some of my shoe collection.

webmd swollen feet

How Can I Relieve My Balloon Feet?: The best remedies (for me) have been elevating my feet, particularly in the evening when swelling tends to be worse, and having TwinDad massage my feet. A balance of daily walking and adequate rest is best for swollen feet. You want to keep active to promote good circulation, but you also need to be sure to rest and elevate those feet! Also, STAY HYDRATED.

Tips for Foot Massage: 

  • Pressure: A nice little foot rub doesn’t cut it for my feet. It can sometimes start off a little painful, but TwinDad uses pressure to get that fluid moving. Once I get used to the pressure and the circulation improves, my feet start to feel so much better.
  • Always massage up towards your heart, and don’t forget those ankles and calves!
  • Essential Oils: While I haven’t tried it yet, I have read that a blend of lemongrass, grapefruit, and cypress essential oils do wonders for massaging swollen feet.

swollen feet massage

When to Seek Medical Attention: First let me say that if you have any concerns whatsoever, please give your doctor a call! It is always best to ask a medical professional if you have any questions or concerns. I made sure to mention the swelling to my doctor and she is keeping an eye on things to make sure my swelling isn’t a sign of pre-eclampsia.

  • If you notice sudden swelling of hands and face as well as swelling in your feet.
  • If you have any pain whatsoever in your leg(s). This could be a sign of a blood clot.
  • If the swelling does not go down overnight.
  • If you experience any pitting (if you press your finger on your swollen foot and the fingerprint doesn’t “bounce back” within a minute or so). This is known as pitting edema.

Again, ALWAYS talk to your doctor about swelling. Even though it is a very common part of pregnancy, there are some things to watch out for to make sure nothing more serious is going on.

The Upside to Balloon Feet: Shoe Shopping! 

Even though it’s annoying and even painful, there is always a silver lining and the silver lining to swollen feet is a very good excuse to go shoe shopping. I’ve found some really comfortable shoes that I am so glad to add to my collection. Having comfortable shoes has made a huge difference in my feet.

  • Throw your idea of your shoe size out the window. I usually wear a 7.5-8. My latest pair of shoes have been sizes 9.5-10! It’s all about comfort and the bigger sizes allow more room for swelling without causing pain. Remember, it’s just a number.
  • Look for shoes that offer stretch and have soft straps. Don’t settle for anything even remotely uncomfy!
  • Make sure the shoes you choose offer good support! A flat shoe doesn’t have as much support as something with a very subtle heel (I love wearing wedge heels). Avoid high heels as well as very flat shoes. You could even look for a shoe insert that offers good support.
  • Go buy a Sanuk Yoga sandal. Right now. Trust me. The foot bed is made of yoga mat material (talk about comfort!) and the straps are a stretchy, soft fabric. They are vegan, affordable, come in tons of colors/patterns and 3 main styles: the Sling, Slinger, and Slingshot.

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I have the Sling 2 style and I’ve ordered a pair of the Slinger style. They’re easy to find online or in typical stores like DSW Shoe Warehouse. While I never want to take these shoes off, I did also find some low wedge heels with soft, stretchy straps to wear for nicer occasions. Impo and Report brands have some stretchy sandals that work well (and I’ve found them on clearance in stores for under $10!).

While it’s weird to look down at your feet (assuming you can see them past your baby bump) and see strange balloon shapes where your dainty little toes used to be, at least you can invest in some comfortable shoes and know that this will pass once you give birth. And as a new mom, you’ll be glad you have some comfortable, go-to shoes.

What are your tips for dealing with foot edema during pregnancy?

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