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Looking to make your next flight more comfortable? Airplane foot hammocks can elevate your feet to help alleviate swelling. Or, pop in an inflatable footrest. These are the latest must-have carry on accoutrements for making airplanes a little more pleasant.
Health effects of flying
Long-haul travel is tough. Some people fare better than others, but no one is fully spared the effects of being 30,000 feet up in the clouds for hours on end. The change in air pressure has real consequences on the human body, namely gastrointestinal issues (which we won’t get into here, but you know what I’m talking about) and poor blood flow and circulation due to a prolonged lack of movement.
Aside from serious gastrointestinal issues, of course, there’s nothing worse than getting off an airplane and looking down at your feet and not recognizing them. Swollen feet and cankles are typical results of long-haul flights. Or, if you’re like me, short-haul flights, too.
There are a few things you can do help prevent swelling in your lower extremities. One is wearing compression socks during the flight, which helps stimulate blood flow by gently squeezing your legs.
What about the other stresses caused by sitting upright in a confined space for hours? Like the pressure on your low back and legs that end with stiffness, soreness, and—yup—that lovely swelling? Tight socks aren’t helping with that.
Thankfully, there are some other options. And you guessed it… one’s a hammock (ish).
Airplane foot hammocks—to the rescue
These days, hammocks come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, so it’s really no surprise that there are teeny tiny airplane foot hammocks, too. They act like a foot sling to elevate your lower legs and feet.
Designed to hang from the tray table, the best airplane seat hammocks have adjustable straps and are made with thick memory foam padding and a suede pillow top for added comfort.
Think of it like an airplane footrest to help you sit more ergonomically and ease the discomfort of too-upright airplane seats. Airplane hammocks help improve blood circulation and eliminate pressure in your lower legs, ankles, and feet.
While most are adjustable and work for people of all heights, they’re especially great for shorter people and kids who cannot normally reach the floor.
When not in use, they roll or fold up and are easy to put in your carry on. Some even come with a drawstring bag. When you aren’t traveling, they also double as a perfect desk hammock for the office.
Another type of airplane footrest is an inflatable pillow, which looks like a small ottoman once it’s blown up. It fits right between the seat and the seat back in front of you, essentially turning a coach seat into a lie-flat business class seat—at least for kids.
The best inflatable footrests come with multiple pillows or separate chambers so you can adjust the height. Depending on how much space you have or how high you want your legs, blow up one, two, or three chambers or pillows. Or better yet, let the airplane’s air conditioner vent do the inflating for you. Hold the pillow up to the stream of air and voila. If the thought of that mortifies you, it only takes 1-2 minutes to manually blow it up.
Since this is a free-standing device and doesn’t require straps or anything to hang from, it’s also great for trains, busses, at work, home, a hotel—wherever you need to put up your feet.
If you’re traveling with kids, it’s an absolute no-brainer. Even if they don’t lie down to sleep, it creates a nice surface to play games or keep them entertained (and hopefully off the floor).
Airplane footrest hammock or inflatable pillow?
Below are our top picks for both types of airplane footrests—the hammock sling on straps and the inflatable pillow ottoman.
Which is right for you? Here’s a quick glance at the pros and cons of these two popular styles.
Airplane foot hammocks
- Folds down (smaller than the inflatable pillow) for easy carrying/traveling
- lighter weight than the footrest pillows
- Adjustable straps allow you to get it just right depending on your height
- Hangs off the tray table so the weight may affect the passenger in front of you
- Sling may move around or slide up your leg, especially if you shift positions a lot
Inflatable footrest pillow
- Kids can lay flat and zzZZzzZzzzZzzzz
- More stable than the hammock and can be moved around on the floor to wherever you prefer it
- More flexible for use outside of an aircraft and can be used anywhere you need an ottoman
- Several of the below options come with an eye mask and earplugs
- Heavier than the airplane hammocks and more bulky to stuff into your carry on
- Some models may be too large to fit in between the seats, especially if they’re blown up to capacity
- You’re that person blowing up an ottoman on the airplane…
Our picks for the best airplane foot hammocks
This is one of the most popular airplane foot hammocks on the market. Most ideal for shorter people since it has a short strap. Designed to hold your ankles/low calves—as opposed to planting your feet in the sling—which means it’s smaller and lighter weight.
- Comes with a drawstring carry bag and packs down small
- Recommended for those 5′ 8″ or shorter
- Dimensions: 20″ x 7.5″ x 0.5″
- Weight: 1.44 oz
A rising star, this is the most popular new product on the market. Also made with thick memory foam and has a much larger surface area to hold your feet. Because it’s larger, it’s significantly heavier (but we’re talking a matter of ounces.)
Similar to the previous model with a large surface area for your feet, but this one is lighter weight and comes with an extra long strap, making it an ideal option for taller people.
Similar model with large surface area that’s sturdy enough to put your feet on or can be adjusted to hold your ankles, calves, or behind the knee.
- Comes with a travel bag
- Dimensions: 17.9″ x 8.4″
- Strap length: 17″ minimum, 33.4″ max
- Folded dimensions: 8″ x 8″ x 2″
- Weight: 3 oz
This one is slightly different from the previous options. This is essentially a bag that hangs from the tray table that you simply put your feet into. You can also pull out its “tail” and sit on it, creating a connection from the seat to the seat back in front of you, which is great for small kids.
- Comes with three small pillows for even more flexibility in where you choose to use the support
- Weight: 17.6 oz
This one is slightly different from the rest. It hangs around your headrest all the way to your tray table, and you sit on top of it. One benefit is avoiding a few extra airplane germs.
- Comes with a small pillow to use as lumbar support, plus an eye mask, shoe covers, and a drawstring storage bag
- Updated design does not block the in-flight entertainment system for the person behind you, as the earlier model did
- Weight: 1.1 lbs
Our picks for the best inflatable footrests for the airplane
Adjustable height across three levels, each with its own air chamber and air valve
- Comes with hand pump, bottom dust cover to keep it clean, and a nice little drawstring carry bag
- Also includes an eye mask, earplugs, and shoe covers to keep it even cleaner
- Inflated size: 11″ x 16″ x 18″
- Deflated size: 6″ x 4″ x 4″
- Length of the hand pump: 8.6″
- Weight: 1.1 lbs
Comprised of two cushions that adjust to three different heights — depending on the size of the space available, use separately or attach the small and large cushions together with a fastener on each side
- Wide double seal air valves enable manual inflation in under 2 minutes
- Dimensions: 17″ x 11″ x 17″ (adjustable height)
- Weight: 1.63 lbs
Three adjustable height levels with two valves and two chambers
- Shrinks down to 8.5″ x 6″ x 2.5″ when deflated and comes with a drawstring carry bag
- Dimensions: 17″ x 12″ x 18″ (adjustable height)
- Weight: 12.8 oz
Three available heights by inflating only the upper valve for lowest height, only the lower valve for two-level height, or both valves for full height
- No pump needed — double valve design can be blown up in minutes and deflated in seconds
- Includes portable bag, one eye mask, and two earplugs
- Dimensions: 16″ x 14″ x 10″ (adjustable height)
- Weight: 12.8 oz
Three height/position options with two chambers and two air valves that can be blown up by mouth or pump
- Includes adjustable dust cover and carry bag
- Inflated dimensions: 18″ x 16″ x 12″ (adjustable height)
- Deflated dimensions: 7” x 5”
- Weight: 1.06 lbs