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L-W-O Community

For those living with Primary, Secondary & Paediatric Lymphoedema Online & in the Community

Welcome to our shoes and socks page


I cannot begin to describe the anguish our members face when lymphoedema is in their lower limbs, swollen feet and wearing compression is something most of us cannot begin to imagine.   Buying shoes is a nightmare.  Finding footwear that will support feet, feel comfortable, and make them feel good is a challenge that should not be underestimated.  Sadly, for those with lower limb lymphoedema fashionable shoes are often something they can only dream about.  I wish manufactures would listen and realise that we are not all the same, each foot is likely to be a different size and as we know shoes are sold in pairs.  There is no consideration from manufacturers that feet could be so different.  Fashionable shoes, heels have sadly become a thing of the past for some of our members.  Here are a few tips that I hope will make the process of buying footwear easier.   

Our Foot-care page has tips and advice on how to look after your feet.


When buying shoes for lower limb lymphoedema L-W-O suggests that you shop for shoes when your feet are swollen. The reasoning behind this is that you will not be trying to cram swollen feet into shoes that are not big enough.  If you wear compression on your lower limbs please do so when buying shoes.

  • You should always wear footwear both indoors and out
  • ​Lower limb lymphoedema - wear well-fitting footwear for support and protection for everyday use  
  • ​Do not walk around barefoot in case you step on something or stub your toe
  • ​Do not walk around barefoot as you are more likely to pick up a fungal infection
  • ​New shoes - break in before wearing for a special occasion
  • ​Shop for shoes when your feet are swollen
  • ​Feet are likely to be swollen in the evening so this might be the best time to buy shoes
  • Shoes, sandals, boots should not leave indentations
  • Check out fasteners, laces can you reach them?
  • Velcro fasteners allow for when your feet swell or when the swelling decreases
  • Will you need strap extensions?
  • Make sure when buying shoes you wear your compression on your lower limbs to make sure the fit is right
  • Be careful with heels. Can you walk in them?  Nobody is saying you shouldn't wear heels, the choice is yours
  • Cushioned insoles might be something you want to invest in
  • Especially in summer make sure your footwear allows your feet to breathe
  • Blisters can cause cellulitis

​​At the bottom of this page there is a chart that shows or suggests the best way to buy shoes.

L-W-O recommends that you have your feet measured on a regular basis.

​L-W-O recommends you visit a Foot Health Practitioner, Chiropodist or Podiatrist on a regular basis.​

Breaking in New Shoes

L-W-O always recommends that when you buy new shoes before an event, to allow yourself time to break them in.  There is nothing worse than going out in a pair of shoes for a full day that you haven't had time to get used to.  How many times do we buy shoes for a special occasion and by the end of the day come home with aching legs, sore feet and blisters.

Cautionary tale

Someone I know went to a wedding, wearing new shoes for the first time.  This person did not have lymphoedema but did develop blisters that turned to Cellulitis.  Weeks of antibiotics, hospital visits followed and quite a long recovery time.

Break in new shoes

  • wear for around 30 minutes a day
  • increase time over next 7 -10
  • check for redness or swelling
  • check for signs of infection

All this can be done in the comfort of your own home, you are not likely to damage the shoes before that special occasion and you save yourself a lot of misery.

Shoes and damaged feet


I have spent quite a lot of time and effort researching the damage shoes can cause to your feet. Flat shoes like 'ballet' shoes can cause a problem because they compress the fluid at the top of the foot and cause further pain. Not good for lymphoedema feet.  The calf will act as a muscle pump and therefore can help with lymphatic drainage. Good supportive shoes helps to keep your foot in good shape and should prevent the lymphatic system in this area becoming compromised.


Shoes too tight

Those of you who have lymphoedema in your feet do have to take special care of your feet.

The photograph is of a foot with lymphoedema and a blister caused by the shoe being too tight.  If you look closely you can also see the indentation of the shoe around the heel area.  

Thank you to the L-W-O member who sent me this photograph and has allowed me to publish.

Made to Measure

Finding information on Orthotics has been patchy.  This type of footwear is expensive but it is possible to get a referral on the NHS so speak to your GP, Physio, Podiatrist, or Lymphoedema Clinic for advice There is a very good fact sheet from Oxford University Hospitals answering frequently asked questions. Footwear falls into the following Orthotic Provision:

  • Custom Made/Modular footwear
  • Shoes raises and adaptations
  • Insoles
  • Fabric Supports

Flip Flops

This is where I get into a lot of trouble from our members 

I am constantly suggesting to our members that they do not wear flip flops.  I have lost count of the times that I am told "I don't know what I am talking about" or get told "I am still going to wear mine".

All I can do is give you the facts that are out there and suggest you do your own research so in brief flip-flops offer:

  • Little or no heel and arch support
  • Prone to injuries - stub you toes, twist your ankle, curled toes
  • Stress fractures or Plantar Fasciitis 
  • Changes the way you walk leading to back pain, hip and knee pain
  • Cause blistering between the toes, if the blister bursts you have open wound that will allow bacteria and infection to get in, this could lead to cellulitis
  • You are walking in the dirt, because of the thin sole, therefore, any break in the skin allows for infection
  • The skin will dry out quicker leaving it cracked and your feet more vulnerable to infection
  • Open to the sun so risk of sun burn

You can apply sunscreen to the top of your feet but do not apply to the bottom as it will make walking slippery making it hard to keep your footwear on. 

Danger of flip-flops Source:


This can be a real problem if you love wearing boots, the real problem hear is not just swollen ankles but swollen calf swelling.  Thankfully this is one were boots are changing with one online retailer adding a different range of calf sizes as follows:

  • standard calf extra wide fit
  • standard calf wide fit
  • super curvy calf wide fit
  • extra curvy plus wide fit
  • super curvy plus calf extra wide fit
  • curvy plus calf wide fit

VAT free

In the UK VAT on shoes is currently 20% but in certain circumstances you can get the VAT removed and several online footwear retailers have made this easier to do by ticking a box at checkout. On the high street ask if they will remove VAT.   Cosy Feet    have a very good explanation sheet and I learned something new on researching for this web-page, this discount also apples to the European Union.  However, it is not clear if this will change after Brexit.  There is also a helpful fact sheet on the Cosy Feet website that shows the conditions covered by VAT exemption and an explanation on each condition.


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Make sure your socks and hosiery are not too tight and that they do not leave indentations. 

If you are more likely to wear socks in winter to keep your feet warm then make sure you change them every day.  This will prevent bacteria building up and being transferred to your feet.  Preferably use cotton socks.  If possible wear socks, stockings that are seamless.

If you prefer to wear tights, ankle or knee highs, they should also be changed everyday. Good shoes are also important to give your feet the support they deserve, good hosiery will protect your feet from the shoes and absorb bacteria which is why they need changing everyday. Please remember the most susceptible place for an infection to start is through your feet.  This also applies to your compression.


This page was first published in July 2017 as part of  Foot-care 

This page last updated 08/11/2019