How To Improve Circulation To Feet 2023: What You Need To Know

Reviewed by Dr. Drew Sutton, MD

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how to improve circulation to feet

If you notice that you get a pins and needles feeling in your feet, or experience pain while walking, circulation problems in your lower body might be to blame. 

Poor blood flow in the feed and legs can cause problems like neuropathy, varicose veins and painful swelling.  In order to prevent these painful conditions, you need to know how to improve circulation to your feet.

How To Improve Circulation To Feet?

Circulation to the feet can be improved by making just a few lifestyle changes. Circulation in your legs can be increased by: 

  • Daily exercise
  • Consuming a healthy diet
  • Massage
  • Using a foam roller
  • Compression stockings
  • Medication
how to improve circulation to feet
Circulation to the feet can be improved in a variety of ways

What Causes Poor Circulation To Feet?

Poor circulation to the feet can be caused by many different conditions. Anything that makes blood vessels work less efficiently can cause poor circulation.

High Blood Pressure

According to the CDC, nearly half of all Americans have high blood pressure[1]. High blood pressure, or hypertension, causes problems like poor circulation, blood clots and can even lead to heart failure.  

Peripheral Artery Disease

Peripheral artery disease is a medical condition where the arteries in the legs become stiff and narrow. When the arteries harden, blood circulation in the legs decreases. One of the first signs[2] of peripheral arterial disease is pain in the legs while walking.    

Chronic Venous Insufficiency

Chronic venous insufficiency is a problem with the veins in the legs. More specifically, poor blood circulation in chronic venous insufficiency is caused by poorly functioning valves in the veins. The valves cannot open properly, which prevents blood from leaving the lower extremities and returning to the heart.  Venous insufficiency can cause swelling and pain in the feet and legs. The pain and swelling usually improves when the feet are elevated. 

High Blood Sugar

High blood sugar can cause problems in blood vessels all around the body. When blood sugar is chronically high, it can cause poor blood circulation to the fingers, toes and eyes. If high blood sugar is out of control for long periods of time, it can even lead to impaired wound healing in the feet, limb amputations, and blindness.

High Cholesterol

According to the MayoClinic[3], high cholesterol is a major cause of poor circulation throughout the entire body. Besides making blood vessels narrower and causing poor circulation, high cholesterol can even lead to blood clots that can completely cut off all circulation in the legs. 

Blood clots in the legs can occasionally break off and travel to the lungs, causing a life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism. 

Sedentary Lifestyle

People who are sedentary are more likely to have poor blood circulation in the legs. Frequent muscle contraction helps blood move around the body, and sitting or laying down all day means the leg muscles don’t contract as often. 

How To Improve Circulation To Feet?

One of the best ways to improve circulation to your feet is to do a leg day workout at least once a week. In between those workouts, you can do a little exercise each day to improve blood circulation in the legs.

Standing Exercises

Standing leg exercises can be done anytime, and almost anywhere. Try a few standing exercises the next time you are waiting in line at the grocery store or standing at the sink washing dishes.

Heel Lifts

how to improve circulation to feet
Leg stands are great for improving circulation to the feet

Heel lifts are an easy exercise that strengthen your calf muscles and improve blood flow to your feet. To do a heel lift, simply hold on to something for balance and rise up on to your toes. Repeat this 10-15 times. 

As you get stronger, you may be able to do this exercise standing on only one leg at a time. 

Single Leg Stands

Another simple exercise, leg stands, can promote blood circulation all the way down to the toes. This can be done while holding on to something for balance, or on your own. Simply raise one knee up to hip height and balance for 3-5 seconds. Then, switch to the other side. Repeat the exercise 10-15 times.


Walking is an excellent way to improve blood circulation in the legs and feet. You don’t need to go to extremes to improve your vascular health. A walk around your block each night or standing up to walk around your office once an hour is enough to combat poor circulation. 

Sitting Exercises

There are also many exercises you can do to improve blood circulation while sitting down. 

Leg Extensions

Leg extensions can be done while sitting in your chair at work or at home. Simply sit up tall and place both feet flat on the floor. Then extend one leg straight out in front of you. Alternate legs for 10-15 repetitions. 

Foam Roller Stretch

how to improve circulation to feet
Stretching with foam rollers can help with circulation to the feet

Foam rollers are used to self administer massage. A study reported in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health[4] showed that foam rollers could increase blood flow by up to 30%. 

Cardiovascular Exercises

Cardiovascular exercises are one of the best ways to improve blood circulation in your entire body, not just your feet. Exercises may include walking, jogging, swimming, or jumping rope. 

These exercises have health benefits beyond just improving blood circulation. In fact, the benefits of jumping rope and other cardiovascular exercises include decreased stress levels and improved blood pressure as well. 

Elevate The Legs

If you need immediate relief from painful legs, sit down and elevate your feet on a chair or pillow. This is especially helpful if you experience pain or swelling after spending long periods of time in a standing position.

Medical Treatment

If your poor circulation is severe, causing you pain or limiting your mobility, you may need to seek medical treatment. This may include medication to lower your cholesterol or decrease your blood pressure. 

Many physicians will recommend medications in addition to lifestyle changes. With the right lifestyle changes and guidance from your doctor, you may be able to correct your poor circulation and eventually wean off of your medications. 

Since poor circulation is often associated with pain in the feet, many people use prescription pain medications to manage your neuropathy. You may want to try more natural remedies before resorting to potentially dangerous prescription pain medications. The best CBD cream for neuropathy pain can be an effective way to get relief and avoid prescription painkillers.

Tips To Prevent Poor Circulation To Feet

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is the best way to prevent cardiovascular disease and poor circulation to the feet. In addition, there are specific exercises you can do to keep the blood vessels in your legs working well. 


how to improve circulation to feet
Circulation to the feet can also be improved by massaging

Massage has been shown to improve blood flow in all areas of the body. You can hire a professional or give yourself a foot massage to get blood flowing, reduce swelling and improve leg pain. 

Healthy Diet

Maintaining a healthy diet has numerous benefits and can improve your overall health. Improving circulation to your feet can be achieved by: 

  • Reducing salt intake
  • Limiting saturated fats
  • Eating a balanced diet with fruits and vegetables
  • Stay hydrated

Maintaining a healthy diet will improve your cholesterol levels, reduce plaque buildup in your arteries, and prevent fluid retention, which all affect circulation in your legs. 

Compression Stockings

According to the Cleveland Clinic[5], 90% of leg disorders start with a problem in the veins. Compression stockings can improve venous blood flow in the feet and legs. They do this by preventing swelling and keeping the blood vessels open.

Stop Smoking

Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for the health of your circulatory system. Smoking causes plaque buildup, increased cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Fortunately, improvements in health can be seen almost immediately after quitting. 

In fact, improvements in health can be seen as soon as 48 hours after your last cigarette[6].


Poor circulation in the legs can cause pain, decrease your mobility, cause poor wound healing, and increase your risk of dangerous blood clots. 

Maintaining a balanced diet, exercise, massage, and smoking cessation will all help to improve circulation in your legs. Increased blood flow. Making small changes each day can make a big difference in your overall health. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes poor circulation in the feet?

Poor circulation in the feet can be caused by peripheral artery disease, venous insufficiency, diabetes, smoking and high cholesterol. 

What are the best exercises for improving circulation in the legs and feet?

Any exercise that uses the muscles in your lower body will help improve circulation to the feet. When the muscles contract, they push blood around to wherever it needs to go. 

What are complications of poor circulation in the feet?

Poor circulation in the feet can cause problems like dry skin, neuropathy, swelling, poor wound healing, and in extreme cases, limb amputation.

+ 6 sources

MIDSS adheres to strict procurement guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutes, and medical associations. We work mainly with peer-reviewed studies to ensure the accuracy of the information. We avoid the use of tertiary references. You can read about how we ensure the accuracy and timeliness of our content in our editorial process.

  1. CDC (2023). Facts About Hypertension . [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at:
  2. CDC (2022). Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD). [online] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available at:
  3. Mayo Clinic. (2023). High cholesterol – Symptoms and causes. [online] Available at:
  4. Lai, Y.-H., Wang, A.-Y., Yang, C.-C. and Guo, L.-Y. (2020). The Recovery Benefit on Skin Blood Flow Using Vibrating Foam Rollers for Postexercise Muscle Fatigue in Runners. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [online] 17(23), p.9118. doi:
  5. gilmerm (2020). What You Should Know About Compression Socks. [online] Cleveland Clinic. Available at:
  6. Vascular Vitality. (2015). Your Circulation and Cigarette Smoking Do Not Mix. [online] Available at:


Dr. Stephanie Nichols is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor in Arizona. She’s passionate about helping women resolve their anxiety, depression, and chronic stress by restoring balance to their hormones, and digestive functioning. She also approaches autoimmune conditions from a whole-person standpoint and uncovers the deeper issues through advanced laboratory testing. Dr. Stephanie assesses her patients from a Naturopathic as well as a Traditional Chinese Medicine viewpoint. Her treatment plans are unique in that they are completely customized to suit each patient on a mental, emotional, and physical level. Dr. Stephanie earned her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Sciences, with honors, from the University of Alberta. After recognizing the ability of food choices to impact several chronic diseases, she then pursued her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, graduating with honors.She is a consultant and nutraceutical formulator for a number of companies as well as a freelance medical blog writer.


Drew is a retired ENT doctor who now lives in the Southeastern US. He was a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He has a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Psychology and an MD degree. He completed his internship in General Surgery and Residency in Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and practiced for almost 30 years in all aspects of ENT, including a specialization in disorders of the ear and skull base. Drew is passionate about communicating his clinical experiences and making his knowledge more accessible to the general public by medical writing.

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