Oedema & Lymphoedema Uncovered

You might never have heard of Oedema & Lymphoedema, but they are two very common conditions in the UK that can severely impact the lives of sufferers.

They are both, in simple terms, conditions caused by fluid getting stuck in the body. Both result in swelling, particularly of limbs, often causing pain for the sufferer and other effects such as loss of freedom of movement in the afflicted limb.

Such pain can often make it difficult to keep active or engage in other important activities, even working, and can become part of a vicious cycle.

We take a quick look at these conditions and suggest some ways to not let them win...

Take me to the shoes for oedema and lymphoedema >


Oedema is the general medical term for fluid retention in the body. This is usually short-term and can be self-treated. Indeed, the NHS recommends that if you experience oedema for more than a few days that you should call your GP.

Oedema can be a symptom of a wider problem, rather than a condition in itself and can be caused by a variety of day-to-day things - like standing or sitting in the same position for too long - or it can be a symptom of more serious lifestyle problem, like being overweight, eating too much salty food or can be brought on by certain medicines such as some contraceptives, anti-depressants or steroids. [1]

Oedema is also commonplace amongst pregnant women, who often report swollen ankles, feet and fingers during their pregnancy.


Lymphoedema is a condition that is typically caused by a blockage of the lymphatic system, which, in turn causes swelling usually in all or part of a limb, and most commonly in legs and arms.

There are 2 main types of Lymphoedema - primary & secondary - with secondary lymphoedema being much more common. Whilst the effects are broadly similar, the difference lies in the cause:

Primary lymphoedema, which is considered rare, affects an estimated 1 in every 6,000 people and is caused by faulty genes that affect the development of the lymphatic system; it can develop at any age, but usually starts during infancy, adolescence, or early adulthood.[1]

Secondary lymphoedema is a condition affecting an estimated 200,000[1] people in the UK (or 1 in 300, to put it in context).

It is caused by damage to the lymphatic system or problems with the movement and drainage of fluid in the lymphatic system and can often be the result of a cancer treatment, an infection, injury, inflammation of the limb, or a lack of limb movement.

What can be done?

Of course, swollen legs, feet and ankles will have an impact on life, especially when the swelling causes a lot of pain, so what can be done?

Well, firstly, if you have or suspect you have either of these conditions then you should consult your GP for advice.

They may suggest some self-treatment, such as gentle exercise to keep the limbs moving and circulation flowing, and try to release some fluid from the area, gentle massage and the raising of your feet to allow gravity to help drain fluid away; or a formal programme of treatment such as CDT may be suggested.

Further advice can be sought from the wonderful Lymphoedema Support Network.

For longer term sufferers of swollen legs, ankles and feet though, fear not, we receive many messages from oedema and lymphoedema suffers that our shoes have been able to provide a new lease of life!

How do our shoes help?

There are a few ways in which our shoes can help sufferers of swollen feet, and these guidelines may help you too.

As moderate exercise is important in keeping fluid moving round the body, it is important to have footwear that allows for this without causing too much pain. Therefore, choosing a shoe that fits well and is the right size and shape for your foot is important.

It is better to wear a shoe which gently covers the foot, offering an even compression over the top of the foot, therefore preventing swelling down into the foot.

You may not believe that you can even find footwear you're comfortable in any longer, let alone anything stylish! But that's not the case.

Here are some of the features specifically designed for wide and swollen feet that may help!

Extra Wide & Deep Footwear

Simply put, our footwear offers more room for swollen feet and ankles. In particular, our 6E, 8E and variable width 6V fittings offer the widest and deepest options available from "regular" retailers on the market.

This can provide your feet with much needed space without compressing the foot and causing further swelling around the shoe entry point. Low cut court shoes, for instance, are not recommended for oedema sufferers, as swelling will occur at the top of the foot above the shoe opening. However, court shoes with elasticated toplines could provide the option for a dressed-up look without the associated issues.

We have styles in our widest fittings across all categories, casual and smart alike. For instance, you'll find trainers like Whitworth, Fox, Riley (pictured) or Shade, loafers, house shoes, casual, sporty or walking boots, like Reef (pictured), Santa, Bayeux, Nebraska, fashion boots and even dress shoes, like Constance (pictured).


If you have extra wide feet, then there are a few styles that we have designed specifically for you, including features like extended cut-to-fit straps and extra-wide opening for easy access. Style include new styles Serena and Riley, alongside men’s Darren and more.

Wide-fitting Stretch Shoes

Our Stretch range has been cleverly designed to provide a range of shoes that hug your feet! The elasticated fabrics or straps mould gently to the shape of your foot and grow as your feet swell, creating more space, reducing compression and also rubbing. Many of our stretch range are also seam free, further reducing the elements that can cause rubbing and pain in swollen feet.

Styles like Garforth and Santa offer full front stretch panels in a classically styled trainer or sporty boot, so they look just like “normal” shoes.

Everyday shoe Whitworth and Winnipeg have stretch panels on the outer and instep, making them ideal for bunions, alongside cut-to-fit adjustable straps.

We even include stretch panels on many of our Da Bella dress shoe styles, like Badminton, Constance or Winton, allowing you to get dressed up in style without discomfort.

Find our range of wide-fitting stretch shoes here

Variable Width Fittings

Many customers report swelling in one foot more than the other, meaning they need shoes in different width fittings. This isn't something that is easy to come by! However, our variable width fittings can accommodate this.

Our variable width fitting shoes work through the supply of removeable insoles, which allow you to turn a 6E shoe into a 7E or 8E shoe by simply removing 1 or 2 insoles. If you experience more swelling in one foot than the other, you can remove only the insoles from the shoe where you require the most space, leaving the other perfectly sized!

Find out more about our width fittings
View our V width fitting ladies footwear
View our 2V width fitting ladies footwear
View our 6V width fitting ladies footwear
View our V width fitting men's footwear
View our 2V width fitting men's footwear
View our 6V width fitting men's footwear

Easy Access Footwear

Many of our shoes, boots and house shoes are designed with easy access in mind, using extra-wide or front openings and/or inside zips to increase the opening size of the shoe. These features enable you to slip your foot in without squashing, squeezing and rubbing and then close comfortably around your foot.

In addition to those mentioned earlier, our range featuring front opening designs further includes Stoke, Unite, Rory, Biarritz, Fieldfare, Redstart, Keeston, and many more. Even fashion boot Winton has a double zip to allow front opening.

VAT Free Footwear

If you suffer from Lymphoedema then we hope that you can benefit from our wide & deep fitting footwear. Did you know that for our 6E, 8E or 6V width fittings you could qualify for VAT exemption? Just look for the link on the product page and complete the very short form and you could save 20% on the price of the product.

View our full range of wide and deep fitting footwear

Disclaimer: This information is of a general nature and should not be taken as a diagnosis. All questions and concerns should be directed to your Doctor, Podiatrist or other health advisor.