A few months back, a targeted ad got me to pause my Instagram scroll: It showed off an airplane “foot hammock,” meant to make sitting in an economy seat a bit more comfortable. The accessory looks like an oversized sleep mask; on either side of the adjustable straps, there are clips to buckle your hammock into place in-flight. With a few quick moves—namely, strapping the hammock around your tray table, then folding the tray back up—you’d have a place to rest your feet, taking the pressure off your lower back and keeping your legs and feet from getting stiff throughout the flight. As the ad proclaimed, “This will make your flights first class!”
Naturally, someone in the Traveler office had already purchased a very similar product: the Sleepy Ride Airplane Footrest, made of a thick, memory foam material and available on Amazon for $20. This model packs into a small drawstring bag (included with the footrest) that can be tossed into a tote or carry-on en route to the plane.
Since this is the kind of product that warrants skepticism—namely, is it worth the inevitable side-eye from nearby passengers?—we had two editors of very different heights put it to the test on a flight.
I purchased the SleepyRide foot hammock in a moment of weakness last December, before embarking on an intense week of travel that would involve five flights over five days. I was pretty skeptical about whether it would work, but the idea of a 14-hour flight in economy was enough for me to spend $20 on a product that I had heard others raving about. At 5'2", I have no problems with leg room on planes, but I do feel the need to elevate my legs, even on a short flight.
The foot hammock ended up working like a charm. I didn't get any weird looks from my fellow passengers when I set it up on my tray table, and the person sitting in front of me made no indication that they could feel my legs hanging from it. I was able to place my legs in a variety of positions, from stepping on the hammock with my knees bent to reclining with my legs extended.
It works best when there are no bags under your seat, so I'd recommend using it in a window seat where you can prop your carry-on against the wall during the length of the flight, or stowing bags in the overhead compartment.
The foot hammock has now entered my trusty airplane sleep kit that I bring on every flight, along with my collapsible travel pillow, eye mask, and compression socks. It might seem like a lot to pack in your carry-on, but for me, it's worth it to get some decent shut-eye on a long flight or a red-eye.—Stephanie Wu, articles director
My test flight for the foot hammock was a dream scenario. On an Aer Lingus flight back to New York from Dublin, I had an entire two-seat row to myself to fully sprawl, with no worry about odd looks from my seatmate as I wriggled around trying to find a comfortable position in the hammock. At 5'9", I usually scrunch down a little in my seat when it comes time to sleep, and rest my feet comfortably on the metal bar of the seat in front of me. With the foot hammock, I was flush for positions: I could tighten it up so my feet were lifted from the ground, loosen it to form a makeshift calf support, or pop my feet into the hammock so that my knees were parallel to my waist. None of them were comfy.
What was comfortable—and a direct result of the fairly empty flight—was putting the hammock over the tray table of the seat next to me and sitting sideways with my feet up in the stirrup, knees resting on that seat’s back. Since my armrest didn’t go all the way up, it was a way for me to spread out comfortably while being supported by the hammock—a configuration that is only possible in an empty row. I’m a ride-or-die aisle person and I can only imagine how impossible it would be to extricate myself from the hammock each time one of my seatmates were to need the bathroom or a walk down the aisle. Final verdict? If your feet already touch the ground, you can pass on this accessory. —Meredith Carey, associate editor
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Overall, Amazon reviewers are almost as divided as our editors. Of the more than 1,700 customer ratings, 68 percent gave it five stars, with another 20 percent giving it three or four stars. The one-star reviews say there wasn't enough room in their coach seat to raise their legs (to note, both our editors tested it in coach). Many people who didn’t love it say it doesn’t work well for tall people, while those who wrote glowing reviews frequently mentioned it’s a game-changer for short people. Clearly, height is the determining factor, though as always, there are some outliers, including reviews from people who are 5'8" to 6' and found it useful and ones from shorter people who said there wasn’t enough room under their seat to stretch out their legs. Our recommendation: If you’re around 5'6" or shorter and fly often, or are embarking on a long-haul flight, it’s worth trying out, especially given the price point.
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