How to Float Heels with Pillows (Pressure Ulcer Prevention)

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How important is heel pressure ulcer prevention?

Pressure ulcers can develop within 2 to 6 hours. Therefore, the key to preventing pressure ulcers is to accurately identify at-risk individuals quickly, so that preventive measures may be implemented.

“Floating the heels” is a wound care term and intervention in which the heels (usually both) are suspended in the air. Traditionally, this is achieved with pillows and is the most common method.

Traditionally, the most common approach to floating the heels has been by placing pillows under the lower leg, positioned so as not to place pressure on the Achilles tendon and the heel.

NPUAP/EPUAP Treatment Guidelines

  • Stage 1 or 2: “Relieve pressure under the heel(s) with Category/Stage I or II pressure ulcers by placing legs on a pillow to “float the heels” off the bed or by using pressure reducing devices with heel suspension.”
  • Stage 3, 4, or unstageable: “Place the leg in a device that elevates the heel from the surface of the bed, completely offloading the pressure ulcer … Ensure that the device is not too tight and does not create additional pressure damage …”


floating heels with pillows
Use pillows or devices to reduce pressure on the heels and ankles by floating them off the bed

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