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What is a Foot Pump?

By Brad Cole
Updated May 17, 2024
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A foot pump is a device that uses foot action to move air or liquids. It has many uses, including inflating rafts, filling air mattresses, removing water from a small bilge, inflating bicycle tires, and pumping water to wash hands with. There are numerous types of foot pumps, but all operate on a similar up-and-down foot action.

All foot pumps have the same basic design. First, an intake port connects to the pump housing. A valve on this port makes sure that the air or liquid flow is only in one direction. An airtight bladder or sealant is used so that what is taken in through the intake can not leave through any direction other than the exit (outtake) port. The outtake port also has a valve connection that only allows flow in one direction. When the housing is pressed down, air or liquid is pushed out of the pump housing through the outtake port; when the pump housing is depressed, air or liquid is drawn into the housing through the intake port. Springs or pistons are usually built into the housing so that the foot pump depresses automatically.

A foot pump can usually move a higher volume of substance than a hand pump can in the same time frame. This is because foot pumps are usually built to draw more volume than hand pumps because a person’s leg muscles are usually stronger than their arm muscles and a person’s entire body weight can be used to press a foot pump. A foot pump can also be set up to move small volumes of a substance, such as a small amount of soap at a sink or a few mouthfuls of water into a drinking cup.

Foot pumps are popular because of their small size and the fact that they do not need electricity to operate. In outdoor situations like camping, the pump allows items like rafts and air mattresses to be filled in locations where electricity is not available. On small boats, they can be used to pump out water that may be slowing or sinking the vessel. In bathrooms, they can be used to dispense water or hand soap. Foot pumps are also commonly used to fill bicycle tires and inflatable balls.

About Mechanics is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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