The study compared the effect of a sustained silver-release foam dressing (Contreet Foam) with a foam dressing (Allevyn Hydrocellular) without added silver in critically colonised venous leg ulcers with delayed healing. The study was a multicentre, open, randomised, controlled study lasting for 4 weeks. Ulcer area and healing were assessed weekly. Odour, maceration, absorption capacity and leakage were evaluated at dressing changes. All adverse events were recorded. One hundred and twenty-nine patients were included (Contreet Foam: 65, Allevyn Hydrocellular: 64). The two groups were comparable in all respects. After 4 weeks, there was a significantly greater reduction in ulcer area in the Contreet Foam group (45%) than in the Allevyn Hydrocellular group (25%). After 1 and 4 weeks, odour was present in significantly less of the ulcers in the Contreet Foam group (17% and 19%, respectively) compared with the Allevyn Hydrocellular group (47% and 39%, respectively) and at the final visit there were significantly fewer leakages in the Contreet Foam group (19%) compared with the Allevyn Hydrocellular group (49%). Also, less maceration was observed after 1 and 4 weeks in the Contreet Foam group (34% and 37%, respectively) compared with the Allevyn Hydrocellular group (55% and 48%, respectively). The occurrence and cause of adverse events were equally distributed between the study groups. The present study provides evidence of the superior performance of the silver-releasing dressing, Contreet Foam, compared with a traditional moist foam wound healing dressing in the treatment of critically colonised, chronic venous leg ulcers. The results of this randomised, controlled study suggest an important role of sustained silver-releasing dressings in the treatment of critically colonised chronic wounds.