Abstract It is well accepted that severe numerical difficulties arise when using the conventional finite element displacement method to analyse incompressible, or nearly incompressible, solids. These effects are caused by the kinematic constraints imposed on the nodal velocities by the constant volume condition. In elastic-plastic analysis, these effects are due to a conflict between the plastic flow rule and the finite element discretization. Although several methods have been proposed to cope with this problem, none has been based on the appropriate choice of displacement interpolation to minimise the constraints. In this paper, a new displacement interpolation, which is able to reduce the imposed constraints, is adopted. Comparisons of the results with those from a conventional linear displacement interpolation are made for predictions of cylindrical and spherical cavity expansion limit pressures in elastic-plastic solids. This study suggests that the proposed displacement interpolation is preferable to the conventional one in the elastic-plastic finite element analysis of one dimensional-axisymmetric problems which involve nearly incompressible material behaviour.