There is nothing quite like having your feet massaged. For most people, a spot of foot massage therapy is pure bliss. And there are several types of foot massage techniques to choose from if you need to reduce stress.
But a good foot massage can also improve circulation, ease tension and tight muscles, and help with pain management. It can also help to prevent injury caused by tight foot muscles (or related areas like the calf). And a foot massage is a great way to find more relaxation in your life.1
Whether you’re athletic, pregnant, or someone who works on their feet all day, this kind of foot care can work wonders on aching feet. Massaging the feet has also been shown to help other parts of the body. For example, numerous studies have shown that foot massages that involve reflexology (or pressure points) may be of great relief to migraines.2
Best Types of Foot Massage Techniques
The best part is that there are so many different therapeutic foot massage techniques to choose from, depending on your mood. From a gentle Ayurvedic rubdown to a trigger point manipulation, here are 8 great types of foot massage techniques:
A Thai foot massage generally focuses on flexibility and pressure points. So your therapist may also rotate and stretch your feet. To get into those major pressure points they may also use their thumb, elbow, or something similar.
Thai foot massage revolves around the concept of freeing blocked energy by unblocking specific lines or “sens” (meridian-type channels) that correspond to other parts of the body.3 In this way it is akin to reflexology, but with a greater massage component. Expect a deep massage with prolonged pressure along these spots.
As exotic as a Swedish massage sounds, it’s probably the most common massage you’ll find. It’s known as a very relaxing technique which is why it’s so popular worldwide. A Swedish foot massage will incorporate lots of different movements – long strokes, circular movements, kneading, and tapping. Unless you request your therapist to get deeper into a particular area, it will usually be a gentle, calming and tranquil experience.
A Japanese-style of foot massage techniques, Shiatsu is similar to Thai massage in that it aims to unclog blockages that stop the body’s Qi (chee) energy from flowing freely.
A Shiatsu massage therapist will do this by applying finger pressure along the “meridians” in your feet.
The main difference between Shiatsu and Thai massage is that they follow different meridian maps. Shiatsu tends to follow the same pressure points as acupressure or acupuncture.4 But when it comes to a foot massage, they will feel quite similar.
4. Deep Tissue
There are those massages that feel relaxing while you’re having them, and then there are those where you don’t get the zen until afterward. That’s because these are much firmer massages that aren’t quite as relaxing “in the moment”. Deep tissue is one of those kinds of foot massages. It targets the deep layers of muscle and connective tissue, and the kneading is more intense and firm. Some might call this kind of massage a little painful, but those who enjoy a deep tissue massage love the incredible muscle release that comes afterward. It’s particularly great for tight, tense foot muscles and joints.
5. Hot Stone
If you can’t bear the thought of a deep tissue massage, a hot stone foot massage may be just for you. The therapist will usually warm up your muscles with a gentle Swedish-style massage, then place warmed basalt stones either directly on the muscles or they will use them to perform the massage. The warmth of the rocks helps to loosen muscles while providing a warm, cozy, relaxing sensation.
A sports massage is usually a favorite of athletes – from gym-lovers to professionals. It’s a great after-performance option for helping to stretch out the muscles and prevent injuries. Though some athletes will use it for their pre-event preparation too. This is because sports massage may help ward off injuries and reduce muscle soreness.5 The intensity of the massage will usually be individualized to what an athlete needs at the time.
7. Trigger Point
Trigger point foot massage techniques can be likened to deep tissue massage in intensity. Though it focuses on “points” like Shiatsu or Thai, trigger point massage is very deep and intense. Trigger point massage focuses on very specific spots relating to injury or tightness and the therapist will use her elbow or fingers to get deep into the various layers of muscle. They will usually hold the point for several seconds at a time and then release it. Trigger point massage may help to relieve such conditions as plantar fasciitis.6
Ayurveda is an ancient Indian school of medicine. In terms of massage, Ayurveda combines essential oils with gentle massage strokes and kneading in order to balance the three key elements (doshas) in any Ayurvedic treatment: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha.7 Some therapists may use a small bronze bowl to apply warmed oil to the feet. You should find an Ayurvedic foot massage to be incredibly relaxing.
You don’t have to break your budget to soothe your feet. Though a professional massage can be an exhilarating treat, there are plenty of cheaper options available. For example:
- You could buy a relatively inexpensive foot massaging device to place your feet in while you relax
- You could roll your feet back and forwards over a golf or tennis ball (this actually feels amazing!)
- Take turns with a partner to massage each other’s feet.
You can even massage your own feet. It might not sound as ideal but a few simple minutes after a hard day’s work can greatly benefit your feet.
1. Lather up your foot with your favorite lotion or oil.
2. Use your thumbs to massage in a circular motion up the sole of your foot from your heel to the toes. Then come back down again to the heel.
3. You may also like to massage up and down the back of your calf while pointing and flexing your foot. This can help because a tight calf often causes foot issues.
4. For a lazier option: soak your tired feet in a bowl of warm water and Epsom salts while you kick back with your favorite TV show.8
Footloose and Fancy-Free
Ultimately, all foot massage techniques and good foot care are there to loosen your feet up for the better – so it doesn’t really matter which technique you choose. They all offer a host of physical benefits while simultaneously benefitting your mind.
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