After a long day of being on your feet, walking home from work or even just squeezing your feet into a pair of uncomfortable shoes, a simple foot massage can make a world of difference. But knowing how to give yourself a good massage makes all the difference. Consider this just one of many ways to practice self-care, by giving your tootsies some much-needed TLC — or asking a partner to do it for you.
(As a quick note: Be careful when receiving a foot massage during pregnancy. Some pressure points may cause contractions.)
Here's how to give a foot massage like a pro:
How does a foot massage sound?
Regardless of whether you're on the receiving end of a foot massage or you're the one giving it, you both will experience many benefits, Even if you are simply massaging your own feet, it can still be a rewarding and satisfying way to end your day.
- The giver: Giving a friend or loved one a foot massage is very soothing and calming for you, too, and can actually cause your blood pressure to decrease. It's a very caring, nurturing, and bonding experience to share with another person (as weird as that may sound).
- The receiver: Obviously, this is really the best position to be in. Foot massage will help reduce your stress, boost circulation, and relieve blood stagnation from wearing ill-fitting shoes. In addition, it will dramatically relax your body, soothe foot muscles, and undo knots and tension in your toes, balls of your feet, arches, and ankles. It will even soften your feet if a cream or massage oil is applied!
- One-on-one: Though not as fulfilling as having your feet massaged by another, self-massage enables you to care for your feet on a regular basis, to de-stress and pamper your feet as you see fit.
Next Up: Techniques for foot massage
A version of this article was originally published in April 2008.
Techniques for foot massage
A foot massage can be performed at any time you wish or as part of a home pedicure procedure. The following illustrations depict some standard foot massage techniques that a nail technician might perform on a client during a pedicure. If you do not have a willing partner to give you a massage, never fear. These techniques are just as easily done (with some minor alterations) alone.
If a partner is involved, have the one receiving the foot massage recline against a big pillow on the sofa or bed to fully relax the entire body. Foot massage feels really great if the whole body is at ease.
If you're going solo, find a comfortable chair, preferably one with padded arms and a foot rest, such as a recliner. Sit back, prop one foot in your lap and let the other rest extended in front of you, and massage those feet until they smile.
If using a massage oil or lotion, protect clothing and furniture with a towel or two. Rub oiled or creamed hands together vigorously to warm them before beginning the foot massage.
Complete all six steps on one foot before moving on to the other.
Step 1: Stroke the top of the foot
Stroking stimulates circulation and warms the foot. Holding your partner's foot in your hands, on the top of the foot begin a long, slow, firm, stroking motion with your thumbs, starting at the tips of the toes and sliding back away from you, all the way up to the ankle, then retrace your steps back to the toes with a lighter stroke.
Repeat this step three to five times, then stroke the bottom of the foot in the same manner.
Step 2: Ankle rotations
Loosens joints and relaxes feet. Cup one hand under the heel, behind the ankle, to brace the foot and leg.
Grasp the ball of the foot with the other hand and turn the foot slowly at the ankle for three to five times in each direction. With repeated foot massages, any stiffness will begin to recede. (This is a particularly good exercise for anyone suffering from arthritis.)
Step 3: Toe pulls and squeezes
Toes, like fingers, are quite sensitive to the touch — this massage can be very calming. Grasp the foot beneath the arch. With the other hand, beginning with the big toe, hold the toe with your thumb on top and index finger beneath.
Starting at the base of the toe, slowly and firmly pull the toe, sliding your fingers to the top and back to the base.
Now repeat, but gently squeeze and roll the toe between your thumb and index finger, working your way to the tip and back to the base.
Repeat these two movements on the remaining toes.
Step 4: Toe slides
Grasp foot behind the ankle, cupping under heel. With the index finger of the other hand, slide your finger between the toes, back and forth for three to five times.
Next Up: Step 5: Arch press
Step 5: Arch press
Releases tension in the inner and outer longitudinal arches. Hold foot as you did in Step 4.
Using the heel of your other hand, push hard as you slide along the arch from the ball of the foot toward the heel and back again. Repeat five times. This part of the foot can stand a little extra exertion on your part, just don't apply too much pressure. Push your hand along the arch of the foot.
Step 6: Stroking. Repeat step 1
This is a good way to begin and end a foot massage.
Agony of the Feet Relaxing Massage Oil
2 teaspoons (10 ml) castor, jojoba, soybean, or extra-virgin olive oil
3 drops lavender essential oil
1 drop German chamomile essential oil
1 drop geranium essential oil
Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir thoroughly. Yields one treatment.
Use approximately 1 teaspoon (5 ml per foot and massage in completely. Inhale the aroma on your hands before you massage, and continue to breathe deeply, as these particular oils are extremely calming. Put on socks after massage to absorb excess oil and soften feet.