Fantastic Foot Massage
Learn a Foot Massage Routine Your Clients will Love!
Fantastic Foot Massage
In a 2014 survey conducted by the American Podiatric Medical Association, 77 percent of the 1000 adults surveyed reported foot pain.1 Half of all adults say that foot pain restricts their activities – walking, exercising, working, or playing with children – in some way. In addition, people say they would exercise more (39 percent) and participate in more activities (41 percent) if not for foot pain.
Foot massage reduces foot pain, mobilizes the joints of the feet, and reduces foot fatigue. Furthermore, foot massage relieves stress, improves mood, and leads to feelings of well-being.
Research on foot massage and reflexology indicates benefits for clients with anxiety, arthritis, back pain, depression, digestive issues, fatigue, fibromyalgia, insomnia, migraines, pain, stress, and tension headache.2-11
In one study on patients in critical care, a five-minute foot massage significantly decreased heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration.12 In another study, patients with dementia and significant agitation received a ten-minute foot massage each day for 14 days. Their scores on agitation decreased significantly over the 14 days and for a period after the study.13 Nurses commonly use foot massage to intervene when patients experience pain and nausea while hospitalized with cancer.14
Develop Your Fantastic Foot Massage Routine
There is no doubt that foot massage matters. Clients often request specific work on their feet or experience their deepest level of relaxation during the foot massage. Furthermore, the depth, pace, and fluidity of your foot massage and the variety of techniques you use to manipulate soft tissue can set you apart from other therapists and leave a vivid impression on a client.
If you already offer an exceptional foot massage routine as part of wellness sessions, you may appreciate adding some of these techniques. However, if you are still developing your foot massage, this routine may become your go-to.
It works well to watch the demonstration video, then work through each technique in step-by-step order. After that, put it all together by working along with the video and honing your transitions between techniques. Finally, practice until the routine flows smoothly, and you can complete the series of strokes without watching the video or checking the directions.
Please let us know if you enjoy this routine and find it useful! You’ll find a feedback form at the end of this guide. The video and images used in this guide are courtesy of Spa Bodywork: A Guide for Massage Therapists.
Solar Plexus Hold
Sit holding one foot in each hand. Your thumbs are positioned so that they rest on the point directly below the ball of the foot known as the solar plexus point. This point is associated with deep breathing and a calm mind. Ask the client to take 3 deep breaths while you apply firm pressure to this point on both feet at the same time.
The Sandwich Slide
Lace your fingers and stand on the lateral side of the foot facing towards the massage table. Slide your interlaced fingers down the medial edge of the foot to the heel. Now, slide back up to the starting position. The emphasis is on the downward stroke and on maintaining an even rhythm with the strokes. Repeat this technique 15 times.
Folded Hands Glide
Place one hand on top of the other with your thumbs to the outside, and hold your elbows close to your body so that you can use your body weight to facilitate the stroke. With the edge of your hands contacting the ball of the foot (directly over the metatarsal heads), push the foot into dorsiflexion.
Once the foot is dorsiflexed, run the edge of your hands down the plantar surface of the foot and around the heel pulling the foot into plantar flexion at the end of the stroke. Repeat this stroke 10 times.
You might notice that the folded hands glide is difficult to perform with good body mechanics as it causes a pronounced wrist deviation. Holding your elbows close to your body and using your body weight to facilitate this stroke is important. While this stroke is popular with clients, you must determine if you can provide it without injury or undue stress on your body.
Circular Thumbs on Top of the Foot
Starting at the distal part of the foot, make circular motions with your thumbs running down the dorsal surface of the foot. Repeat this stroke 3-6 times covering the entire dorsal surface of the foot.
Circular Palms around the Ankle
Apply moderate pressure in circular motions around the ankle with the palms of your hands. Make 10-15 circles around the ankles.
Run one hand up the anterior surface of the leg to the knee. At the same time, run the other hand down the posterior surface of the leg from the knee to the ankle. Traction the ankle at the end of each posterior leg stroke. Repeat this technique for 5-10 passes up and down the leg.
Circular Thumbs on the Bottom of the Foot
Apply circular friction with your thumbs from the heel to the toes. Repeat this stroke 3-6 times and combine it with the metatarsal pull described next.
As you approach the top of the foot with circular thumbs, gently grab around the first metatarsal head with one hand, and around the 5th metatarsal head with the other. The fingers fall into the groves created by the metatarsals. Loosen the foot in a see-saw motion to complete this stroke.
Stone Scrape (Optional)
Using the flat edge of a warm stone, scrape from the solar plexus point (the point directly beneath the ball of the foot) to the heel in a straight, even motion and repeat this technique 6-10 times.
Metatarsal Stone Roll (Optional)
Place the edge of the warm stone in-between the 5th and 4th metatarsal and roll upward 3 or 4 times. Repeat this stroke between each of the metatarsals.
Transverse Thumb Slide
Apply thumb friction in a crossing pattern from the bottom of the toes to the heel. When you reach the heel, lift your thumbs to the starting position for another pass. Alternatively, you might transverse thumb slide down the foot and use circular thumb friction back up the foot to create a smooth transition. Repeat this stroke 3-6 times.
Rotation of All Toes
Stabilize the foot with one hand while the other rotates all of the toes in a circle. Repeat, rotating the toes in the opposite direction. This stroke is followed by a toe twist in which each toe is lightly twisted back and forth while gentle traction is applied to the toe.
Circular Finger Friction
With the thumbs on the plantar surface of the foot, circle the fingers down the sides of the foot using firm pressure. Repeat this stroke 3-6 times.
Stand at the end of the table in the center, facing out over the foot. Place the hand that is closest to the table on the base of the ankle and stabilize the foot. The other hand twists the distal tarsals, metatarsals, and phalanges outward, moving up the foot. The hand closest to the table holds the ankle firmly in place.
Make a fist with your inside hand and place it against the ball of the foot. The outside hand stabilizes the foot on the dorsal surface. Using a rhythmic motion, plantarflex and dorsiflex the foot to loosen it and stimulate lymphatic flow.
Laced Fingers Hold
Place the fingertips of each of your hands on the plantar surface of the foot, lacing them almost, but not actually in-between each toe. Hang onto the foot as if you are hanging onto a ledge with just your fingertips. Hold this position for a count of 10 seconds.
Standing at the end of the table in the center, hold each leg just above the foot. Lift the legs and bounce them on the massage table three times. Bring your hands around the leg so that you can lean backwards and traction at the ankles while swinging the legs right and left. This releases the sacroiliac joint and relaxes the lower back. Repeat this sequence 3-4 times. Avoid this technique if the client has lower back, hip, pelvic, knee or ankle problems.
This series of techniques requires about 10 minutes per foot to apply. If you need a longer massage, repeat this series of techniques from the beginning or combine these techniques with others you like.
Solar Plexus Hold
When you are ready to end the foot massage step, return to the solar plexus hold. Sit holding one foot in each hand. Your thumbs are positioned so that they rest on the point directly below the ball of the foot. Ask the client to take 3 deep breaths while you apply firm pressure to this point on both feet at the same time.
Spa Bodywork: A Guide for Massage Therapists
The foot massage routine you just learned is part of a larger lesson on foot spa treatments included in our digital textbook, Spa Bodywork: A Guide for Massage Therapists. Right now, you could offer clients a complete foot spa treatment, including foot massage, reflexology, the application of a treatment product like mud or seaweed, and more. Create a foot spa menu with a series of stand-alone foot treatments or foot treatment upsells.
Spa Bodywork teaches you how to create unique massage experiences using textures, sounds, and aromas. Learn to offer innovative ways to experience wellness through inspiration from world cultures, natural healing substances, and specialized bodywork modalities.
In Spa Bodywork, you’ll learn more than 20 core spa treatments, including salt glows, body wraps, spa foot treatments, and stone massage. In addition, you’ll find that you can mix and match techniques, spa products, themes, and smellscapes for an unlimited number of original spa sessions. Step-by-step directions, illustrated with photographs, show you how to position clients, how to apply and remove products, and how to transition between the phases of a session. Video demonstrations of some spa body treatments bring these techniques to life.
In the text’s 16-year history, thousands of professional therapists and students in spa programs at massage schools have used Spa Bodywork to explore the exciting world of spa while staying true to their identities as massage therapists. We hope Spa Bodywork supports your massage career too.
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