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Foot Massage Techniques and Foot Care Tips

Foot Massage

A benefit of foot massage is it can make your entire body feel better. This effect is due at least partly to the many nerve endings in the feet that send relaxation signals to the rest of the body.

Other benefits of foot massage include improved circulation, stimulates muscles, reduced tension, and often less pain.

Note: Although reflexology is sometimes referred to as massaging the feet, real reflexology isn't massage but an energetic technique that uses pressure on specific points on the feet (and hands and ears) to affect the whole body. However, many massage therapists do combine reflexology and massage techniques.

This article contains three videos demonstrating how to massage feet: a Swedish-style routine, a Thai massage routine, and a self-massage routine. Then there's a written description of foot massage techniques, followed by general foot care tips and tips for people with diabetes.

Swedish Foot & Lower Leg Massage 

Northern Thai Massage Of Feet

Self Massage For Your Feet

Description Of Foot Massage Technique

  1. Warm up the foot with effleurage (gliding strokes): With the foot lying on the massage table or other surface, use the palms and heels of your hands to make long massage strokes from the toes to above the ankle.

  2. Rotate the foot: With the foot still resting on the table, use your outside hand to hold the ankle. Place the thumb of the inside hand between the big toe and index toe and use that hand to rotate the foot gently.

  3. Flex and extend the foot.

  4. With one hand on each side of the foot, place the heels of your thumbs on top of the foot and use them to spread apart the top of the foot.

  5. Use your thumbs to massage between the tendons on the top of the foot.

  6. Use your fingertips to make circles around the malleoli (the bony bumps at the ankle).

  7. Massage the sole of the foot using either your thumbs, fingertips, or knuckles to make small circles over the entire surface of the sole. Adjust the pressure to suit the person whose feet you are massaging.

  8. Gently squeeze and pull each toe (some people don't like this technique, so be careful).

If you like, you can use a foot massage gel, such as this one:

  • 2 tablespoons aloe vera gel
  • 5 drops patchouli essential oil
  • 5 drops peppermint essential oil

Blend ingredients in a one-ounce (30-ml) flip-top bottle. Use as desired.

Foot Care Tips

Person with bare feet standing on toes. Text: Foot Care Tips

Taking time to practice good foot care will help your feet stay healthy and pain-free. Are the muscles of your feet flexible and strong? Unfortunately, most people ignore these muscles and their feet in general, leading to a wide range of foot problems, including bunions, hammertoes, and plantar fasciitis.

Understand Pronation and Supination

It's important for your feet to have the right amount of pronation and supination— the foot's natural rolling movement while walking or running. Too much pronation or supination causes a number of problems that affect your feet, ankles, knees, hips, and back.

Pronation is the inward roll of the foot during normal foot movement. Too much pronation flattens the foot arch and overstretches the muscles, tendons, and ligaments on the bottom of the foot.

Supination is the outward roll of the foot during normal foot movement. Too much supination strains the muscles and tendons that stabilize the ankle and can lead to ankle injury.

Learn more pronation and supination and choosing footwear.

Soak Your Feet

For a relaxing foot soak, add Epsom salts to a basin of warm water and soak your feet and ankles for at least ten minutes. You can also add a few drops of essential oils. Some suggestions:

  • Rosemary to soothe tired, aching feet (7 drops)
  • Ginger to warm up your feet (3 drops)
  • Peppermint to refresh your feet (5 drops)
  • Lavender for injured feet (8 drops)
  • Roman chamomile to relax your feet (4 drops)

For a foot scrub to exfoliate and invigorate, blend a little olive oil, a tablespoon of sea salt, and a drop of your favorite essential oil. Scrub your lower leg and the bottom of your feet. 

More: Foot Scrub Recipes and Foot Soaks

Exercise Your Feet

Can you pick up a small towel using only your toes? It's a great exercise. See this Foot and Ankle Conditioning Program from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

If you have flat feet, see exercises for flat feet at Somatic Reflections.

Foot Self Care For Diabetics

People with diabetes are prone to foot problems because of the decreased circulation to the feet. eMedicine offers these foot care tips for diabetics:

  • Look at your feet every day and immediately after any foot trauma. Let your doctor know if you find potential problems.

  • Wear cotton or wool socks. Don't wear elastic socks and hosiery, because they can interfere with circulation.

  • Apply a water-based moisturizer to your feet every day (NOT between your toes) to prevent dry skin and cracking.

  • Keep floors and pathways clear and lit so that you don't bump into or trip over things.

  • Trim your toenails with a safety clipper, not scissors. Cut the nails straight across with lots of space out from the nailbed or quick.

  • Wear sturdy, comfortable, properly fitted shoes to protect your feet. A podiatrist (foot doctor) can help you fit shoes properly.

  • Exercise to improve circulation to your legs and help stabilize your blood sugar.

People with diabetes can receive gentle foot massage as long as there are no problems such as excess swelling or lack of feeling. If in doubt, ask your doctor.

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