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Foot Focus

Contact Author Sarah Kajonborrirak February 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine

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Foot massage is one of the most popular techniques among spa aficionados on the run due to its apparent simplicity and relatively low price, as well as the fact that, unlike most full-body massages, there is no need for the client to undress or wear a robe while being treated. With the proliferation of day spas in today’s marketplace, foot massage and reflexology, which is a massage technique that posits pressure applied on specific points of the feet benefits other parts of the body, have become a common pastime, and even a social activity.

A building trend

A trend in several Asian countries, and even one catching on in the West, is groups of friends and relatives enjoying sessions of foot massage and reflexology together in upscale day spas. In fact, one of the latest spa trends in Hong Kong is to have communal spa rooms that allow clients to bring in their own champagne. Busy executives can also often be spotted with their feet in therapists’ hands after a long day at the office.

Asians, in particular, believe in the health benefits of reflexology, as the technique likely originated in China thousands of years ago. And although there is still debate about whether reflexology actually promotes greater physical well-being or not, there is no doubt having someone rub your feet in a professional, skilled way can offer a relaxing sensation along with peace of mind.

Tranquility and toes

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Reflexology claims include that, by stimulating certain pressure points on the feet and the hands and ears, it can relieve pain and improve health. And even if clients seem to have hesitations about the inner benefits of reflexology, it’s hard to deny the calming, soothing feelings simply experiencing the technique can bring to the mind and body.

A good foot massage—as with any other massage technique—depends a lot on the atmosphere of the place in which it is administered. As a spa owner, you can give the room where you offer reflexology the versatility of being as private or as public as your clients want it. Some spas have rooms with beautiful curtains or stylish partitions on both sides of their massage chairs so these dividers can be opened if a client comes in with a friend and wants to chat during the session.

If, on the other hand, a client prefers to enjoy her reflexology treatment in privacy, the curtains can be closed to create the ambiance of a private cabana.

The right moves

If you want to give someone a quality foot massage treatment, there are a few simple steps to follow.

First, ensure your hands are ready for the treatment—nails should be clipped and hands should be free of unnecessary jewelry and ornamentation. Next, make sure the atmosphere is appropriate, including playing relaxing music and providing an assortment of reading materials, if a client is so inclined. Then prepare a good foot massage cream, gel or oil. There are a few creams that are specifically formulated for foot massage, as they contain antibacterial properties and provide a cooling effect. To locate suppliers offering foot- and reflexology-specific products, log on to

You may need several towels and talcum powder. You also have the option of using a special wooden stick, which can be purchased from several spa suppliers, to stimulate pressure points. Some people with very sensitive feet prefer to skip the wooden stick, however, to avoid discomfort.

Next, follow along in the Foot Massage Step-by-step to learn the elements of offering a relaxing, renewing treatment.

Getting on your feet

A good foot massage or reflexology treatment can help soothe a client’s aching muscles, and also give them time to relax and rejuvenate from stress. If you take care to keep your foot massage treatments as calming as possible, clients will certainly keep coming back for more.

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Foot Massage Step-by-Step

Always begin a foot massage treatment by cleansing the client’s feet and checking for possible fungal infections on the skin. If there is an infection, you will need to use a different range of products aimed at healing the skin, as well as take extra precautions to prevent contagions with skin-to-skin contact.

Treatment length: 40–60 minutes

Treatment cost: $10–40+

Contraindications: Pregnant women should only be massaged by specially trained professionals, and people with heart conditions, foot infections or bone issues, blood clot problems, high blood pressure, or diabetes should consult with a physician before undergoing this type of treatment.

Supplies needed:

Massage chair


Foot massage cream, gel or oil

Talcum powder (optional)

Wooden massage stick (optional)

Step 1: Soak the feet in warm water for at least five minutes. You can add a few drops of an essential oil to the water to include an aromatic element, if so desired. Some spas will also include a quick complimentary scrub using a loofah at this stage of the treatment.

Step 2: One at a time, dry the feet thoroughly with a towel, ensuring they are completely dry before starting with the massage. Wrap one foot with a towel so it will stay warm, and start working with the other foot.

Step 3: Once the client has comfortably sat back in the massage chair, apply the cream, gel or oil in a sweeping motion all over the unwrapped foot to just to above the ankle. When applying the product, do so with a light pressure in preparation for the massage.

Step 4: One of the golden rules of reflexology is to always use both hands when massaging each foot, which is why you want to work on only one foot at a time. You can use the optional wooden stick to help you perform any of these techniques, as well. The first technique is the back-and-forth technique, which is very simple. Place the palms of your hands on the top and bottom of the foot, then gently push forward with one hand and pull back with the other fairly rapidly.

Step 5: Do basic stretches with the foot: push the top first and then pull it back toward you. Press your thumb into the foot’s arch, then gently flex the toes toward you, pulling the foot against the thumb.

Step 6: Wrap one hand around the top of the foot and apply pressure with your fist on the sole, moving it up toward the toes then back toward the heel.

Step 7: For the ankle rotation, next up, you must support the heel in one hand with your thumb around the ankle, right below the ankle bone. Then grasp the top of the foot with your other hand and rotate it softly a few times in one direction. Then rotate the opposite way.

Step 8: Next, moving your thumbs in a downward movement, apply a moderate amount of pressure along the sole of the foot. Massage the sole with your thumbs using a circular motion, making sure the pressure being applied is appropriate. Start from the top and move your way down, massaging the sides of the foot as well.

Step 9: Move on to the top and sides of the foot. The difference here is that you will have to use your fingers, as opposed to your thumbs. The correct way to do this is by bending the first joint of your fingers slightly. Make sure the inside edge of your fingers work the reflexes on the top of the foot.

Step 10: Slide your finger between each toe no more than 10 times and squeeze the toes gently, starting with the big toe and working your way to the smallest.

Step 11: Unwrap the second foot, wrapping up the first foot in a fresh towel to keep it warm, and repeat each of the reflexology techniques on the second foot.

Step 12: Finally, unwrap both feet and remove any excess product with a towel. You can also apply talcum powder to the feet, though it’s not necessary.

Step 13: Advise the client to drink plenty of water in the next few hours and allow her to relax in the massage chair until she is ready to leave.

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