Foot Massage

How To Give A Foot Massage

A foot massage is a great way to pamper someone special and help them unwind after a long day. As an added benefit, foot massages can also help to treat issues like headaches, insomnia, and stress.Start by massaging the tops of the feet as well as the heels, soles, toes. You can do deeper massage moves on the ankles, soles, and pressure points to release any tension and create a positive massage experience for the person.

If you’re considering booking a reflexology treatment, you might have a lot of questions. What exactly is reflexology? What are the benefits? And is it just another word for a foot massage?

There’s a lot to dig into, but we’ll cover the basics of what you need to know about reflexology in this article.

What is reflexology?

In reflexology, pressure is applied to specific reflex points on the foot. These points correspond to organs and areas of the body. The treatment is said to induce a healing response, even alleviating some ailments.

Reflexology is one of the most popular types of massage. Beyond the feel-good effects of the treatment, the practice and purpose go deeper than the skin and muscles. Kneading the soft fleshy ball of the foot, pulling on the toes, tracing around the heel and pushing deep into the arch are just a few of the movements you’ll experience during a treatment.

But what is all of that for? Well, there is a method to the treatment, and it all revolves around the charted areas of your foot.

Understanding a foot reflexology chart

The image on the left is an example of a reflexology foot chart or map. It shows which part of the foot connects to each organ or area of the body.

A reflexologist will use a diagram like this one during the session. Reflexologists sometimes also work on the hands or ears to trigger relaxation, but foot reflexology is the most common treatment.

As you can see, there’s a spot on the map for every organ or system in the body. A reflexologist can treat specific parts of your body by targeting that area of the foot.

How reflexology differs from a foot massage

These two treatments might seem similar, but there are some key differences. Both can be beneficial! Here’s what you can expect during a foot massage versus a reflexology massage.

Massage therapy is the manipulation of tissues to relax the muscles, relieve tension, and improve circulation. This can improve overall health and well-being.

Reflexology, on the other hand, uses a targeted, pressure-point massage to restore the flow of energy throughout the body. The treatment usually focuses on the feet, but it can also include the hands and ears.

There can be many potential benefits of this kind of treatment, which leads to the next question you might be asking.

What are the benefits?

Reflexology can address anything from headaches to sinus problems to stomach issues. If sensitivity or tenderness is experienced when an area is stimulated, it usually indicates bodily weaknesses or imbalances within the corresponding organ.

With repeated pressure and manipulation of nerve endings, reflexology can help to clear any channels of blocked energy. It is said to do so through moving the flow of blood, nutrients and nerve impulses. This ultimately improves overall health and balance.

Other potential benefits:
Cleanse the body of toxins
Boost the immune system
Increase circulation
Promote healing
Balance energy

What to Expect At the spa

Ok, so you’re ready to book a reflexology massage. There’s a lot to know about booking a treatment and what one is like. We’ll take a detailed look at everything you need to know about the process so there are no surprises.

Things to know before you go
To be effective, a reflexology practitioner must be certified and understand the meridians related to each pressure point.

Most spas offer reflexology. At Spafinder, we make it super easy to find popular spas with the services you want. Use our search tool to find a spa near you, read reviews, and book a session online.

But you might have some questions about the treatment. Let’s answer those.

How much does a reflexology massage cost?

Similar to any spa treatment or massage therapy, prices for reflexology will vary from spa to spa. However, the pricing is usually similar to a traditional massage. You can expect to pay anywhere from $40-90 for a 1-hour session, or $30-50 for a 30-minute session.

What is a reflexology session like?

The treatment typically lasts approximately 30 minutes, but it can last up to an hour. Have a conversation with your reflexologist beforehand to discuss issues like constipation, tension headaches or trouble sleeping.

During the session, you’re clothed and seated or lying down. The therapist will rub, press on and squeeze points on your feet. The therapist may concentrate on specific areas to alleviate ailments. For example, if you have sinus trouble, she’ll focus on your toes. But the therapist might also work on the whole foot in order to strengthen every system in the body.

Important Things to Remember:

Wait at least one hour after the massage before eating
Don’t receive reflexology if you are pregnant. Try a prenatal massage instead.
Drink water following the treatment to eliminate toxins and lactic acid buildup that occurs during the massage
Consult a doctor first if you have foot problems, an injury or a blood vessel disease associated with clots or varicose veins

Massaging the Foot’s Top, Heel, Sole, and Toes

Rub the top of the foot with your thumbs. Start at the tip of the toe and move slowly up to their ankle. Move back down their foot, starting from their ankle. Apply firm pressure with your thumbs, cupping their foot in your hands.

  • Move up and down their foot two to three times. Keep their foot close to your chest area, with your body leaning towards them. This will help you apply the right amount of pressure to their foot.
  • Make sure you use the strength of your body weight, rather than the muscles in your thumbs, to massage their feet. Using only the muscles in your thumbs can cause them to cramp up and get tired easily.

Massage the arches of the foot. Use your thumbs to apply light pressure to the arch of their foot, right below the ball of their foot. Move one thumb clockwise and the other thumb counterclockwise in small circles. Do this for at least 30 seconds.

  • Place your thumbs on opposite ends of their foot and move them toward one another. Do this at least three to five times, moving up and down the bottom of their feet.
  • Make sure you are gripping their feet firmly and with some pressure as you massage them. Light, soft touches can be ticklish to most people and distract from the massage.
  • If the person has any sore spots on their feet, do not put too much pressure on them as this can irritate the area.

Rub the heels of the foot. Move your thumbs up and down their Achilles tendon, which runs from the heel and ankle up to the calf muscle. Rub the heel of their foot in circular motions using your thumbs.

  • You may need to lift their foot up with one hand so you can access their heel.
  • The skin on this area tends to be dry or hard, so you can apply massage oil or lotion to your hands to help reduce any friction.

Squeeze and pull each toe. Hold their foot with one hand, right under the arch. With your other hand, place your thumb on top of their big toe. Your index finger should be underneath their big toe. Rotate the toe slightly to one side and pull the toe from top to bottom. Go back to the top of the toe and squeeze it with your thumb and pointer finger. Do this for each toe to help loosen and relax them.

  • Do not yank on the person’s toes, as this can injure them. Instead, simply rotate, pull, and squeeze each toe slightly, applying even pressure.

Slide up and down each toe with your fingers. Hold the foot with one hand, right behind the heel. Place the index finger of your other hand between the person’s toes. Slide your finger toward the base of the toes and then back toward the end of the toes. Do this two to three times between their toes.

  • Make sure you use your body weight to apply even pressure as you slide up and down their toes.

Focus on one foot at a time. Leave the other foot soaking in warm water or relaxed on the pillow. Do a basic massage on one foot first and then turn your attention to the other foot. Repeat the same movements for each foot so that they both feel equally relaxed.

Expert Advice

Use these tips to give a relaxing foot massage:

  • Work the calf first to loosen the foot muscles. A person’s foot muscles are often too tight to start the massage there. You can loosen these muscles by applying pressure to the calf muscles, which are connected to the foot. This will loosen the foot muscles so you can move down and give a much more soothing massage.
  • Focus on the area just above the heel. This part of the foot is where the plantar fascia muscles are. These muscles connect the heel to the toes and support your foot arch. Applying pressure here works well to relieve foot pain and cramping.
  • Use your elbow to give parts of the massage. Have the person you’re massaging lie face down and use your elbow, which has a broader surface to do a couple of initial, gentle strokes. Use this technique to check where the person has pain and whether their feet are overly sensitive to pressure.
  • Try using your fists, too. Stand over the person and hold your arm out straight. Use your knuckles to massage from the heel down toward the toes with a broad stroke. Check-in with the other person throughout the process to make sure their feet aren’t cramping and that they don’t feel any pain.

What is reflexology?

Reflexology is a type of massage that involves applying different amounts of pressure to the feet and hands, and ears. It’s based on a theory that these body parts are connected to certain organs and body systems. People who practice this technique are called reflexologists.

How does reflexology work?

There are a few different theories about how reflexology works.Reflexology is the application of pressure to areas on the feet (or the hands). Reflexology is generally relaxing and may help alleviate stress.

The theory behind reflexology is that areas of the foot correspond to organs and systems of the body. Pressure applied to the foot is believed to bring relaxation and healing to the corresponding area of the body.Reflexologists use foot charts to guide them as they apply pressure to specific areas. Reflexology is sometimes combined with other hands-on therapies and may be offered by chiropractors and physical therapists, among others.

Several studies indicate that reflexology may reduce pain and psychological symptoms, such as stress and anxiety, and enhance relaxation and sleep. Given that reflexology is also low risk, it can be a reasonable option if you’re seeking relaxation and stress relief.

Other theories

In the 1890s, British scientists found that nerves connect the skin and internal organs. They also found that the body’s entire nervous system tends to adjust to outside factors, including touch.

A reflexologist’s touch may help to calm the central nervous system, promoting relaxation and other benefits just like any form of massage.

Others believe that the brain creates pain as a subjective experience. Sometimes, the brain reacts to physical pain. But in other cases, it may create pain in response to emotional or mental distress.

Some believe that reflexology can reduce pain through calming touch, which may help to improve someone’s mood and reduce stress.

Zone theory is another belief that some use to explain how reflexology works. This theory holds that the body contains 10 vertical zones. Each zone contains different body parts and corresponds to specific fingers and toes.

Practitioners of the zone theory believe that touching these fingers and toes allows them to access every body part in a particular zone.

What are the potential benefits of reflexology?

Reflexology is linked to many potential benefits, but only a few of them have been evaluated in scientific studies.

So far, there’s limited evidence that reflexology may help to:

  • reduce stress and anxiety
  • reduce pain
  • lift mood
  • improve general well-being

In addition, people have reported that reflexology helped them:

  • boost their immune system
  • fight cancer
  • get over colds and bacterial infections
  • clear up sinus issues
  • recover from back problems
  • correct hormonal imbalances
  • boost fertility
  • improve digestion
  • ease arthritis pain
  • treat nerve problems and numbness from cancer drugs (peripheral neuropathy


When people ask “what is reflexology massage?”, they often want to know about the concrete health benefits in particular. There are dozens of purported ways in which reflexology can help to create a happier body and mind. We will focus on the seven most significant and well-supported benefits associated with the treatments.

As we go through the list, we’ll explore how and why reflexology might make a difference in these areas. Plus, hopefully, this will help you understand what to expect. While reflexology should not be considered an adequate substitute for conventional medical treatments, it can certainly be part of a complementary treatment plan that gets fantastic results.

1. Boosted Energy Levels
Most of us feel depleted and burnt out from time to time. Whether you have a busy family life, a hectic career, underlying health issues or all three of these challenges, it’s likely that you sometimes wish you could take a magic pill and instantly create more energy. If this sounds familiar, talk to your reflexologist. Ask them what they can offer you to help replenish your low energy supplies.

While reflexology can’t totally compensate for lack of sleep or the harsh demand of modern life, a study published in the European Journal of General Practice shows that receiving reflexology can boost your metabolic rate and help your body’s energy-creation processes. In turn, you can feel more resilient, more awake and generally more capable of facing the day.

As a bonus, a faster metabolism can also help you regulate your weight more effectively. Consequently, this can mean you get better results from your exercise regime.

2. Increased Circulation
If you watch a reflexology video demonstration, you’ll often see reflexologists talking about the circulatory system. This is in large part because some of the most compelling research on reflexology shows that it can increase circulation all over your body, helping your organs to get the nutrients and oxygen they need (and thereby boosting their functionality).

For example, one group of diabetes patients with nerve problems were able to practice self-reflexology to improve the flow of blood to their feet. In addition, if you have Raynaud’s syndrome (a common condition in which the hands and feet easily become cold and numb), reflexology can help to return blood flow to affected areas more quickly, soothing pain and reducing the risk of injury by restoring normal sensation.

If you learn how to reflexology at home, you can make a habit of doing these exercises as soon as you come in from the cold.

3. Relaxation
Reflexology techniques are intrinsically relaxing. If you’re looking to learn how to do reflexology on yourself, you can practice these techniques any time you feel stressed or upset and need to calm down.

However, nothing beats the feeling of having a trained reflexology expert using their healing hands to drain your stress away! And the evidence strongly supports the use of reflexology to induce relaxation. This is a particularly important benefit for patient groups who struggle to get restful sleep, as you may do if you have a chronic pain condition or suffer from racing thoughts. The results can often be particularly good if reflexology is combined with meditation or with deep breathing exercises, though benefits are also seen without these additions.

Some experts even believe that reflexology helps to readjust the body’s circadian rhythms, helping you to wake up and fall asleep at the right time, making it especially useful if you do shift work or are struggling with jet lag.

4. Reduction In Headaches
One of the most exciting benefits of reflexology is its potential to treat certain types of chronic headaches.

Tension headaches are felt around your temples and your forehead. You might describe them as causing you to feel like you have an invisible hat sitting around your head.

This distinctive discomfort is caused by tense muscles, and reflexology can do a lot to help with this. It helps your entire body to loosen up, including the muscles in your head and neck.

Although most studies on reflexology and pain focus on headaches, there’s good reason to believe that a reflexology session could also help with any muscle tension. For example, in your back, legs or shoulders. One major benefit of using treatments like reflexology to address pain is that it minimizes the need to use pain-killing medications. This can place a huge strain on your liver or kidneys.

5. Cancer Treatment
Reflexology, for example, Chinese reflexology massage, has long been used as a complementary treatment for cancer patients. Of course, no one is suggesting that your reflexologist can actively cure cancer or put it into remission. However, scientists have studied the effects of foot reflexology on anxiety and pain in patients with malignancies of the lung and breast. They discovered that reflexology treatments can reduce the side effects caused by the most common cancer treatments.

You will often read about reductions in nausea and vomiting, and (similarly) about cancer patients noting they have fewer stomach cramps or bowel difficulties. Just as importantly, cancer patients frequently experience better, more restful sleep after seeing a reflexologist. When you’re conserving energy in this way it can obviously help your body to fight the invading disease.

Further, for those who have limited mobility or are even bed-bound due to the severity of their cancer, the circulation-boosting aspects of reflexology can make a huge difference.

6. Elimination Of Toxins
Reflexology body massage is also said to help remove toxins from your body. More specifically, some promising research on the benefits of reflexology demonstrates a link with better bladder function and a reduction in chronic urinary tract problems. This potentially points towards reflexology having a positive influence on the body’s ability to process and excrete toxic material. This, in turn, could reduce your risk of developing a whole host of health problems linked to the bladder and kidneys.

Any trained reflexologist can tell you more about this when you visit for a treatment. They can address your specific concerns about toxins (as well as how they relate to your individual lifestyle choices).

For example, you might be looking to detoxify your system after making a decision to stop smoking or drinking. A reflexology practitioner may have some effective suggestions to help restore your body to its former health.

7. Speed Healing
Finally, the same research that taught us about reflexology and circulation also points to an improvement in healing that can result from this increase in circulation. This is handy for everything from minor cuts to more significant injuries (such as sprains, muscle aches, and burns).

Whilst you should go to your regular doctor for advice on healing first, your reflexologist can give you extra tools that empower you to take charge of your own healing. Once again, the key here is to tell your reflexology practitioner exactly what you’re looking for.

Ideally, they will show you at least some basic exercises that you can do at home between sessions. If you have a partner, this can also make healing an intimate and close activity. Reflexology can allow your partner to do something concrete and relaxing to help you. Otherwise, they may feel frustrated by their inability to take away your pain.

What does the research say?
There aren’t many studies about reflexology. And many experts consider those that do exist to be of low quality. In addition, a 2014 review concluded that reflexology isn’t an effective treatment for any medical condition.

But it may have some value as a complementary therapy to help reduce symptoms and improve someone’s quality of life, much like massage. Since the massaged area is the feet, for some people that will provide even more relief of stress or discomfort.

Here’s a look at what the research says about using reflexology to manage pain and anxiety.


In a 2011 studyTrusted Source funded by the National Cancer Institute, experts studied how reflexology treatments affected 240 women with advanced breast cancer. All women were undergoing medical treatment, such as chemotherapy, for their cancer.

The study found that reflexology helped to reduce some of their symptoms, including shortness of breath. The participants also reported an improved quality of life. But it didn’t have any effect on pain.

Experts have also looked at the effects of reflexology on pain in women experiencing premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In one older studyTrusted Source, researchers looked at the effects of ear, hand, and foot reflexology on 35 women who previously reported having of PMS symptoms.

They found that those who received two months of reflexology treatment reported significantly fewer PMS symptoms than the women who did not. However, keep in mind that this study was very small and done decades ago.

Larger, long-term studies are needed to fully understand whether reflexology helps to reduce pain.

In one small studyTrusted Source from 2000, researchers looked at the effects of one 30-minute foot reflexology treatment on people being treated for breast or lung cancer. Those who received a reflexology treatment reported lower levels of anxiety than those who received no reflexology treatment.

In a 2014 study that was slightly larger, researchers gave people undergoing heart surgery a 20-minute foot reflexology treatment once a day for four days.

They found that those who received the reflexology treatment reported significantly lower levels of anxiety than those who didn’t. Touch by another human being is a relaxing, caring, anxiety-reducing action for most people.

Is reflexology safe to try?
Generally, reflexology is very safe, even for people living with serious health conditions. It’s noninvasive and comfortable to receive, so it may be worth trying if it’s something you’re interested in.

However, you should talk to your doctor first if you have any of the following health issues:

  • circulatory problems in the feet
  • blood clots or inflammation of your leg veins
  • gout
  • foot ulcers
  • fungal infections, like athlete’s foot
  • open wounds on your hands or feet
  • thyroid problems
  • epilepsy
  • a low platelet count or other blood problems, which can make you bruise and bleed more easily
    You may still be able to try reflexology if you have any of these issues, but you might need to take a few precautions to avoid any adverse effects.

What Is a Typical Session Like?
A typical treatment is 30 to 60 minutes long and begins with a health history form and consultation about your health and lifestyle. The reflexologist will use the information to customize the therapy.

You may then be asked to remove your shoes and socks and sit comfortably in a reclining chair or on a massage table. The reflexologist will assess the feet and stimulate various points to identify areas of tenderness or tension.

Brisk movements and massage may be used to warm the hands and feet. Finger or thumb pressure is then applied to the foot using reflexology techniques. Lotion or oil may be used, and the reflexologist may also use instruments like balls, brushes, and dowels.

What Does Reflexology Feel Like?
Most people find reflexology, for the most part, to be very relaxing. Reflexology shouldn’t be painful. If you feel discomfort, be sure to tell the reflexologist. They should work within your comfort zone.

Some areas may be tender or sore, and the reflexologist may spend extra time on these points. The soreness should decrease with pressure. If you’re ticklish, not to worry. The reflexologist applies firm pressure to the feet.

Most people feel calm and relaxed after a reflexology session. Occasionally, some people feel nausea, sleepiness, and mood swings.

Safety and Contraindications
There is currently no regulation of reflexology in the United States. Your healthcare provider may be able to recommend a therapist. You may want to choose a therapist who has been certified by the American Reflexology Certification Board and has at least 200 hours of education at a recognized institution.

Be sure to give the reflexologist a complete and accurate health history. It’s always a good idea to consult your primary care provider before trying anything new, including reflexology.

Reflexology may also not be right for people with diabetes, osteoarthritis (affecting the ankle or foot), circulatory problems, active infections, gallstones, kidney stones, or certain types of cancer. You should also avoid reflexology if you are pregnant.

Reflexology vs. Foot Massage
While a foot massage may feel the same as a reflexology treatment, a reflexologist will work on areas to promote a healing response in the corresponding organs.

A massage therapist giving a foot massage will manipulate muscles and other soft tissues to improve circulation, relieve pain, and heal injuries in the area or to induce overall relaxation.

Although reflexology shouldn’t be used as a sole treatment for any condition, it can be a relaxing therapy for your feet with whole-body benefits. Just be sure to find a trained reflexologist and to check with your health care provider to see if it’s right for you.