Foot massage is often mentioned as a remedy for many types of foot pain -- from sudden cramps to the ongoing aches of pregnancy. But here's a little secret: You can -- and should -- massage your feet even when they don't hurt. Therefore, everyone should know how to administer a foot massage!
One reason, of course, is just that it feels so good. But massage also makes your feet healthier. It exercises muscles and encourages blood flow. It's great preventive medicine: The stronger and more limber your foot muscles are, the less likely they are to feel tired or to sustain injury when you use them by walking or playing a sport.
And massage is a key recovery tool for those who have recently had foot surgery: By drawing more blood to the feet, massage helps speed the regeneration of tissue and heal damaged muscles.
Without a doubt, massage is most enjoyable if you can get somebody else to massage your feet for you. But that's not always possible. Fortunately, in this section, you'll learn how to be a massage master yourself.
Before any foot massage, relax your foot muscles by warming them up. You can do this simply with a heating pad. Or you might prefer a soak in warm water and Epsom salts (for about 15 minutes). A third option: Hold your feet under running water for ten minutes while you gradually increase, and then gradually decrease, its temperature (be careful not to let the water get too hot).
Now you're ready to begin the massage. Prop one foot up on the other leg's knee and turn the sole toward you. Spread moisturizing lotion or cream on the sole of the foot or on your hands. Using your thumbs, massage the soles in a deep, circular motion. Start at the area just behind your toes and work backward to the heel. Concentrate your efforts on one small area at a time. When you've covered the entire sole, turn your foot over and massage the top, still using your thumbs. Again, work on one spot at a time and cover the whole top of the foot.
After that, it's time to turn your attention to your toes. Give each one a slow, gentle tug; massage it by twisting its sides, working from the base of the toe outward; then wiggle it back and forth. Now repeat the same procedure on the other foot.
Although the above routine will give you a good general massage, here are some little tricks that will further increase circulation and give your feet a tingling feeling:
- Pinch along the outside edges of your foot.
- Lightly slap the soles with the back of your hand or gently pound the sole with a relaxed fist; follow this with a stroking motion along the length of the sole.
- Use both hands to twist the foot in opposite directions, wringing it like a sponge.
- If one spot on your foot is tight and aches, instead of massaging it, just press down hard on the spot with your thumbs, hold for several seconds, then release.
- You might also try using a cream or rub that contains menthol during your foot massage for a refreshing touch.
Finally, if your feet need rubbing but you don't want to or you can't do it yourself because of arthritis or some other medical condition, you might want to try a foot whirlpool device that will massage your feet for you. (You should avoid strong vibrations, however, if you have a history of blood clots.) These whirlpool devices can usually be purchased in drugstores.
Although nothing is as fabulous as a massage, the right size and style of shoes can make a big difference in how your feet feel. Learn how to be a smart shoe shopper on the next page.
To learn more about treating and avoiding problems with your feet, visit: