Think about the last time you went to an electronics store or were browsing health tech online. Chances are that you saw a fair amount of foot massagers. If you’d looked a little closer still, you would have seen that there aren’t just one or two types, but an entire industry that’s growing faster than ever.
You might think ‘who’s buying these things?’, but then again, once you consider how long foot massage and reflexology have been around, it starts to make sense: and the weird and wonderful machines you’re seeing are just an evolution of that. In fact, they take the health benefits of foot massage and make them better than ever, thanks to how far technology has come.
To help you understand a little more about it all, we’ve put together this foot massager guide that takes a look at the history and health advantages of the practice, who can benefit, as well as the different types of machines and treatments that are out there. Ready? Relaxed? Let’s go.
A quick history of foot massage
Before getting into the benefits, let’s just take a moment to go back in time and see where it all started. The short version is that foot massage has been practised for thousands of years in European, North American, Asian and African cultures, with each region developing their own respective techniques and unique styles.
The question of where foot massage started from is not an easy one, because of the way information was recorded and passed down in ancient times. However, there is hieroglyphical evidence that the Ancient Egyptians were using foot massage for medical treatments, and Chinese journals dating from 1000BC that talk about them in detail.
As the world globalized, so did foot massage. Over the centuries it soon became part of normal practice for reflexologists, rehabilitators, and healers. And today? Well, technology has taken care of that.
Who can use foot massagers?
Of course, there’s absolutely no restriction in terms of who can use a foot massager. There are, however, several different groups who can find them especially beneficial, including (but not restricted to):
- Individuals with back pain or other muscle pain (we’ll get to why!)
- Athletes and sportspeople
- People with sleep disorders
- Working professionals or those who do any kind of strenuous physical activities
- People suffering from anxiety and depression
- Older people and Senior Citizens who commonly suffer from numbness, soreness or aches in the feet
- Patients with varicose veins and poor circulation
- People suffering from diabetes
- Arthritis patients
Even if you don’t have any specific medical conditions, you can still use foot massagers after exercise, hiking, or, just a hard day at work. They have no side effects at all and are extremely easy to use – so if you like the idea of massages on-demand at home, then this is the gadget for you.
Health benefits of foot massage
Broadly, therapeutic foot massages offer numerous health benefits, where certain areas of the foot are being pressed, kneaded and worked on. This provides a calming and therapeutic effect that aids in different physical and mental ways. A great example of this is brought about by the RENPHO foot massager, which uses heat, Shiatsu and kneading for a complete treatment. Or, on the lower end, you have, the HoMedics, Triple Action Shiatsu Foot Massager which is still a great choice for alleviating common symptoms.
Here are some ways in which machines like that can help:
Poor Blood Circulation
Blood circulation is affected by many different factors in day to day life, such as exercise levels and time spent sitting down. However, even active people can have specific conditions that can cause low blood pressure. When you use a foot massager, you’ll be able to stimulate better blood flow by working the muscles in your feet, which get warmed up – and then receive more oxygen and nutrients. Better yet, if your massager has a heating function, your blood vessels will further dilate, allowing more blood to flow. One of the most popular machines that uses heat is this Nektech heat massager, and as you can see from the reviews it does a really good job of it.
A common foot condition, Plantar Fasciitis happens when the tissue at the bottom of the feet become inflamed, leading to aches and pains. Foot massagers help reduce the overall inflammation through kneading and heat treatment, facilitating better blood and lymph circulation.
People with diabetes and other chronic conditions can develop neuropathy, which brings about feelings of numbness or tightness in certain areas of the body, including the feet. Massagers can help alleviate these symptoms by stimulating the nerves through kneading, heating and rubbing.
Arthritis is a condition that can be chronic or acute, resulting in the inflammation of the joints as well as causing swollen feet and fluid retention. A foot massager with heat and kneading functions (such as the brilliant Miko Shiatsu Home) can help relieve these symptoms by keeping nerves active and moving fluid and blood around.
Your feet are made up of many different pressure points, which are used in reflexology to promote relaxation and relieve pain. Foot massagers with Shiatsu treatments are designed to target these pressure points and aid in the treatment of a variety of discomforts and illnesses.
People who like running or jogging are prone to developing muscle aches, especially if they are using lower-quality or ill-fitting running equipment. A foot massager can bring great relief to these aches by relaxing the tightness in the muscles and relaxing the area. Some people may also experience tightness in their calves, so they will also most likely benefit from using leg massagers. We recommend the RENPHO Compression Leg Massager, as it targets the entire leg and gives you the option of focusing on specific areas.
Lower back pain
Sometimes, back pain can be caused by poor posture, which can be determined by aches and pains in your feet and legs. By using a foot massager, you’ll be able to relieve that pain to result in better overall posture – which will in turn help you improve your back discomfort as well.
Bunions can cause a lot of pain in your feet because they pull big toes towards the other toes, which rub and cut. Foot massagers help a lot in this case as they relax the muscles in the sides and soles of your feet. If you have bunions, make sure you buy one that offers Shiatsu and side-massage functions. You’ll find plenty of options on Amazon, but we’d recommend taking a look at the Cloud or Belmit variants because of their price and feature set.
Even if you don’t have any of the other health conditions mentioned above, you’ll still notice just how relaxed foot massagers can make you. For instance, a lot of us spend a lot of time sitting down at work or at home, which makes our blood circulation lower. Foot massagers can improve our circulation, feel great, and give us a few precious moments of pure relaxation.
What today’s foot massagers offer:
Affordability – Gone are the days of going to a spa or making an appointment with a reflexologist. While we would certainly urge you to talk to a doctor if you are having a medical condition, you can still buy yourself a foot massager and save money that you might spend on repeated treatments.
However, do bear in mind that these people are professionals and are very good at what they do, so don’t dismiss them entirely. Instead, consider the foot massager to be an accompaniment, instead of a whole replacement.
Portability – Whether you want to take your massager from room to room, to the office or even on your next holiday, you can! While some massagers are larger than others, you can still use yours in a way that suits you best, whenever you need it. You can even choose from wired, battery-operated, or even manual options.
Technology – Foot massage is thousands of years old, but has evolved alongside civilizations to offer more health benefits for more people. Today’s foot massager machines take all of the treatment methods and improve upon them in every way, using research and technology to make the overall effects even more effective.
Variety – Different conditions and preferences call for different treatments. Today’s machines incorporate many types of treatment, ranging from heat and Shiatsu through to kneading, vibrations and more. And, the best part is that you don’t need to buy one machine for each type: many of the more advanced ones offer them all in one place.
Let’s take a look at some of the features that today’s machines offer:
Different types of massager
There are many different massagers out there, some of which focus on certain massage methods, and some which offer all of them in combination. Here are the ones you’ll want to look out for:
This feature is most common in open-design models and has oscillating surfaces that you can rest your feet on. The advantage here is that you can place your feet in certain ways to target specific areas, which is great for improving blood circulation and muscle recovery.
This is one of the most common forms of massage and uses knobs and ridges to push and squeeze your feet, helping to release toxins, improve circulation and relax muscles. Some massagers also feature special heads which spin in different directions on your soles and the sides of your feet.
This is another common feature in today’s massage machines, which employs heat in varying degrees. As well as being incredibly relaxing, heat massage helps to dilate your blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow and move. The increase in blood flow also brings more oxygen and nutrition to your feet, which improves overall health and recovery.
Traditionally, Shiatsu massage therapy uses fingers, thumbs and palms to apply pressure to various parts of the foot to correct imbalances and heal common ailments. Today’s massagers take this principle and use carefully placed points of pressure to simulate this treatment type, which not only feels great but can help with conditions such as arthritis, low blood pressure, neuropathy and more.
Usually used by closed-design massagers, air pressure techniques are used to work the muscles in the sides and arches of your feet, and can even be applied for calves and the wider leg. They work by inflating and deflating air bladders within the machine, which simulates the squeezing sensation that human hands can do. This can be a more gentle method of massage for people who aren’t keen on kneading or heat.
A foot spa is a special bath that’s designed to rejuvenate and relax your feet. As well as heating water to warm or hot temperatures, they also employ bubbles, jets, rollers, and vibrations to help massage muscles, dilate blood vessels, and promote better circulation. They are also a great option for people who want massages on their feet but suffer from dry or cracked skin.
Which should you buy?
Now that you know a lot more about the benefits and types of foot massage, you may be interested in getting one for yourself. Well, we couldn’t recommend it more!
But, which one should you get? There are so many options out there and navigating them all can be a bit of a minefield. Well, not to worry because you can read our best massagers guide that goes into the different machines, and which ones are best for particular needs.