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At the end of a long day, nothing feels better than a foot massage. A great foot massage helps you relax and works some of the pain and tension out of your tired feet — and can also help relieve pain, boost circulation, help with headaches and migraines and even promote better sleep.
The good news? You don’t have to make frequent trips to the masseuse to reap these benefits. That’s exactly where at-home foot massage machines come in. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite options out there to help you find the best one for you.
What Are the Benefits of Foot Massagers?
The benefits of foot massagers all relate to a practice known as reflexology. It’s based on the idea that certain points on the hand and feet are connected to specific organs and parts of the body through energy channels. By manipulating these reflex points, you can trigger changes in the body.
While using a foot massage may not be quite the same as getting a professional reflexology massage, there are still plenty of potential benefits.
Reflexology and foot massage have the potential to relieve pain from a variety of conditions. In addition to reducing muscle tension, foot massage may help with pain from arthritis, sports injuries, and even premenstrual syndrome. In a study of 35 women who reported PMS symptoms, women who received two months of reflexology treatment reported significantly fewer symptoms than those who didn’t.
Regular exercise is essential for healthy blood flow, but many people live sedentary lives which can contribute to circulation issues. Foot massage helps stimulate circulation, improving blood flow throughout the body and increasing oxygenation. Foot massage can also help lower blood pressure.
Speeds Up Injury Recovery Time
Foot and ankle injuries can be tricky to recover from because you rely on your feet to get around. Reflexology massage stimulates blood flow to the muscles and nerves in the foot which can help reduce foot pain and speed recovery. When combined with strengthening exercises and stretching, getting a foot massage may even help reduce your risk of future foot and ankle injury.
Reduces Anxiety and Depression
By restoring the harmonious flow of energy throughout the body, reflexology can provide mental health benefits like reducing anxiety and depression. In a 2014 study of patients undergoing heart surgery, patients who received daily foot reflexology massage reported significantly lower levels of anxiety than those who didn’t. Foot massages have also shown anxiety-reducing benefits in cancer patients.
Relieves Headaches and Migraines
It may seem strange, but foot massage can be very beneficial for headaches and migraines. In a small 2002 study, adults suffering from chronic tension headaches received reflexology treatments two to three times per week for six months. Within the first week of treatment, the patients experienced fewer headaches and, by the end of the treatment, the average number of headaches per week fell from almost seven to just two.
Improves Plantar Fasciitis
People with flat feet or low arches often experience foot pain after even mild physical activity. Chronic heel pain is often caused by plantar fasciitis, deterioration of the plantar fascia which supports the arch of the foot. Foot exercises combined with foot massage can help reduce pain for these conditions.
Edema is swelling caused by fluid retention and commonly affects the feet and ankles in pregnant women, especially during the last trimester. Massaging the feet on a daily basis can help relieve some of that swelling, especially when combined with rest and a healthy diet.
Who Should Use a Foot Massager?
Ultimately, anyone can benefit from a foot massager, especially if you’re looking for an easy way to relax and relieve some tension at home. That being said, people with certain conditions may benefit more from foot massage than the average person.
Here are some of the conditions which may benefit from foot massage:
- Chronic stress
- Headaches and migraines
- Digestive disorders
- Hormonal imbalance
- Sports injuries
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic pain
Foot massage and reflexology are generally recognized as safe, but it’s always a good idea to get your doctor’s approval if you have a chronic condition. You can safely use your foot massager on a daily basis, though you may want to limit yourself to sessions no longer than 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
What to Look for in a Foot Massager
When shopping for a foot massager, there are several factors to consider — not all foot massagers are created equal. Though you definitely want to keep an eye out for quality construction and durability, a lot of your decision will come down to personal preference. Some people prefer gentle foot massage while others prefer more pressure. Think about whether you prefer a kneading massage or something more focused, and consider additional features like heat or vibration.
Here are some things to look for when shopping for a foot massager:
Most foot massagers utilize a number of different massage methods including vibration, air compression, massage rollers, and even shiatsu massage. Think about what type of massage you prefer or choose a foot massage machine that has multiple settings.
Some foot massagers squeeze your feet, so it’s important to check for this feature. Check to see whether the machine offers gentle or intense massage and think about your preferences – the last thing you want is to feel even sorer after using the machine.
Adding heat can increase the efficacy of a foot massage and it’s a great feature to have during the winter.
Being able to control your massage experience is important, but you probably don’t want to keep leaning down to press buttons during the massage. A remote control enables you to change the settings or intensity on your massager without a hassle.
Some foot massagers have a wide variety of settings to choose from that enable you to customize your massage. Just keep in mind that machines with extra features may be larger and more expensive than machines with a limited number of pre-set cycles.
If you spend a lot of time on your feet, a foot massager might be a solid investment. They’re easy to use and can go a long way in relieving foot pain and muscle tension. Take what you’ve learned here about the benefits of reflexology and consider some of our top picks for the best foot and calf massager above.
Other Products We Considered
The Massage Gun Fight editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.