Our feet take a beating. We keep them cooped up in shoes as we run through each day, forgetting to appreciate them. A shiatsu practitioner once asked me if I ever feel my feet. As I reflected, I realized how rarely I took the time to even notice them.
Years later, a friend introduced me to a spiky massage ball. At first glance, I thought it was a dog toy, but it turns out it was developed in Denmark as a tool to help patients manage depression.
Spiky massage balls look torturous, but roll your feet on one for half a minute and you’ll be changed forever. (If you don’t ever intend to get a spiky ball, read on, because a tennis or bouncy ball will do just fine.)
In mindfulness, tuning in to your body – including your feet – is the beginning of learning how to focus on the present and calm your nervous system. I wish I had known this foot rolling trick years ago!
A simple DIY foot massage is a quick way to promote relaxation – and it provides a host of health benefits to boot (sorry for the pun). In the practice of reflexology, the foot is full of pressure points that correlate with every part of the body. Massaging your feet not only relieves sore muscles, it stimulates pressure points, bringing wellness to your entire system.
7 Health Benefits of a Simple Foot Massage
You don’t have to be familiar with specific pressure points to experience some of the benefits of foot massage. Here are seven of the most compelling reasons to try rolling your feet:
1. Relieves Stress
Foot Most of us tend to think about massaging the neck and shoulders to relieve stress, but a foot massage can be just as effective. A 2013 study published in BMC Nursing found that long-term healthcare staff who looked after elderly residents with dementia (a physically and emotionally demanding profession) experienced improved mood, less anxiety and lower blood pressure after just 10 minutes of foot massage performed up to 3 times per week.
(That’s all the evidence I would need. But in case you want more, here are 6 additional points:)
2. Decreases Anxiety
Foot Foot massages have been shown to be a helpful intervention for anxiety. A study on menopausal women found that both reflexology and non-specific foot massage (meaning just a regular foot massage) were effective in lowering feelings of anxiety and depression.
3. Relieves Pain
Foot massage can also provide pain relief, and not just for your feet. A 2004 study found that post-operative patients who received a 20-minute foot and hand massage as a complement to pain killers reported a greater reduction in pain symptoms than those who used pain medication alone.
4. Prevents Injury
Regular foot rolling will improve the mobility of your feet, which influences how your knees, hips, and spine align. It will also help release tightness up the whole back line of your body.
5. Improves Circulation
If you have one of those days that’s more sedentary than you would have liked, rolling your feet for 10 minutes will wake them up and help boost circulation in your lower extremities.
6. Supports Sleep
I will bet that most of us would love to sleep more soundly. Rolling your feet just before bed time will help put you in a relaxed state, paving the way for better sleep.
7. Lowers Blood Pressure
Foot massage can also help lower your blood pressure. A 2004 Korean study found that systolic blood pressure and blood triglyceride levels decreased following a relaxing foot massage.
So there you go, 7 science-based reasons plus one real-person account to convince you to try this simple self-care boost.
HOW TO TREAT YOUR FEET
1. Find a ball – tennis, lacrosse or pink bouncy balls all work – or consider getting a spiky massage ball like this one to better stimulate pressure points.
2. Place the ball under your foot, just behind the big toe mound. Using your other foot to support yourself, put as much gentle weight on the ball as you can tolerate.
3. Alternate putting more weight on the ball as you inhale, then taking some weight off the ball as you exhale. Repeat for 6 to 8 breaths.
4. Now place the ball farther back, just in front of your heel.
5. Again, alternate putting more weight on the ball as you inhale, then taking some weight off the ball as you exhale. Repeat for 6 to 8 breaths.
6. Now roll the ball down the length of your foot, back and forth about 5 times.
7. If you have the time, try rolling on the outer edge, the inner edge, and down the center of the length of your foot – all the way from toe to heel.
8. Pay attention to any tight or tender spots.
9. Repeat with other foot.
10. Take a moment to feel the difference!
Note: an alternative is to roll each foot while sitting.
Another method is to use a classic wooden foot roller roller like this one. I keep mine near the bathroom sink so I can roll my feet when I’m brushing my teeth or drying my hair. This is a great way to tease out tender knots and wake up your feet.
*** And One Powerful Reflexology Point to Know ***
While you’re massaging your feet, it’s good to know about one of the most powerful reflex points on your feet. It’s the one correlated with your solar plexus, and it acts as a serious de-stress button. In the body, the solar plexus is a cluster of ganglia and radiating nerves that sits at the pit of your stomach. It’s often referred to as the “abdominal brain” and it’s the reason we talk about having a “gut instinct”. Pressing on this reflex point in your foot can release stress as well as increase the body’s tolerance for stress.
1. You can find the solar plexus reflex point by drawing an imaginary line from your middle toe down to just below the ball of your foot.
2. Use the thumb from your opposite hand to press in on the point. Hold for 20 seconds.
3. Gently relax the pressure, then repeat 2 to 3 more times.
4. As you press, it helps to breathe in, then as you release pressure, exhale.
5. Switch to opposite foot.
Note: If you have any health concerns, such as diabetes or circulatory issues, or you are pregnant, talk to your doctor before using a foot roller or trying reflexology.
Happy foot rolling! Let me know if this ends up being an easy go-to technique for you.