The majority of massage therapists spend most of their days on their feet while working on clients.
This can result in foot pain and stiffness. However, there are certain actions massage therapists can take when it comes to looking after their feet, potentially preventing pain in this area before it even starts. Let’s take a look at a few of them now.
Invest in Healthy Shoes
“Always wear healthy shoes,” says Barbara Bergin, M.D., a board certified orthopedic surgeon practicing in Austin, Texas. What exactly is a healthy shoe? It’s “a shoe that looks like it fits your foot,” she says.
The way you determine whether your shoes are healthy is, “When you try on a shoe, put the open shoe on the ground,” says Bergin. “Then stand next to it with your bare foot and look to see if it even looks like your foot fits in that shoe.”
The problem, according to Bergin is that, “Often, we buy shoes that are too tight because that’s what we always get. We take a few steps in the shoe store and if it doesn’t kill our feet, we buy the shoe.”
This can create a huge issue down the road, especially if you’re spending the large amounts of time massage therapists typically spend on their feet, and in ill-fitting shoes.
A healthy shoe also has “a nice wide toe box,” adds Bergin, referencing the front part of the shoe that encompasses the toes. She also recommends that you don’t wear open-backed shoes, commonly referred to as mules.
“We think they’re comfortable because they’re so easy to slip off,” says Bergin, “but they actually over-work our feet.” This is because your toes have to work extra hard to keep your shoes on your feet.
Wear the Right Socks
“We also often forget that even if we wear a nicely fitting shoe, if we put a tight sock underneath, we’re continuing to compress our toes, forefoot and the delicate nerves that run between the toes, in that tight sock,” says Bergin.
That’s why she recommends wearing loosely woven or even diabetic socks. “They have less elasticity,” says Bergin, adding “it’s amazing the difference they can make.”
In certain cases, Bergin recommends that massage therapists wear socks that go higher up on their legs.
“If you are genetically predisposed to developing lymphedema, or venous insufficiency, then consider wearing thigh-high compression stockings,” she says, as these types of socks will offer more support for those particular conditions.
Use a Floor Pad
Bergin’s third recommendation for massage therapists who spend long days taking care of their clients while in a standing position is to consider using a floor pad. These are commonly known as anti-fatigue mats and are “like the ones they use in restaurants, around the [four] sides of your table,” says Bergin.
Research has been conducted in this area and has shown that these types of pads can be extremely beneficial for workers who engage in prolonged standing positions. For example, in the August 2013 edition of Human Factors, two researchers published the results of an experiment involving participants who were asked to stand for four hours on an anti-fatigue mat and then for four hours on a hard surface.
Afterward, participants’ discomfort ratings were measured and three out of the four mats used in the study provided a favorable response when compared to standing on the hard surfaces.
It’s important to note that this study also found “significant differences” in the comfort of the mats when weight-shifting was taken into account. Specifically, the more the subject shifted his or her weight from one leg to the other, the greater the levels of discomfort.
Therefore, you may want to keep this in mind when conducting your massage therapy sessions as the less frequently you shift your weight, the fewer aches and pains you may feel.
Keep Your Feet Warm
“Coldness shrinks the tiny capillaries in your body and can cause discomfort,” says Bergin, which is why you don’t want to let your feet get too cold during the course of your therapy sessions.
“That’s why we ice injuries,” she explains further, “to shrink the tiny capillaries to prevent swelling. But our feet like a little warmth.”
While most massage rooms aren’t kept overly cold, for obvious reasons, this is something to keep in mind in between sessions, especially if you work in a climate where going out for lunch means trudging through six inches of snow.
Keeping your feet warm with a thick pair of socks and cold-defeating boots is critical to keeping your feet free from pain.
Develop a Routine for Taking Care of Your Feet
Kathleen Lisson, C.M.T., C.L.T., is the owner of Solace Massage and Mindfulness in San Diego, California. She says that she’s found great benefit in creating her own home-spa routine for her tired feet.
It even inspired her to add her foot regimen to a book she’s published on the topic titled Swollen, Bloated and Puffy: A manual lymphatic drainage therapist’s guide to reducing swelling in the face and body. What does Lisson’s routine look like?
“I start by changing into a comfortable robe and boil a few cups of water for a cup of tea,” says Lisson. After that, she gets out a dish pan and mixes some of the leftover water she boiled with cooler water, adding “a few drops of lavender essential oil and a few spoonfuls of Epsom salts for a soothing post-work footbath.”
Once the water has cooled, Lisson continues with her routine by towel-drying her feet, which she follows with giving herself a nice foot massage with a lavender body lotion, focusing specifically on the balls and arches of her feet.
“If I have a headache, I will pay extra attention to my toes and the base of my toes as well,” she adds.
When you spend hours a day on your feet, taking proper care of them is critical. Follow these suggestions and you could reduce your risk of foot pain, both now and into the future.
If you enjoyed reading this MASSAGE Magazine online article, subscribe to the monthly print magazine for more articles about massage news, techniques, self-care, research, business and more, delivered monthly. Subscribe to our e-newsletter for additional unique content, including product announcements and special offers.