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Published Jul. 28, 2021

Imagine getting day spa treatments from the privacy of your own home. When one of the best foot massagers enters your life, that’s what you get—home luxury. These wonderful toe ticklers work out kinks, sore spots, and tension. Some models mimic shiatsu, an ancient massage therapy from Japan that uses pressure and kneading to stimulate the feet. What’s more, it may encase your feet and ankles and work over everything from the toes to the calves. Some massagers add heat into the mix, too. Take a break and read on to get the lowdown on the best foot massagers and their many benefits.

Target sore spots, ailments, and tension with the best foot massagers

Foot massagers come in various designs and motions. Some models mimic the ancient Japanese art of shiatsu, which involves applying pressure at different points to knead and rub the muscles and connective tissue. Others vibrate, apply heat, or use water jets to work out tension and heal sore muscles. Those with heat settings can help promote circulation, too.  

Models with built-in controls require bending over, which can be difficult for some people to do. Remote controls make controlling the heat, massage speed, and positioning easier to adjust. Some models connect to an app that lets you control the settings from a smartphone or tablet.

Finally, there’s the issue of foot size. If you’ve got feet over a men’s size 10 or 11 or under a woman’s size 6, models that encase the foot may make the right contact points for your feet. Check the massager’s dimensions. Remember—what feels best to you is a matter of personal preference. If it feels good, the massager’s doing its job.

Heated foot massagers—a new level of relaxation

Heated foot massagers add another layer to the massager’s ability to relax muscles. Adjustable heat settings provide comfort in changing conditions. In winter, you may want more heat, while in the summer, you may not want any heat at all. Adjustable settings let you customize the level. At the very least, look for a model that lets you turn the heat setting on or off.

A note of caution with these—people with circulatory issues or conditions like diabetes, which can affect the circulation of the feet, should consult a doctor before using a heated foot massager. A condition called diabetic neuropathy can cause nerve damage that reduces feeling in the feet. If there’s pain or too much heat, neuropathy may prevent the person from feeling it and making the proper adjustments.

Foot and leg massager—how far to go

Many foot massagers go well beyond the feet. If you’re looking for a model that can massage the ankles and even the calves, they are out there. However, the designs in this category vary. Some models encase the foot and ankles, offering pressure and massage motion options. Other models look like a wrap-around boot. These models typically use air pressure to massage. 

Another popular design features a platform with two open-ended massage spaces. You can put your feet inside or tilt the platform and put the calves or forearms inside. Feet and leg massagers may also offer shiatsu massage, vibration, water jets, or other movement patterns.

Types of massage—rolling, compression, and vibrating foot massagers

There are several diverse types of massage, like rolling, percussive, compression, vibration, and water massage. Shiatsu, a form of massage developed over centuries in Japan, is another popular massager motion. Each of these types of massages could provide relief from fatigue or pain, but they are each a matter of personal preference.

Some models offer several massage types, while others specialize in one or two. If you know what kind of massage action you prefer, pick a model that specializes in it. Otherwise, opt for a model that gives you choices. That way, if one day you feel like a rolling massage and the next day you need vibration, it’s available.

When to take advantage of a shiatsu foot massager

Type “foot massager” in a search, and shiatsu foot massagers rise to the top of the list. Shiatsu foot massagers mimic the movements of a traditional Japanese shiatsu massage therapy. This type of therapy starts by rubbing the feet first to warm them and increase blood flow. From there, the thumbs, fingers, and palms are used to apply pressure to specific points on the foot. 

While a machine cannot perfectly replicate the real thing, a shiatsu foot massager offers similar types of movement. The movements include rubbing to warm up the feet, followed by moving nodes that target pressure points. These massagers offer an affordable way to add shiatsu to an at-home spa day.

Shopping on a budget

Foot massagers are a luxury item, but they don’t have to be expensive to be effective. Manual foot massagers won’t break the bank and do a good job of stimulating the feet and toes. A popular design features a bar with rollable nodules over which you roll the foot. Nodules of different sizes and shapes target various areas of the foot. Manual massagers may have one row of nodules or several rows to work the whole foot at once. 

Massage balls also fall into the manual foot massager category, though they are used on many areas of the body in addition to the feet. While you have to do the actual work of moving your foot over the nodules, these massagers aren’t hard to use and feel good, too.

The best foot massagers:

Best heated foot massager: Etekcity Foot Massager Machine

Smart Comfort

This model brings smart technology to the relaxation session, along with slow, gradual warmth. Etekcity

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The Etekcity provides gradual heat that makes the feet melt into the massage. Speaking of the massage, this model also offers three massage speeds and three air pressure levels to fully customize each session. There’s a touch panel on the massage unit. However, this massager connects to an app for remote control using a smartphone or tablet. Last but not least, you can remove the foot sleeve for washing. 

Best foot and leg massager: Cloud Massage Shiatsu Foot Massager Machine

Versatile Design

This devices targets your sore spots with adjustable motions and levels. Cloud Massage

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The Cloud Massage Shiatsu Foot Massager Machine features a platform with a tilt bar. The tilt bar adjusts the platform’s height and angle to massage different parts of the body, including the feet, ankles, and calves. It includes five modes—rolling massage, a sway function, compression therapy, heat therapy, and a quiet mode. The controls are built into the massage unit, so you have to bend down to use this model.

Best vibrating foot massager: Daiwa Felicity Foot Massager Vibration

Healing Vibration

This device’s different levels and timer provide adjustable ways to relax your tired parts. Daiwa Felicity

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The Daiwa Felicity Vibrating Foot Massager specializes in vibration massage, with 12 vibration settings. However, that’s not all it does. It also includes eight levels of infrared heat. A remote control makes it easy to adjust the settings while using the massager. While this model doesn’t provide any other types of massage, the design includes nodes, which you can use to target pain points.

Best shiatsu foot massager: RENPHO Foot-Massager Machine

Combo Relaxation

This model’s design combines scraping and pressing motions with added warmth and air compression. RENPHO

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The RENPHO shiatsu foot massager encases the foot and applies different massage motions and types to the foot to target pressure points. It applies air compression to the top and heel of the foot. This helps to press the bottom of the foot into the kneading, scraping, and rolling motions that work over the foot’s bottom. The RENPHO includes adjustable massage and compression levels. You can also add heat and set a timer. One nice perk with this model is the removable, washable liner.

Best budget foot massager: TheraFlow Dual-Foot Massager Roller

Simple Relief

This affordable pick can work feet at once, with nodules that range in size and design. TheraFlow

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The TheraFlow Dual Foot Roller takes care of both feet at once, a rarity among manual foot massagers. Five bars covered in nodules roll with the motion of the foot. The two types of nodules simulate deep-tissue massage and are arranged in an arc that follows the natural curve of the feet. Made of sturdy oak, this model is durable and small enough to store under a bed or couch.

FAQs

Q: Do foot massagers really work?

Foot massagers use different methods to vibrate, stimulate, and pressurize the muscles and connective tissues in the feet. In that sense, they all work. Will foot massagers relieve pain for plantar fasciitis or tired feet? That depends on the massager, the medical condition, and personal preferences. While foot massagers may not heal medical issues, they offer a way to create a home spa for private (affordable) pampering.

Q: Do foot massagers help with neuropathy?

Neuropathy is nerve damage that causes numbness and tingling in the feet and other places in the body. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that massage therapy reduced the pain of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). A 2019 study that explored the benefits of massage to prevent CIPN in breast-cancer patients also showed a positive correlation between massage therapy and reduced CIPN. These studies look at very specific instances of using massage therapy, not necessarily a foot massager, to treat neuropathy, though. However, the research generally points toward positive results between massage and reduced neuropathy pain. Foot massagers may not offer a final solution, but it could potentially offer temporary relief.

Q: Does foot vibration help circulation?

There’s evidence that foot vibration can improve circulation in the feet. However, the extent and length of the benefits remain somewhat inconclusive. It seems that foot vibration certainly doesn’t hurt circulation. 

Now you’re ready to enjoy spa treatments at home

The best foot massager is one that fits your feet and offers the types of movements and features that feel good to you. Different motions feel good to different people, based on their preferences, pain points, and feet biomechanics. For some people, that will be a shiatsu foot massager or foot and calf massagers. Models that have several massaging motions give you diverse ways to relieve tired, sore feet. It’s simply a matter of deciding how you’d like to pamper yourself.

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