Anyone who has ever seen me for a massage knows I give homework. Stretches, breathing practices or plain and simple rest are assignments designed to keep you loose and limber. Learning ways to manage aches and pains is invaluable and empowering. DIY foot massage is one of my favorite tasks to assign. All you need is a tennis ball and a little time.
By massaging the feet you stretch muscles and connective tissue called fascia. Trigger points and massage help untangle knots and tension in the feet and give you a more balanced foundation to walk, run and dance upon. The benefit of foot massage travels upward and helps to loosen calves, shins and hamstrings. The connective tissue (fascia) of the body, actually connects everything. Fascia is like a giant net within the body that surrounds organs, muscle and bone. Fascia is a gliding agent that assists the body’s movement with ease. It begs to move, stretch and be massaged. If it doesn’t get proper movement and attention it becomes stiff, dense, and acts less like a gliding agent and more like an inhibitor of comfortable movement. Check out the fuzz speech for more details and visuals on fascia. One of my many massage teachers once described stretching fascia like unzipping a tight leather jacket. When the jacket is zipped up movement is restricted. Unzipping the jacket, or manipulating fascia returns mobility and movement to the whole upper body. Same goes for the fascia of the feet. Imagine taking off an ill fitting pair of shoes or worse, heels. Posture improves and the whole body benefits.
Stand near a wall. Place a tennis ball under the right foot. Visually draw a line between the 2nd and 3rd toes down the center arch of the foot to the heel. Slowly roll up and down this center line and watch for any tender or “interesting” spots. Stop on a sweet spot and lean in. This will apply more pressure. If you want even more sensation lift and spread your toes.
As you lift the toes the fascia becomes taut. Pressure and massage on tight areas will make the connective tissue more pliable and flexible. Release the hold and gently roll along the foot. Repeat this roll-and-stop method for the big toe and pinkie toe sides of the sole of the foot.
When you’ve completed rolling the whole foot, walk around. See if you notice a difference in the right and left foot. Likely the foot you just worked on will feel wider, more stable, balanced and relaxed. Repeat for the left side.
Extra credit! Wedge the ball between the floor and wall. One at a time stretch your toes. Press the big toe against the ball while simultaneously pressing the rest of the foot and toes towards the ground. Do this one at a time for each toe.
Standing is preferable as this lends more body weight thus increased pressure, but you can also be stealthy and roll while sitting at your desk. Get your roll on peeps!
Karly Railsback is a certified massage therapist, registered yoga teacher and student of Ayurveda who lives, works and plays in San Francisco. She offers massage therapy and teaches yoga and meditation in public, private and corporate settings. Book sessions or learn more here.