By Iris Brooks
Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, April/May 2006.
Treatments for feet have evolved beyond the classic pedicure. My feet and legs, for instance, have been slathered in nourishing golden moor mud at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel Spa, scrubbed with oatmeal at a New Jersey Aveda spa, and coated in freshly grated coconut at the Intercontinental Moorea Resort’s Helene Spa in Tahiti. They have been scraped, squeezed, smothered, poked, and polished with salts, sand, wine, coffee, tea, fruit, and vegetables around the world. Today’s foot treatments are more than just the application of toenail polish. Following are some pampering and therapeutic ideas to enhance your services.
Let’s begin by considering various global perspectives on feet.
- In the yogic tradition, feet are an extension of the root chakra; they connect us to the earth and ground us with a primal security. Gail Walsh, director of the Yoga Mountain Center in New York City, explains the importance of grounding yourself: “Many people mistakenly believe the knees carry you — but the belly and feet do. Feeling your feet and how they support your body is essential for grounding.” She recommends practicing the Mountain Pose with awareness on the triangular connection of each foot to the ground.
- According to the ayurvedic system in India, walking barefoot helps draw energy from the earth. Washing and massaging feet is a daily practice and helpful for boosting circulation, improving water retention problems, and assisting with dry skin. Swami Sada Shiva Tirtha says nerves from all the organs in the head and body terminate in the feet, so rubbing the feet tones the whole body. In his book, The Ayurvedic Encyclopedia (Ayurvedic Holistic Center Press, 1998), he suggests a footbath with five drops of peppermint oil to one lukewarm bowl of water.
Ayurvedic Foot Treatment
Ayurveda practitioner and author Reenita Malhotra Hora recommends the following foot regimen for your clients. This treatment, which comes from her book Inner Beauty (Chronicle Books, 2004), offers the best results if it is performed on a weekly basis.
- Rinse feet with the juice of a lemon diluted in 1 cup of warm water. Dry off and massage in 3–5 tablespoons of heavy whipping cream. This is a general recipe for everyone, but if you want to correct dosha imbalances, she suggests specific scrub recipes with salt, cloves, and sesame oil or a combination of neem and coconut oil.
- An altogether different approach comes from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), where the foot offers many clues to a person’s health, energy patterns, and personality. If the toes point up, this indicates anger. If the toes curl and clench, they show controlling tendencies. If the big toe splays outward, it symbolizes depression.
- In Holland, Stichting Fudaren is an organization dedicated to “reading toes” — observing their shape and position — to gather information about the person. The book Reading Toes by Imre Somogyi (C.W. Daniel, 2004) explains the basic principles, citing a variety of case studies with accompanying photographs. Somogyi believes that beautiful, even-shaped toes reflect a stable person. In this system, each toe represents an element as well as an emotional quality. For instance, the left, fifth toe represents optimism, trust, and sex, while the right, fifth toe represents fear and insecurity.
For therapeutic benefits, one should seek no further than a medispa. These facilities, which operate under the full-time, on-site supervision of a licensed healthcare professional, often offer medical pedicures. At Advanced Skin Care Day Spa in New York City (www.advancedspa.com), Clive Roussea, a pedicurist who is passionate about his work, says, “I prefer the dry pedicure because it provides results and doesn’t leave your feet looking like a prune.”
Roussea, who doesn’t believe in cutting, instead sands my soles with aerobic vigor. He explains this medical pedicure addresses the needs of each foot rather than following a standard protocol. In my case, he de-calluses the side of my big toes. My acupuncturist says this has the added benefit of speeding up my metabolism, since this area affects the thyroid. Roussea’s concept of home care involves conditioning ourselves to take care of our feet regularly with a monthly pedicure and a home regimen.
Smooth Feet Home Care Recipe
Pedicurist Clive Roussea recommends the following foot care regimen for your clients.
- Apply a high-quality oil to the soles of the feet (possibly vitamin E). Depending on how dry they are, you might consider heating the oil. Then, cover the oil on the feet with a cream (natural ingredients are preferable). This routine should be done at night, at least twice a week, eventually working up to each evening. It’s important to start this after a pedicure, when the pores are open (otherwise the oil and creams will be clogged).
Medispas also offer other healing treatments for feet and legs. The highly regarded Juva Medispa in New York City offers laser machine sessions for psoriasis and pigment irregularity of the feet (www.juvaskin.com).
Skincare Technology Inc. in Chicago has created revitalight machines utilizing an LED system originally developed by NASA to promote plant and cell growth in space. The Food and Drug Administration-approved revitalight system provides a micro-massager using LEDs to create different effects depending on which light is selected. Choose red for antiaging, anti-inflammatory benefits, and improved circulation. The blue light is selected for toe fungus and to kill bacteria, as well as to provide a calming effect. The amber lights are reserved for more serious wound healing or stubborn calluses and bunions. Unlike lasers, which work with heat, the LED stimulates collagen and changes cellular structure over time with a penetrating, pulsating light. (For information, visit www.revitalight.com).
At The Center for Well-Being in The Phoenician (www.thephoenician.com), a premier spa and resort at the base of Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz., the staff believe every treatment should have a therapeutic result. And this is the case with my hydrating honey avocado foot therapy, leaving my skin soft, smooth, and well nourished. The treatment includes a gentle exfoliation, a mask of mineral clay with honey, avocado, and essential oils, followed by a shea butter foot massage. At the time of my visit, they also offered a restorative pedicure with Skincare Naturally, a line of herbal products developed by Dr. Dick Eisenach specifically for diabetic clients and most effective for extremely callused feet. They have also added seasonal pedicures such as gingerbread for winter and a mountain pedicure featuring botanical products for spring.
Activities For Feet
A growing number of spas have activities as well as treatments for the feet. The new Mohonk Mountain House Spa in New Paltz, N.Y., offers hikes and snowshoeing that you may pair with a pedicure or foot massage.
Another activity-oriented program is found in Canada. The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise offers the Charlene Prickett High Adventure Fitness Program (www.charleneprickett.com). Prickett is an exercise guru who ignites a fire under each participant, encouraging the ultimate workout for your feet — hiking, fitness classes, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing in the pristine setting of Canada’s Lake Louise.
When your feet feel like they can’t take another step, it’s time to hit the Aveda Escape Spa within the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise for a relaxing Caribbean Foot Treatment, including an extensive exfoliation and seaweed masque and relaxing hot towels on the feet. This treatment softens and smoothes cuticles, nails, and feet through the application of Caribbean plant products.
Footbaths often set the mood for relaxing combination treatments at a variety of tropical spas. In French Polynesia, Indonesia, and Thailand, floral accents for footbaths include hibiscus, frangipani, and jasmine, adding to the sensual experience. At the Bora Bora Lagoon Resort’s Maru Spa (www.boraboralagoon.com), footbaths are incorporated into their signature fruit-, plant-, and sea-based treatments. My feet soaked in a coconut milk bath adorned with hibiscus flowers. Some clients opt for the extravagant Honeymoon Journey, where couples arrive at the spa by canoe and enjoy a noni cocktail (great for the immune system) and a footbath followed by a scrub, wrap, massage, and floral bath for two.
While many combination spa services begin with a foot soak, the Elements Spa at the Crystal Springs Resort in Vernon, N.J. (www.crystalgolfresort.com), offers feet treats for a finale. This is a retreat for the feet since each service on the spa menu ends with a complimentary relaxing salt scrub and rose petal footbath in an appealing, semicircular area behind a metal-beaded curtain. The concept is to surprise guests with a bonus service, while letting them reconnect and slowly come back from their spa adventure.
For those sampling the signature Elemental Journey in a private four-room suite, the experience ends at the footbath accompanied by champagne and chocolates. The Elements Spa also has a complete foot awakening service including a pedicure, a foot cleanse with a Tuscan citrus herb blend shaped into a leaf, salt sea scrub, rose mud mask, hot towel wrap, foot massage with attention to breaking up toxins, and a polish or buff. The emphasis throughout this well-designed spa is on nurturing.
Healing and nurturing go hand in hand (or should we say foot in foot?) in Hawaii. While it is considered bad luck to remove rocks from Hawaii, you can luxuriate in their healing stone treatments and feel like Hawaiian royalty. At the Grand Wailea Resort’s expansive Spa Grande (www.grandwailea.com), the small, flat ili-ili stones — handpicked from the shoreline and nearby rivers for smoothness, color, and weight — are slid between my toes. Other stone massages may include the feet, but the warmth of the tiny Hawaiian stones between my toes is forever etched in my memory.
Spas near and far offer many versions of reflexology or zone therapy to relieve tension and promote health through the kneading and pressing on various areas of the foot. This treatment, which dates back to ancient Egypt and China, involves working the feet — areas of which correspond to parts of the body — to break down deposits (calcification and lymph fluids) and stimulate the reflexes, which in turn affect the whole body, providing more balance and unimpeded circulatory flow. Treating the foot as a microcosm of the whole body is key. Combination treatments may also include reflexology.
The destination New Age Health Spa in Neversink, N.Y., offers reflexology as part of their sports package and calming package. There is an additional option of adding paraffin after treatment.
As clients come to you for services, there is often the question of how they may continue the healing benefits at home. In addition to the soothing foot recipes included in this article, suggest the following.
- Reflexology is at play in the home detox program developed by Kinotox. The Kinotox pads mirror the acupressure points along the feet. They are attached to the sole of the foot, like a bandage, before you sleep to absorb accumulated wastes from the skin surface and clear the toxins during the night. This allows for better blood circulation and enhances the immune system.
- Another recommended foot product for the home is the microplane (www.microplane.com), a bidirectional file. This beauty device effectively exfoliates, getting rid of calluses on dry feet.
- Also suggest clients experiment with various footbaths, flavoring them according to their needs and tastes.
We put a lot of miles on our feet, and many of us forget to service them. At The Phoenician Centre For Well-Being in Scottsdale, Ariz., assistant spa director Kristi Cjar counsels, “People are so good at changing the oil in their car every 3,000 miles. If only they would take care of their bodies with that regularity.” While our feet don’t earn us frequent flyer miles, they do take us in all directions. Let’s remember to reward them and encourage others to partake in sweet treats for the feet.