How to Give Someone a Foot Massage

Choose the Right Oil

Oil offers lubrication (which can truly benefit your massage) that allows your hands to easily glide over the skin. You can opt for any essential aromatic oil or settle for natural oils.

Studies show that massage therapy combined with therapy is very effective for relieving anxiety. My personal favorites are Almond and Jojoba oil.

They are easily obtainable and you don’t have to spend a lot to get them. While most oils should do their job, it’s always wise to run a patch test on the skin to avoid any reactions to the oil.


Foot Massage

Most people like a soothing foot massage, so don’t be afraid to do them when learning how to give a massage. The best tools for the bottom of the feet are soft fists (see above) or thumbs. Do the overall foot and then glide from the heel along the sole to each toe. Grasp the toes with toes between your thumb and forefinger. Gently rock each toe back and forth.

You can do the front of the feet with the recipient on their stomachs. Or, you can do the front of the feet once they turn over.

Massage with your fingers around the ankle bones in back and forth circular friction. Then massage in between the tarsal bones (on top of the fore foot).


How to give the impression you have the hands of the angel and not feel like hell doing so.

✓  Keep constant contact

When giving someone a massage, try to keep your hands in contact with their body as much as possible. You don’t always have to apply pressure; even a light touch is fine.

This continuity of touch creates a soothing sensation.

✓  Don’t go too fast

Kim and I had a misguided tendency to massage each other as if we were scrubbing pans: too hard and too fast. Generally speaking, the deeper the massage, the slower you should move.

Stay still sometimes: If you find a knot, apply constant pressure to it with a supported thumb, knuckle, or your elbow and hold it for fifteen to thirty seconds. Vibrate a little if you get bored. It feels good and unties the knot.

✓  Don’t break your back giving someone a back massage

Maristha was a big stickler for posture when giving someone a massage (something the Alexander Technique folks would certainly agree with).

Whenever possible, she advised widening your stance to get lower, even sometimes getting into a full-on lunge position, rather than bending over and straining your back.

✓  Don’t bend your arms too much

Keep your arms just slightly less than locked when massaging. Let the weight of your body and legs to the work rather than your arms.

Use your forearms, knuckles, and elbows instead of
Use your forearms, knuckles, and elbows instead of overworking your fingers.

✓  Don’t overdo it with your fingers

For most of us amateurs, the go-to massage move is to squeeze with our fingers, especially on the top of the shoulders. It feels good to get but:

  • It’s super tiring. Within no time your forearms and fingers start burning.
  • Other things feel better! Like your knuckles, for instance…

✓  Don’t be a knucklehead; use your knuckles

I never dared lay a fist on Kim (and vice-versa) until Maristha told me to. She showed us a few techniques that honestly feel even better than the classic squeezing move we used to always tire ourselves out with.

Here are a few basic massage techniques using the knuckles:

  • Monkey Hand: Bend your wrists to use the back of your hands and your first knuckles for a not-too-hard knuckle massage.
  • Cat Walk: With your hand in a claw-like shape, use the knuckles closest to your fingertips to knead tissue in a circular motion, one finger at a time.
  • Knuckle Grating: Form a loose fist and use your second knuckles to knead out tougher tissue like the shoulders, back of thighs, palms of hands, and soles of feet.

Use your forearms, elbows, and feet, too! Run your forearm bone along tough areas like the back of the thighs or carefully place your elbows or feet for a constant and heavy pressure to loosen up super tight spots.

✓  Reinforce your movements

For more pressure, more control, and less strain, massage with one hand at a time while using your off-hand to support the wrist of the working hand.

You can do something similar with your fingers, too. For instance, if you’re running your index finger along the spine of the person you’re massaging, cross your middle finger on top of it for support.

✓  Don’t karate chop them

The reason Kim and I didn’t like it when we attempted to do the classic karate chop massage move on each other was we were too stiff.

Maristha told us to soften our hands and loosen our wrists instead. She also showed us that a loose side fist (so lightly curled fingers) can feel better than an extended chop-style hand.

And it really feels good! Once we learned this massage technique, “tapotement,”the fancy word for chopping and hitting, became one of the best-feeling moves.

Try “pinchies” too: Another surprisingly pleasant tapotement technique is to do speedy light pinches with alternating hands. It sounds silly and feels silly to do, but feels good to receive.

✓  Shake ‘Em Up

Another silly-feeling but effective massage technique Maristha taught us that we’d never considered before was simple shaking.

If they’re lying on their stomach, pick up their leg by the ankle, pull it gently towards you, and give it a shake. Or, if they’re sitting on a chair, hold their wrist with their arm in a 90-degree angle as if they’re waving hello, and shake.

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Arm Massage

Next massage the arms with the same basic movement

Next massage the arms with the same basic movements as with the legs. The arms are easy to add some “circular massage”. Wrap both hands around arm and wring back and forth. Or, grab the muscle mass in your hands and lift up the tissue away from the bone and then bring it back down, letting it fall into place (called “milking”). 

Pick the best massage oil, and soothe with scent

You don’t have to use oil, but it’s standard in most professional sessions because it helps hands glide over tight muscle groups with ease. Since you may be applying generously, it’s best to use a neutral "carrier oil," if there’s a (non-overpowering) essential oil scent you know you love, add a couple of drops into the mix.

"Try using a plain carrier like coconut oil, grape-seed oil, or sweet almond," suggests Beider. "In my own practice, we use a blend of oils specifically for massage, including jojoba, lavender and rosemary."

3. Massage softly

You may be tempted to dig into knots you feel in his back or show off the tremendous finger strength you’ve gained from texting all day, but Lara warns against doing so. “Don’t go to harsh. Don’t try to impress,” she said. Instead, “warm up his back with a long, soft gliding stroke using both hands” about 10 times. “Similar to making bread, you can just knead the muscles, especially the shoulder area.”

Once you’ve loosened up the muscles, you can feel free to easily start using your “knuckles and the bases of your hands to work out some of the tension,” and finish up with long strokes along his back.

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General Tips on Giving a Massage

  • Do not rush through it, dedicate ample time and pay attention to every part of the body.
  • Warm up the oil before giving a massage. It’ll considerably relax muscles and improve the flow of blood in the area.
  • Keep the gates of communication open. Always ask whether the pressure feels comfortable.
  • Try to maintain skin contact at all times. That helps with maintaining the flow.
  • Be gentle and don’t overdo it. Adjust the pressure to the person’s comfort.
  • Focus mainly on the feet, legs, back, neck, shoulders, and arms since they are usually quite problematic. Find out which areas your friend would like to target more.
  • Keep extra towels at hand to wipe off the excess oil after the massage.
  • A nice warm bath before and after a massage does wonders too.
  • Be careful while massaging those with medical conditions. Especially if they have thin veins or spine-related issues. Always consult a physician before giving a massage to someone with possible health problems.

Anti-Wrinkle Facial Massage Technique

If you'd like your facial massage to be a little more targeted toward wrinkles, Dakar has a slightly different technique for that.

  • First, Dakar recommends applying a facial oil that works for your skin type all over a clean face (her Organic Omega Booster is actually quite amazing and comes in two formulations, one for dry and sensitive and the other for oily/combo skin).
  • Then, use your middle finger to apply pressure to the center of your forehead. “This technique can help smooth frown lines across your forehead,” she says. “As a bonus, it can also help you get rid of stress and headaches, which stops you from frowning.”
  • Apply this pressure for three seconds and repeat for three sets, she says. “To improve the effects of this facial acupressure technique, work your middle finger down until you reach the spot right in between your eyebrows,” Dakar suggests.
  • Crow’s feet more your issue? There’s a technique for that, too. “Use your index fingers to apply pressure on your nose’s bridge, right below the inner eyes,” says Dakar. “Do this for five seconds at a time for a total of three sets.” Better yet, she says, this technique can help relax your eyes so they’ll stop squinting naturally, and it can also help prevent the formation of dark under-eye circles.

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Ask your partner about their pressure preferences

"Different strokes for different folks" truly applies to massage, so it’s best not to make any assumptions about how (or where) your partner will want to be rubbed. Some people need a gentle touch all over; others think that a good back massage requires getting in there and pressing hard. Questions can mean the difference between unsatisfying—or even painful—results, and the type that turns someone to putty in your hands.

"I always ask ‘on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being too light and 10 being too heavy, how much is the pressure in this spot?’" Beider explains. "Aim for a 6-7 in depth, and check in as you move around."

The key, according to Beider, is to move slowly and ask your partner if they’d like more pressure on a certain area. Encourage them to let you know when you’re doing something that feels great, too.

"Use language like ‘higher, lower, left or right?’ And when you find those magical spots, STAY there for a long time until your partner asks to move on," she says.


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