Did you know that one-quarter of the bones in your body are in your feet? Our feet are sturdy, reliable, and can handle miles upon miles of supporting the weight of our bodies. But to that end, they are also the most overworked and underappreciated limb. Often the only time they get to rest at heart level to restore is when we’re sleeping, so making a weekly or monthly ritual of giving them a little extra TLC will not only help your feet feel better, it will provide relief for your entire body. According to traditional Chinese medicine, there are many meridians that converge in the feet, and spending a little time with them with acupressure, self-massage, body oils, and salts helps us feel grounded.
Set your timer for 20 minutes (or don’t, if you have more time), put on your favorite relaxing playlist, and get ready for a real treat.
Light a candle, Palo Santo stick, or a bundle of sage to smudge—even if it’s during the day, a burning ritual is a wonderful way to set the mood.
Before getting your feet wet, remove any nail polish that may be left over with non-acetone nail polish. After giving the feet a rinse, you have the option of buffing your toenails. This is helpful if your nails tend to have ridges, but feel free to skip this step if you’re short on time or prefer a more natural look.
2. Soak for five to 10 minutes.
Using warm to hot water and your favorite bath salts, run a foot soak. You can do this in your bathtub. Or, if you don’t have one, a big lobster pot or stew pot works just as well. Epsom salt baths help soothe sore and tired muscles, so adding the salt is a good place to start. Feel free to add a few drops of your favorite essential oil—astringent scents like eucalyptus or peppermint can be especially therapeutic. Top it off with an oil like avocado, jojoba, or even olive oil to help the skin stay moisturized.
Sit here for five to 10 minutes soaking it up and letting the salts and oils work on your feet. Put your phone away—this is not a time to answer emails or scroll through Instagram—and pick up a favorite, book, magazine, or your journal instead. Another idea is to use this time as a five- to 10-minute meditation.
3. Buff the feet and calves with an exfoliating scrub.
Once your soak starts to cool down, take your favorite body scrub and massage it into the feet and calves. If you don’t have a body scrub on hand, you can make one easily with brown sugar and olive oil. Add ½ cup of brown sugar to a bowl and about ⅛ cup of olive oil. Stir until the sugar is coated, adding more sugar or oil as needed.
Take your time here—spend at least a full minute per leg sloughing off the dead skin, working around the ankles, on the heels, and the balls of the feet, where it tends to get callused and rough.
4. Moisturize with a muscle-soothing oil or balm.
Rinse off the scrub with warm water, and pat it dry with a cotton towel. Then, using a muscle-soothing oil or balm, moisturize your foot and bottom leg. Oils containing arnica and astringent, mentholated extracts like peppermint are known for their ability to calm and release sore muscles. Try EiR’s roll-on liniment oil, Weleda’s arnica massage oil, or look for a natural oil in your local health food store that contains arnica. Be sure to get the full calf and foot.
5. Set aside a minute or two for acupressure.
Acupuncturist, Chinese herbologist, and mbg class instructor Paige Bourassa recommends foot acupressure in routines that help ease lower back pain, can help you sleep by moving stagnant energy, quell PMS symptoms and cramping, dull the pain of headaches, and more. In each of these acupressure sequences, there’s a specific pressure point on the foot that helps facilitate a release.
If you want to get fancy, use a tennis, lacrosse, or trigger point ball underneath the feet once they’re dry to roll out any residual tension.
6. Apply your desired nail polish, if any.
If you want to apply a color or a base coat, now is the time to do it. Deborah Lippman, tenoverten, Flora 1761, and côte make nontoxic shades and treatment coats.
7. Put your legs up the wall for a few minutes.
After giving your feet all the love, sit next to a wall with your bum against it. Lie down on the floor and swing your legs up against the wall so your feet are in the air and your legs are perpendicular to your torso, which is relaxing on the floor. Stay here for five minutes with your hands by your side on your belly. Take full belly breaths in and out while the blood drains from your legs, gets recycled in the torso, and is recirculated. This is a great exercise to do before bed or if your feet are feeling especially weary.