You don’t have to work on your feet all day to appreciate the relaxing benefits of a foot massage. But if you do stand, walk, dance, or run for a living, buying yourself an at-home electric foot massager can make your life a lot more enjoyable, relieving aches and pains and rejuvenating tired feet. “Foot massagers can help with tight calves, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, and soreness from shoes, standing, or running,” says Dr. Kimberley Maugeri, chiropractor and founder of the fitness brand Skop.
Patrick McEneaney, a podiatrist and the owner of Northern Illinois Foot and Ankle Specialists, agrees with one caveat: Don’t use them on acute injuries. “If you sprain your ankle or really injure a muscle while running, get some ice on it and let it rest for a little while. Then, three to five days later, you can move onto the foot massager,” he says. When it comes to what type of electric foot massager you should buy, there’s a lot to choose from, including podlike floor units you put your feet in, foot baths that massage as you soak, heated units that use air compression to squeeze, and percussive massage guns. We talked to Maugeri, McEneaney, and eight other doctors, athletes, trainers, dancers, physical therapists, and people with tired or achy feet to find the very best electric foot massagers available right now.
What we’re looking for
Type of massager
While you can use an object as simple as a tennis ball to work out muscle soreness in your feet, electric foot massagers are a bit more complicated. And almost all of the experts we spoke to separated them into two main categories: massagers for general foot tiredness and relaxation and more intense percussive massagers for deep muscle pain and achiness.
One benefit of the first category of massagers is that they are hands-free and therefore more like an in-person traditional foot massage. They also make a great gift for people who could use a little pampering. You simply stick your feet inside the machine or place them on top and let the rolling, vibrating, kneading, and pressing begin. Kevin Conlin, a physical therapist and the owner of ARC Physical Therapy, is a fan of this type of massager because they often use heat, which in combination with the kneading movement helps move lymph and blood throughout the body. “It’s going to help prevent a little bit of fluid stasis. That’s what happens when we’re inactive or we work too hard, fluid gets stagnant,” he says.
On the other hand (foot), spa-type foot massagers can’t reach deeper muscle pain the way percussive massage guns can. So if you’re looking for something more like deep tissue massage, a massage gun is what you should buy. McEneaney likes that massage guns are handheld so you can determine how much pressure you want, and they have a smaller surface area so you can isolate specific areas.
We all love a good deal, but when it comes to electric foot massagers, you don’t want to skimp. According to Melissa Kotlen, a lactation consultant and labor and delivery nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital and manager of the Boram Postnatal Retreat, “Cheap is not good for this type of appliance.” Her advice is you do have to spend at least $75 to get something high-quality enough to make a difference. To give you a quick price comparison overview, we’ve included a price ranking of $ for massagers under $100, $$ for massagers that cost $100 to $200, and $$$ for massagers that cost more than $200.
Multi-speed and multi-function
As with back massagers, choosing a foot massager with a variety of speeds and functions will allow you to customize the experience to your specific needs. Whether you’re looking for more intensity, more of a rolling pattern, added water jets, or different heads for your massage gun, more options means more paths to relaxation and relief. Maugeri says these options are essential since no two people have the same needs, nor do they experience massage in the same way. A machine with lots of different settings will also help you figure out what kind of massage works best for you or provide a chance to change things up.
According to all of the experts we spoke with, adding heat to a massage helps muscles relax and increases blood flow to the affected area. It can also make your massage feel a lot more luxurious. But McEneaney warns that, while in the right setting, an added heat function can be very good for certain types of muscular complaints, some people should be careful with heated foot massagers. “Usually you’ll feel it. But if you’re a person who doesn’t have normal feelings in your feet from diabetes or other types of issues, you can actually get a burn from some of these units,” he says.
Best overall Shiatsu electric foot massager
Type of massager: Shiatsu foot massager | Price: $$ | Speed and function: 3 kneading and 3 squeeze intensities | Heat: Heat option
McEneaney recommends this Shiatsu foot massager from Renpho, a brand that was also recommended by professional ballet dancer Kate Byrne, of My Ballet Coach, in our guide to the best electric back massagers. It uses air compression, optional heat, round nodes, and a textured rolling spool to deliver a deep Shiatsu-style massage. You can set a timer for either a 15- or 30-minute massage, after which the machine shuts off automatically. The control-panel buttons can easily be pushed with your toes so you can be truly hands-free. The foot chambers are lined with removable and washable fabric and they can accommodate most foot sizes, up to men’s size 12.
Best (less expensive) Shiatsu electric foot massager
Type of massager: Shiatsu foot massager | Price: $ | Speed and function: 1 massage pattern and 1 level of intensity | Heat: Heat option with or without massage
Another brand of trusted massager mentioned by Byrne is HoMedics, and this affordable Shiatsu-style foot massager is popular among Amazon reviewers, with hundreds of five-star reviews. It only has three settings — just massage, just heat (basically a foot warmer), or heated massage. But it does allow you more freedom to adjust the pressure of your massage simply by pressing your feet harder against the rotating nodes. It’s also less bulky than the other hands-free foot massagers on this list, making it easier to store when it’s not in use.
Best electric foot massager for new moms
Type of massager: Shiatsu foot massager | Price: $ | Speed and function: 3 massage patterns and variable intensity | Heat: Heat option
Kotlen says research has shown that foot massage reduces postpartum discomforts, aids in better sleep, and helps relieve pain. She calls massagers like this one from Belmint, which she specifically recommended by name, essential for new moms. This foot massager is also a perennial favorite among Strategist readers and editors — so much so that it’s featured on our greatest-hits list of the most giftable items. It has three massage patterns that you can use at different intensities, optional heat, air compression, and washable foot liners. You can choose between three timed massage sessions, all of which turn off the massager automatically once they are complete.
Best massaging foot spa
Type of massager: Shiatsu foot spa | Price: $$ | Speed and function: 1 massage pattern with 3 speeds | Heat: Heat option
Also from expert-recommended brand Renpho, this combination foot spa and massager is designed to relieve pain, tension, and anxiety. It features an adjustable heat level, bubble jets, electric massage rollers with variable speeds, and timed massage settings from 10 to 60 minutes.
Best multipurpose electric foot massager
Type of massager: Shiatsu massager | Price: $$$ | Speed and function: 2 massage patterns with variable speed | Heat: No heat option
Jenelle Manzi, a professional dancer with the New York City Ballet, first discovered the Reflex Roller at a Pilates studio when she was 14, and has been using it ever since. “I have memories of when I was at Fordham for college and I was dancing at New York City Ballet, and I would sit and do my homework with my feet on it,” Manzi recalls. The massager’s design is simple: Underneath a soft fabric covering are small knobs that spin and rotate, and you can “control the pressure and adjust how much weight you’re putting on it and where you’re pressing your foot against it,” Manzi says. “It can really get into your plantar fascia and under your big toe, where we’re typically super tight.” She thinks it’s a “great introductory massage tool” since it requires very little effort to use and offers a lot of flexibility: In addition to your feet, you can also use it on other parts of your body such as your calves, thighs, and shoulders. That versatility makes it a great multipurpose massager — and the price a little more bearable.
Best massage gun for feet
Type of massager: Percussive massage gun | Price: $$$ | Speed and function: 5 massage heads with 3 speed settings | Heat: No heat option
Maugeri tells us that brand-name recognition is important when choosing a foot massager because there is so much market saturation, and you want a product that’s withstood the competition. Her recommendation is the Hypervolt handheld percussion massage gun, which she uses in the office, at the gym, and at home. “The different speeds are great for different parts of the body and I love how quiet it is,” she says. She’s not alone: McEneaney is also a fan of the Hypervolt for anyone suffering from deep muscle tension or pain, and it’s a favorite tool of professional surfer Kelly Slater and drag queen Katya Zamolodchikova. It comes with five different-shaped massage heads and can be used at three different speeds.
Best (less expensive) massage gun for feet
Type of massager: Percussive massage gun | Price: $$ | Speed and function: 7 massage heads with 5 speed settings | Heat: No heat option
I bought this Turonic G5 massage gun for my fiancé because he bikes to work every day and had been wanting to try a massage gun on his tired legs and feet. It’s exactly what I was hoping for: a gift for him that I can also enjoy. I haven’t tried the Hypervolt (above) or the Theragun (below), so I can’t compare them to the Turonic. But I appreciate that it’s slightly lower priced than the Hypervolt and that it comes with more heads than either of those other two massage guns — and more speed settings too. I like the soft round-ball head best for my feet so far, especially after a long day of running around the city doing errands or after working a busy three-hour shift at the Park Slope Food Coop.
Best lightweight massage gun for feet
Type of massager: Percussive massage gun | Price: $$ | Speed and function: 1 massage head with 3 speed settings | Heat: No heat option
In the world of massage guns, Theragun is the other most recognizable name, and it’s the favorite of quite a few of our experts. Kotlen, who is both a nurse and a runner, calls it a must-have for overall muscle wellness and by far the best percussive treatment around.
Jakob Roze, founder of RozeFit, uses a Theragun Pro and recommends Theragun to his clients because of its high-quality design and ergonomic efficiency. But Strategist contributing beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton makes a convincing argument that the mini version is the way to go, describing it as only a touch bigger than her hand and a lot lighter than her MacBook Air. “Once I actually powered the thing up, I was taken aback by its might — at three different speeds, it vigorously vibrates to loosen up muscles while the attachment ball thrusts up and down, massaging deep into those sore spots,” she says. If you’re looking for something powerful and portable (and a bunch of different heads aren’t that important to you), the Theragun Mini is what you should buy.
• Kevin Conlin, physical therapist and owner of ARC Physical Therapy
• Dr. Kimberley Maugeri, chiropractor and founder of Skop
• Jakob Roze, founder and CEO of RozeFit
• Kelly Slater, professional surfer
• Drag queen Katya Zamolodchikova
• Melissa Kotlen, lactation consultant and labor and delivery nurse at Mount Sinai Hospital, and manager of the Boram Postnatal Retreat
• Professional ballet dancer Kate Byrne, of My Ballet Coach
• Professional New York City Ballet dancer Jenelle Manzi
• Patrick McEneaney, Owner and CEO of Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists and Past President of the Illinois Podiatric Medical Association
• Strategist contributing beauty writer Rio Viera-Newton
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