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The Very Best Electric Foot Massagers

According to athletes, podiatrists, physical therapists, and people with tired feet.

Photo: Marcus McDonald
Photo: Marcus McDonald

In this article

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. I talked to Maugeri, McEneaney, and eight other doctors, trainers, dancers, physical therapists, and people with tired or achy feet to find the very best electric foot massagers available right now, and even tested a few myself.

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 I 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.

However, 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.

Price

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.” According to Kotlen, you’ll have to spend at least $75 to get something high-quality enough to make a difference. To give you a quick price comparison overview, I’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 a variety of intensity levels, 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.

Heat

According to all of the experts I 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 Shiatsu electric foot massager overall

$160

Type of massager: Shiatsu massager | Price: $$ | Speed and function: 3 kneading and 3 squeeze intensities | Heat: Yes

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.

“Deep” is no understatement: When I first tested this massager, I could only handle up to the medium settings for both the kneading and compression functions, as the “high” settings really give your feet good pummeling. (Renpho suggests starting off with the lowest setting and working your way up.) After growing more accustomed to the sensation, however, I began to thoroughly enjoy sitting back and letting the machine knead away while tapping at my laptop or watching Netflix — it does emit a low, constant hum when in use, but I didn’t find it unduly distracting from my tasks. The massager comes equipped with an automatic timer for either a 15- or 30-minute massage, after which it shuts off on its own. The control-panel buttons can easily be pushed with your toes so you can be truly hands-free, and the foot chambers, which are lined with removable and washable fabric, accommodate up to a men’s size 12.

The Renpho’s one downside is its considerable bulk, which I’d estimate to be a little smaller than a ten-quart Instant Pot in terms of dimensions and heft. So if you don’t have a roomy closet or out-of-the-way storage space where you can stash the massager when it’s not in use, you may want to consider a massager with a slightly more svelte profile, such as the HoMedics massager below.

Best (less expensive) Shiatsu electric foot massager

Type of massager: Shiatsu massager | Price: $ | Speed and function: 1 massage pattern and 1 level of intensity | Heat: Yes, with or without massage

Another brand of trusted massager mentioned by Byrne is HoMedics, so I decided to also give this Shiatsu one a try as an alternative option for those limited by space and budget constraints. It has three simple settings — massage only, heat only (basically a foot warmer), and heated massage. Since this massager doesn’t fully envelop your feet the way the Renpho does, the sensation is definitely a less intense experience; however, it’s still soothing and the upside is that it does allow you more freedom to adjust the pressure of your massage simply by rotating or pressing your feet harder against the nodes. Plus, with a height and depth about comparable to a bathroom scale, its silhouette is far slimmer than many of the other hands-free foot massagers on this list and could easily slide under a bed or couch, so it was fairly simple to find a place for it in an unobtrusive corner of my apartment.

Best electric foot massager with a remote control

Miko Shiatsu Foot Massager
$117
$117

Type of massager: Shiatsu massager | Price: $$ | Speed and function: 3 massage patterns and variable intensity | Heat: Yes

This foot massager is a perennial favorite among Strategist readers — so much so that it’s featured on our greatest-hits list of the most giftable items. It’s equipped with five pressure settings as well as deep-kneading, compression, rolling, and vibrating techniques, plus it comes with two wireless remotes so you can control the sensation whether you’re working, reading, or just relaxing on the couch. A 15-minute timer will turn off the machine automatically once the massage is complete.

Best massaging foot spa

Type of massager: Massaging foot spa | Price: $$ | Speed and function: 1 massage pattern and 1 level of intensity | Heat: Yes

This combination foot spa and massager is designed to relieve pain, tension, and anxiety and comes recommended by Dr. Casey Ann Pidich, a podiatrist and founder of comfortable-footwear blog Dr. Glass Slipper. “I like this foot spa bath because it allows you to control the water temperature, so it will never be too cold or too hot,” Dr. Pidich says, explaining that temperature control is significant for patients who suffer from neuropathy — a loss of sensation in their hands and feet. In addition to the motorized rollers on the bottom, the foot spa is also equipped with bubble jets and vibration for an extra massage component. “It’s like a Jacuzzi for your feet!” Dr. Pidich says.

Best multipurpose electric foot massager

Type of massager: Shiatsu massager | Price: $$$ | Speed and function: 2 massage patterns with variable speed | Heat: No

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 less-expensive multipurpose electric foot massager

Type of massager: Shiatsu massager | Price: $ | Speed and function: 2 massage patterns and 1 level of intensity | Heat: Yes

To give you even more bang for your buck, this Snailax massager is equipped with heat and functions as both a foot and back massager. “This is the only massager I found that I’m actually excited to put my feet into,” says Libie Motchan, co-founder of insole brand Fulton. Her feet tend to run cold, especially in the winter, but the massager warms them up quickly thanks to its plush interior lining and furry hood, which traps the heat and allows it to penetrate more deeply. Since the massager is fairly small and portable — about the size of a large lunchbox — Motchan will take it with her around her apartment. To use it as a back massager instead of a foot massager, she can unzip and remove the top cover (which, as a bonus, is machine washable) and position it like a bolster pillow: She’ll rest her upper back on it while lying down or place it behind her lower back while sitting. She’s owned it for about two years now, and “it’s withstood the test of time,” she says, adding that she’s even gifted it to several friends who’ve all reported back with glowing reviews.

Best massage gun for feet

Type of massager: Percussive massage gun | Price: $$$ | Speed and function: 5 massage heads with 3 speed settings | Heat: No

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 podiatrist Amanda Westfall has used the Hypervolt at her office for several years and and calls it a “workhorse.” Since it comes with five different-shaped massage heads, Westfall especially appreciates the ability to switch out the head attachments when addressing pain in various areas of the body: “It works well on thicker areas of muscle like the heel, arch, and calf” and is especially effective for easing plantar fasciitis and tight calves, she says, but be cautions not to use it on “thinner areas like the top of the foot.”

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

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

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. Westfall agrees that the Mini is more effective for foot massages “because it’s easier to get into the arch and specific trigger points.” 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.

Some more foot massagers we’ve written about

Our experts

• Amanda Westfall, podiatrist at Central Oregon Foot and Ankle
• Kevin Conlin, physical therapist and owner of ARC Physical Therapy
• Dr. Kimberley Maugeri, chiropractor and founder of Skop
• Dr. Casey Ann Pidich, podiatrist and founder of Dr. Glass Slipper
• Jakob Roze, founder and CEO of RozeFit
• Libie Motchan, co-founder of insoles brand Fulton
• 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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The Very Best Electric Foot Massagers