Of all the things in the world that might elicit a satisfied “ahhh” from a human being, few have that power like a good foot massage. (We’re not quite sure where those land on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but we think it’s pretty fundamental to the pyramid.)
If you’re avoiding massage parlors and salons and don’t have an in-house masseuse, you may be considering a dedicated foot-massage machine, a device that allows you to place your feet upon or within it, and contains mechanical rollers or small plastic nodules that knead away at your lower extremities to release tension and increase circulation after a long day. But there are a lot of options out there, which can make deciding on the one to pick for you and your feet a tough call.
To find out, we indulged in the tender (and sometimes not-so-tender) grip of the top electronic foot massagers available today. By the end, we had a few clear favorites: The Renpho Foot Massager(available at Walmart for $119.99) is what we'd recommend for the best all-purpose massager, the Best Choice Products Shiatsu Massager(available at Amazon) is a great choice for those on a budget, and the super luxurious Cloud Massage(available at Amazon) is our splurge pick.
Here are the best foot massagers we tested ranked, in order:
Renpho Foot Massager
Cloud Massage Shiatsu Massager
Best Choice Products Shiatsu Massager
Arch Refresh Premium Heated Massager
Miko Shiatsu Foot massager
Belmint Shiatsu Foot Massager
Homedics Triple Action Shiatsu Massager
NekTek Foot Massager
If you’re looking for an all-around pleasant, relaxing foot massage, this Renpho is the way to go. It has a sturdy plastic build with two crevices containing cloth-covered massagers that you stick your feet into, giving the full foot a massage. It also allows a nice amount of customization. You can pick a 15- or 30-minute massage, toggle between “low” “medium” and “heavy” knead and air intensity (which creates a squeezing sensation), and choose whether you want heat during the massage or not.
The buttons are easy to use and simple to understand—the timer lights up red for a 15-minute massage and blue for a 30-minute massage and additional lights pop up indicating the other settings you’ve selected.
I tried each level of intensity and liked every single one of them— not something I could say for most massagers I tested, which were either too light or downright pain-inducing. It didn’t feel quite like a human massage, but the firmest options worked out tension without causing pain or seeming like the machine’s components were grinding against each other, and the lighter options provided a soothing, low-intensity rub. I liked that it was easy to create something of a custom massage—whether that’s a heated massage with low pressure or high-knead intensity or an unheated massage with medium pressure and medium-knead intensity, there should be an option for everyone who uses the Renpho.
The Renpho has two small drawbacks. The listing says it comes with a remote, but ours didn't—a feature we appreciated in units that had them because it means no bending down or kicking at buttons to change settings. However, I found the buttons on the machine easy to manipulate with my feet—they’re responsive, so you don’t have to push too hard, but not overly sensitive, so they won’t change if you accidentally graze a button with a toe. It also doesn’t have adjustable feet that allow you to change the height and angle of the device, which can be nice depending on the chair you’re sitting in. I got creative when I wanted to recline more by propping up the far end of the massager on some books—not a Renpho-endorsed method, sure, but it worked just fine for me.
If you’re in the market for a top-of-the-line foot massager, the Cloud Massage Shiatsu Foot Massager is the way to go. It has two massage beds lined with rollers and a lightweight microfiber that feels silky and luxurious on the feet. It also has a rotating bar that loops around the machine and allows you to switch its height and angle effortlessly. This allows you to set your feet in almost any position you want while you’re getting a massage, whether you want the massage on just the feet, your feet and ankles, or laid flat to receive the massage on your calves. (It also makes the device, which would otherwise be unwieldy, easier to tote around.)
The Cloud Massage also has several modes, including vibration, heat, rolling, compression, and a swaying motion. It’s easy to pick and choose which ones you want during your massage by pushing each button on the machine. The machine has three levels of intensity, too, which helped make any massage I created for myself feel personalized.
My only quibble about the Cloud Massage is that it doesn’t come with a remote—which I would have expected, given its price—and, depending on how you’ve swiveled the machine around, it can be difficult to reach the buttons. Still, it promises a luxurious feeling, and it more than delivers on that front—if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s a great option.
In my tests, the Best Choice Shiatsu Massager felt fantastic, particularly for a budget device. The machine kneads the bottoms and sides of the feet with firm yet supple nodes covered in a silky cloth that made it feel more like human touch than any other massager I tested. It also has five massage settings that you can cycle through that involve variations of rolling, kneading, and pushing. It was a little hard to figure out how to use—the machine has a lot of buttons and it isn’t immediately clear what they all do—but each option felt so nice to me, this didn’t matter too much.
The massager has some flaws, though. It comes with a remote, but it’s a little finicky—when I tried it, it had to be close up to the console and pointing straight at it to work. It also doesn’t have a heated-massage option, and though you can alter the speed and type of massage you receive, you can’t adjust the pressure. This meant that every massage seemed to be on the medium-firm side to me (which I like) but someone who wants a light massage may want to try a different option.
Still, if you don’t care too much about variable pressure or an added heat function, and just want an oddly lifelike massage, the Best Choice massager will serve you well.
I’m Sara Hendricks, the emerging categories writer at Reviewed. My work involves a lot of health and fitness coverage, which (for some reason) often extends into the lower extremities. I’ve tested compression socks, running shoes, and those flats that pop up all over Instagram, which makes me, if not an authority on podiatry—I’m pretty sure you have to go to school for a long time to get that title—someone fairly well-versed in the subject of things you can buy to make tired feet feel better.
Testing electronic foot massagers involved what you might suspect: Getting a lot of foot massages. (Tough work, I know.) I researched the top-selling products on the web and ordered nine of them to Reviewed’s office in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Julia MacDougall, our senior scientist, put together a series of tests to evaluate the quality, feel, and overall experience of the foot massagers.
From there, I tested one machine two times a day for 30 minutes each: once after sitting still and doing nothing in particular (or, perhaps, some computer work for my job) and once after standing or walking for about an hour. During each session, I evaluated the range of massage options available, how effective the device felt in terms of alleviating tension during and after the massage, and whether the machine caused me any pain. I also took note of other factors, such as price, the ease of setup, the machine’s overall intuitiveness, if it was a pain to clean, and whether or not it was possible to adjust the massager’s height and angle, and if it had any special accessories like a remote control.
What You Should Know About Foot Massagers
Foot massages feel good for most people. But they don’t just feel good—they can also provide a number of health benefits by increasing circulation in the feet according to Dr. Miguel Cunha, a podiatrist and the founder of Gotham Footcare in New York City. “An electric foot massage on a regular basis can help improve cardiovascular health by increasing blood circulation throughout the body and lessen the workload of circulation on the heart, keeping it strong and healthy,” Cunha says. “Massaging helps reduce stress, not only by increasing the release of ‘feel good’ hormones [such as serotonin and dopamine], but also by decreasing the levels of cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone,’ which can have detrimental effects in our health.”
Almost everyone can benefit from foot massages, but Cunha says that people who have arthritis, bunions, shin splints, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, need athletic recovery, or are dealing with post-surgery recovery may find them most helpful for pain relief. On the flip side, anyone in the later stages of pregnancy may want to hold off on the massages, at least for now—according to Cunha, stimulating certain nerves in the foot can trigger uterine contractions and preterm labor. If you’re not sure, talk to your doctor before buying a foot massager.
When you search the term “foot massager,” you are likely to be presented with three different variations. One is a bottom-only massager, which is a plastic surface on which you place both feet—usually on a cloth-covered foot outline with massage rollers underneath, but not always—and experience a massage on the soles of the feet. Most of the ones I tested were $50 or $60, but I also tried one priced at $240. Then there is the full-foot massager, into which you stick both feet and experience a massage on the top, sides, and bottom of the feet. These tend to range from about $80 to $250.
In tests, we found the benefits and feel of a full-foot massage make it worth the higher price—not to mention they were also easier to clean, because the cloth covers in full-foot massagers unzip from the machine and can be thrown in the wash—so all the top picks fall into that category. That said, if you want a sole-only massager, you can read more about the ones I tried in the “Other Foot Massagers We Tested” section below.
Another option is a manual massager, which is used by repeatedly rolling the foot over it to stimulate circulation. I didn’t test any of these, as they are usually relatively inexpensive—a top-reviewed option on Amazon is about $6—and can’t really compete in the same tests as electronic massagers.
Other Foot Massagers We Tested
Johnson Fitness & Wellness Arch Refresh
The Arch Refresh has all the trappings of what one might expect from a luxury foot massager. It looks like a box with two deep crevices lined with removable (thus machine-washable) pieces of cloth that you stick your feet into and get a massage from the tip of the toes to the ankles. It also has four main massage settings—vibration, pressure, heat, and knead style—that you can use to customize the type of massage you receive.
And, for most of its settings, it works really well. My feet felt great both during and after both massages, and I liked the amount of customization it allowed. In fact, it just had one (notable) problem: When I set the pressure of the massager to its highest intensity, it made a loud knocking and grinding sound. The high pressure felt good, but the sound was unpleasant and made me worried about what was happening within the otherwise solid-seeming machine.
No other reviews of the machine mention this problem, so it’s possible that I received a lemon. But based on my experience, I’d say this: For someone who only plans on using the gentler settings, and likes the look of this particular machine, the Arch Refresh is a fine option. But if you are someone who does want to take advantage of the highest-pressure setting (and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, based on its price and the fact that it’s available), I’d recommend a different massager.
The Miko Shiatsu massager gives a full-foot massage via two chambers that you slide your feet into like a pair of slippers. It offers five different pressure and knead intensity settings and the option to add or take away heat, all of which can be controlled with the buttons on the console or the remote control that comes with the machine. When you turn it on, it automatically sets a timer for 15 minutes, so you know exactly how long you’ll be receiving the massage.
For the most part, I really liked the way the massage worked and felt. It was easy to toggle between settings with both the buttons and the remote control and I liked having the ability to shift the knead and air pressure intensity to my liking. But the pressure seemed to get a little too intense for me—it was great at the milder settings, but when I changed it to the highest one, it squeezed my foot to a painful degree. I usually like a firm massage, so this meant it was squeezing really, really hard. You also can’t adjust the height or angle of the device.
If you end up with the Miko massager, the solution to this is relatively simple—don’t use the highest knead and pressure intensity if it causes you pain. But compared to other massagers that didn’t cause any pain, even at the highest intensity setting, it may not be the best pick for some people, particularly those who want a gentler massage.
This Belmint massager kneads only the bottom of the feet in a rotating pattern, using massage nodules encased in lightweight mesh. You can also add heat to the massage, or adjust its height and angle using the twistable legs near the base of the machine.
When I used the Belmint, I found myself wishing it could hit all parts of my foot, not just the sole, but the part that did get the massage felt pleasant, with a medium-firm amount of intensity that worked out tension without causing pain—like most massagers like this style, you can’t adjust the speed or pressure. My feet felt good after I used it, too. If you’re not into the idea of a full-foot massager, this is a great option.
In general, using the Homedics sole-only massager was an unmemorable experience. Like other massagers of its ilk, it has massage nodules covered in mesh and an option to add heat to the massage—you can’t, however, adjust the height or angle on this one. The massage felt good, and my feet felt loosened up after using it, but nothing about it was particularly special. Because you can’t adjust the angle, you may want to go with the Belmint instead, but using this one is fine, too.
The MED Massager, which massages the bottoms of the feet, looks and feels different from all the other foot products we tested. Instead of a smooth surface that you place feet upon, it has a metal triangular base covered by a hard plastic surface with ridges (where you place the feet) that looks a little like a Lite Brite toy covered with something you could use as a building ground for Legos. When you turn it on, it vibrates—and that’s about all it offers. You can adjust the intensity of the vibration by twisting a knob on the upper corner of the device, and use the surface to massage (or, really, vibrate on) the back or calves as well as the feet, but it doesn’t offer any kneading or heating. Because of this, the massage experience itself was hardly relaxing (if, indeed, one can count an intense buzzing feeling as a true massage). That said, my feet felt loosened up and less tense when I was done, even though the experience itself was not exactly full of zen.
The Med Massager seems effective for what it claims to do, which is stimulate circulation—and on its site, it’s marketed as more a medical device than a home relaxation device, so it doesn’t exactly fall short of any claims either. So if you are looking for a casual, relaxing foot massager, it’s not the one to try. But if your doctor ever tells you to get a Med Massager for any medical reasons, listen to them, not me.
The NekTeck massager kneads the bottom of the feet with the same cloth-covered massage nodes as other similar massagers. You can also add heat to the massage by pushing the power button and adjust the angle by twisting the stands at the base of the massager.
For the most part, it was fine—it was easy to set up and figure out how to use, and some parts of the massage felt nice. But the kneading massage could sometimes be painful, depending on how I rested my feet on the machine. This was always easy to adjust by switching the angle of the device or reshuffling my weight, but I didn’t experience pain with any of the other similar massagers, which have the same style and special features at comparable prices.
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