Today’s foot massagers are reliable, easy-to-use devices that require very little maintenance. They’ve come a long way in the past decade or so and today make acceptable standins for the professional masseuse.
Everyone would love to be able to ring up their favorite massage therapist after a long day and get some relief for their tired, aching feet. Here in the real world, however, that’s simply not an option for most of us. We either have to do the work ourselves, soak our feet in hot water for a half hour or so or just live with the discomfort.
If you spend long hours on your feet or suffer from arthritis, bunions, DVT or other conditions there’s an electric foot massager that can help. Below are the best foot massagers for 2021.
1. Nekteck Foot Massager
This nifty, compact device has 18 rotating massage nodes that work the bottom of your feet like a pro. The Nekteck Massager is particularly effective for those suffering from plantar fasciitis or flat feet.
What we like: Those heated, rotating nodes are going to feel great to anyone that’s been standing all day dealing with customers, directing traffic or participating in a walkathon. It slips easily into the space under the sofa or bed, has 3 levels of height adjustment and doesn’t gorge on electricity.
We appreciate being able to switch the heat function on or off. The massage nodes don’t feel clumsy or punitive like some others. And the compact nature of the device means it will work just about anywhere.
Flaws: It doesn’t get as warm as some other foot massagers. And the fact that your feet aren’t inserted into the device means that if you doze off your feet will fall off.
2. Manur Shiatsu Foot Massager
The Manur Shiatsu Foot Massager is a handsome, effective unit that lets you slip your feet in and kick back. You have 3 adjustment levels for the roller and 2 for the heat levels. There’s also an air bag massage feature that works the top and heel of the foot and can be engaged or disengaged.
What we like: Simply put we like the way our feet feel when they’re inside the Manur Shiatsu Foot Massager. More specifically, we like the combination of roller massage and heat and appreciate that we can adjust things to suit our needs.
When your feet are inside the unit and the heat and massage features are doing their thing it’s quite a feeling. It also features auto shut-off and has built in overheat protection.
Flaws: There’s no remote, so you need to reach down and do the adjustments by hand. It’s also fairly bulky and won’t fit under the couch.
3. Conair Active Life Waterfall Foot Spa
The Conair Active Life Waterfall Foot Spa is an all-purpose water-based foot massage unit that provides relief through its combination water treatments and heat. It augments those components with a variety of attachments including a scrub brush and soft-touch massager.
What we like: This is a different approach to foot massage that’s surprisingly effective. It’s a solid choice for those who just want to relieve some stress and strain.
Once you figure out the logistics you’ll be free to reap the benefits. Enjoy the LED light show while your feet are showered with warm, rejuvenating falling water.
Flaws: The open-top construction means you should probably place it on a towel. Also, this is not designed to address serious issues like edema, bunions or plantar fasciitis. So keep your expectations in check.
4. Best Choice Products Shiatsu Foot Massager
This is the largest unit on our list and we seriously considered giving it a pass because of its size. But we wound up including it because it makes such a compelling argument for itself. It provides 4 massage settings and 3 different massage modes (auto, personal, manual).
What we like: It feels great whether it’s kneading, rolling or pulsating. And not having to disrupt the party and lean over to make adjustments is a big plus.
Whichever settings you pick you’re going to be impressed by how effectively it works the kinks out of your foot muscles. And it provides a handy remote so you can sit back and change the action without having to lean over.
Flaws: It’s big. There’s no way you’re going to slip it under the sofa. Also, there’s no heat option.
5. Cloud Massage Shiatsu Massager
The Cloud Massage Shiatsu Massager has an adjustable support leg that enables you to angle it upward. This way you can take up a more natural position while having your feet massaged. You can also stand it almost vertical so you can slip your calves into it and amp up the lower body relief.
What we like: If you suffer from plantar fasciitis, have flat feet or are prone to edema, this is a solid choice. It offers multiple compression and heat settings as well as a vibration setting to work on tight muscles. It’s not cheap but it does what it says it will.
The ability to massage both feet and lower legs is a big plus. As is the fact that it can be used laying down or sitting up. And, as we mentioned, it provides a fair level of relief from plantar fasciitis pain.
Flaws: It features multiple settings. But if you want to adjust those settings you have to lean forward and do it manually because there’s no remote.
6. Miko Shiatsu Foot Massager
The Miko Shiatsu Foot Massager looks like an alien spaceship but works like charm. The main focus here is the application of relaxing, rejuvenating heat. Slip your feet inside and enjoy that heat along with the combination of reflexology nodes and air compression therapy.
What we like: We like that we can choose which combination of features to enjoy. We appreciate how well it relieves stress and strain and we like that it’s low profile enough to tuck away under most sofas.
If your feet are sore and tired after a long day it’s going to deliver relief in pretty short order. It’s also reliable, reasonably energy efficient and covered by a 1 year warranty.
Flaws: It doesn’t do a great job addressing the arch of the foot. Make of that what you will. It’s also not necessarily the best unit if you suffer edema.
7. Osito Medic Foot Massager
The Osito Medic Foot Massager tries to do a lot of things and winds up doing most of them pretty well. It’s designed to stimulate feet and to stimulate and relieve tension in upper body muscles by way of its TENS pads (1).
What we like: Whether you use the TENS pads or not you’ll likely appreciate how effectively it reliefs aching foot muscles. If you don’t want to partake of that feature it’s no problem. You’ll still be able to enjoy the effective way its sole massage roller and 99 levels of stimulation melt away the stress in your feet.
Flaws: It’s biggest flaw is its look. It’s the ultimate example of “don’t judge a book by its cover”. It’s also a foot-top unit, so your feet can, and probably will, slip off occasionally.
8. InvoSpa Shiatsu Foot Massager
There are a lot of things to like about this unit. Start with the fact that it provides a reliably relaxing shiatsu-style massage. Move on to the 3 pressure modes for the rollers and your choice of backward or forward action.
What we like: It’s very relaxing when the heat is on and the rollers are doing their thing. It’s also quiet and reasonably energy efficient. There’s also plenty of heat to bake away the stress and the unit shuts down automatically after 15 minutes.
That auto shut-off ensures you’re not wasting electricity if you get called away and forget to turn it off. Maybe best of all it’s a truly compact device that won’t devour your bedroom, office or living room.
Flaws: Not the best for addressing issues like edema. And, of course, it loses a few points for not having a remote.
9. Snailax Shiatsu Foot Massager
The Snailax Foot Massager uses a combination of heat, rollers and air compression to deliver a massage experience that’s hard to beat for the price. The unit is compact, comfortable and features 3 intensity levels along with 3 auto massage modes.
What we like: The rollers are some of the most effective we tested. We also like that the foot sleeves are removable and washable.
It’s simple to use, quiet and well-built and does a good job relieving muscle tension and working the plantar fascia.
Flaws: There’s no way to adjust the heat. In addition, there’s no remote. So you’ll have to make your adjustments manually.
10. Gideon Shiatsu Foot Massager
The last of our best foot massages is the Gideon Shiatsu Foot Massager. It provides an array of 8 nodes that roll against the soles of your feet working out knots and providing relief to the plantar fascia. There’s no need to slip your feet into anything. Just set them on the top and let the infrared heat penetrate your aching muscles.
What we like: Those nodes we mentioned are stainless steel balls that rotate a full 360 degrees to really work out the kinks and ramp up the relaxation. The sensation produced by these nodes is strangely satisfying. The infrared heating is also surprisingly effective.
The ‘acupuncture’ nodules at toe and heel are really more about keeping your feet in place while the balls rotate than they are about acupuncture. But we’ll forgive the marketing department their imaginative excesses.
Flaws: The unit does not shut off automatically. This could be an issue if you’re called away and forget to turn it off. It’s not a big issue but something to be mindful of.
Why Would Someone Want a Foot Massager?
There are a lot of good reasons for a person to purchase one of the above foot massagers. Here are some of the best:
To improve circulation – When people sit at a computer all day the circulation in their lower legs can suffer. Often times the feet and lower legs swell up in a process known as edema (2). If this condition is not treated it can lead to dangerous health conditions including deep vein thrombosis (DVT), nerve damage and more. A regular foot massage can help promote proper circulation in the lower extremities and in the process help stave off potential problems.
To mitigate the symptoms of arthritis – There are different forms of arthritis (3) but they all involve inflammation of the joints. The stiffness and pain associated with arthritis can be an enormous cross to bear. A good foot massager can help lessen that pain and stiffness while also helping to reduce swelling and increase circulation. Electric massagers that provide hydrotherapy and heat are thought to be particularly effective for people with arthritis or gout (4).
To relieve the pain of plantar fasciitis – The plantar fascia (5) is the large tendon that extends across the length of the arch of the foot. Under various conditions this tendon can become inflamed. Plantar fasciitis, as this condition is called, can be extremely painful and also impede your normal walking motion. A good electric massager that supplies heat and which kneads the arch of the foot effectively can be very helpful in providing relief from this condition.
To deal with the pain associated with bunions – Bunions (6) are a deformity of the foot involving the big toe. The condition, which is often hereditary, can be very painful and cause a major disruption to the mechanics of ordinary walking. People with bunions all too often rely on pain killers to provide needed relief. But the electric massager should be given due consideration as a better way to address the issue. If you have bunions look for a massager that kneads the arches of your feet and massages the toes. Many people believe the shiatsu-style massager is best for those with bunions.
To help help deal with flat feet – Flat feet do not typically produce the type of pain you’ll experience from plantar fasciitis. Still, they can cause the feet to become easily worn out and sore. And they can make it very uncomfortable for a person to spend long hours standing, if that’s what their work requires. There are several ways to deal with flat feet. Wearing the right type of shoes is important. Performing exercises that build the muscles of the feet can also help. Finally, a foot massager can effectively address soreness and fatigue in the foot muscles.
To aid in recovery after a long run – Runners are no strangers to sore feet. An electric foot massager can provide them much needed relief. In many cases runners will experience a sore or tight plantar fascia after running. Even if they don’t technically suffer from plantar fasciitis. A mechanical foot massager that is able to massage the bottom of the foot is a good thing to have in such cases. The foot massager will also help alleviate muscles stiffness in the lower leg and have a beneficial knock-on effect that extends up the leg to the glutes. Essentially, it helps enable quicker recovery and ensures you’re in good shape before you hit the pavement again.
To relieve menstrual pain – It’s thought that the pain relief and relaxation that can be achieved through a foot massage can go a long way toward alleviating the pain and discomfort associated with menstruation. This is based on principles of Chinese reflexology (7). And while reflexology teaches that the ankle is the place to massage to provide optimal relief from menstrual cramps, there are those who believe any good foot massage will produce the same results.
To obtain relief from lower back pain – Most people will agree that a good foot massage helps relieve tension and soreness in the entire lower body. Including the glutes and lower back. An electronic massager that provides robust kneading action to the soles of the feet is best for producing this benefit. Although if it also provides heat it can be even more effective. In order to get the most from this effect it’s important that you be seated comfortably and that your back has proper support.
To reduce swelling in the feet – Above we briefly mentioned the dangers of edema. But it warrants a bit more mentioning before we move on. Deep vein thrombosis or DVT (8), is perhaps the biggest danger when it comes to swelling of the legs and feet. DVT involves the formation of blood clots that can be fatal if they move to the lung or heart. If your swollen feet and legs are tender to the touch, warm to the touch or turning red it’s time to seek medical attention. Keep in mind that using a good foot massager on a daily basis can help fend off the onset of DVT.
How We Ranked
Contemporary foot massage machines employ a variety of different methods to obtain their results. Some emulate shiatsu massage (9), employing electronically powered rollers that knead the tissue of the foot and mimicking the action of most massage therapists. Still others employ water jets that take the place of the rollers and work the muscles of the feet. Most modern foot massagers also bring heat to bear on your tired sore foot muscles. We like to see a combination of methods that will provide the customer with the most ways to obtain relief. So one-trick ponies had a difficult time making our list.
Heat is an important component of the modern foot massage machine. After all, you want – and we expect – a piece of technology like this to provide things we can’t obtain any other way. That’s called progress. So while the intrepid massage therapist may be able to work magic with their hands it’s unlikely they’re able to swaddle your poor, tired paws in an envelope of relaxing heat. (Sure, they could use a warm towel but they tend to cool off pretty quickly.) So, we want to see heat in our foot massagers. That said, there are some that do a bang up job without providing heat. But if two massagers are otherwise equal and one also offers heat, that’s the one that would get the nod for our list.
Some foot massagers provide a remote control so you don’t have to bother bending over to make adjustments. With most, however, the controls are fixed to the body of the massager. But it’s not just the location of the controls that matters. It’s the type and number of control options as well. Does the massager allow you to adjust the speed of the rollers? Does it allow you to adjust the temperature? Can you change the duration of the massage? Does it offer automatic shut off (important if you walk away and forget to turn the machine off). These are the kind of features we look for when assessing the various electronic massagers on the market today.
This is something you’re going to keep around the house. So it shouldn’t be huge, heavy and clumsy. Most people will want to be able to slip it under the bed, dresser or sofa or store it in a hall closet. So it can’t be obnoxiously big. And because you’ll probably want to move it from place to place it can’t be too heavy either. Massagers that require you to place your feet physically into the device are going to have to be fairly large. We get that. Still, what we’re looking for are massagers that get the job done without devouring too much space or requiring a fork lift to move them around.
A foot massage, whether administered by a professional or by one of our best foot massage machines, can provide a number of benefits to body and soul. Here are some of the most important.
Foot massagers can improve your circulation. More and more people today are living sedentary lives. Most of the time it’s not their choice. It’s a function of our increasingly service-oriented economy that compels people to sit staring at computer screens for hours on end. Maintaining proper blood circulation in the lower extremities is key to preventing deep vein thrombosis and a rash of other problems. Just taking 20 minutes or so with the massager when you get home will work wonders to restore circulation.
Foot massagers can speed recovery from injuries. If you’ve experienced an ankle sprain, dislocated ankle or a fracture of any of the bones in your feet a foot massager can shorten recovery time. The massager works to increase blood flow to the affected areas and relieve pain and stiffness. Regular foot massage also helps to strengthen the muscles of the feet and ankle which helps fend off future injuries.
Foot massagers can improve your sex life. It may sound like a questionable claim but hear us out. The feet are a very real, if little appreciated, erogenous zone (10). Sharing a few minutes with your partner and the foot massager can help set the mood for a hot and heavy evening. After trying it a few times you may never look at your humble foot massager quite the same way again.
Foot massagers can help relieve anxiety and depression. This isn’t really anything new. People have know for thousands of years how relaxing a good foot massage can be. No one is saying it’s a cure for clinical depression (11). But it can nonetheless help lift your spirits if you’ve had a tough day, received bad news or are just feeling a bit down in the dumps. If you’re nervous about a big presentation at work, spend some time with the foot massager before you go to bed. It will help you sleep better so you can breeze through the big event like a boss.
Foot massagers can help relieve headaches. Headaches are sometimes a product of poor blood circulation. Your brain relies entirely on blood flow to provide the oxygen it needs to function properly (12). If blood flow is not what it should be a person may experience confusion, difficulty making decisions, headaches and more. A foot massager can help get the blood flowing in your lower extremities, which will help get things moving throughout the body. There’s no guarantee a foot massage will relieve your headache. But it should at least relieve you of stress and anxiety that is making the headache worse.
Foot massagers can help with plantar fasciitis and may help people with flat feet as well. Plantar fasciitis (13) can produce stabbing pain in the arch of the foot. It’s often caused by wearing shoes with little or no arch support. Although it can also be the result of running on hard surfaces, or starting to exercise after a long period of dormancy. Flat feet (14) are common in children, who usually grow out of it. But it’s a condition that can also afflict adults. A foot massager can help alleviate pain and discomfort associated with flat feet.
Foot massagers can help relieve the symptoms of PMS (15) in some women (16). This is mostly due to its ability to alleviate stress and help you relax. Many PMS symptoms, including mood swings, tension, irritability, sadness, insomnia and more are related to stress and anxiety caused by fluctuating hormone levels. Most types of massage are thought to aid in relaxation. But the foot massage is particularly good at helping people let go of some of their cares and worries and adopt a more laid back attitude.
Foot massagers may help lower blood pressure. The jury is still out on this particular claim but there are plenty who believe it to be true. Particularly adherents of Chinese reflexology. High blood pressure has numerous potential causes and one of them is thought to be stress. As such, the argument goes that regular sessions with your foot massager should help relieve stress. That will in turn (at least in some people) result in a lowering of blood pressure levels.
Foot massagers will just make your feet feel better. That’s the kind of common sense benefit anyone can get their head around. As we’ve seen a good foot massager helps restore proper circulation, helps prevent conditions like deep vein thrombosis, lowers anxiety levels and helps you sleep better. Even if it did nothing else or its benefits ran no further than that, that’s still a boatload of positivity.
Can a foot massager help alleviate back pain?
To a certain extent that depends on the source of the back pain. Certainly, if a person is suffering from a herniated disc they’ll need to consider more serious types of therapy (17). Perhaps even surgery. However, if the back pain is the result of standing for long periods of time, or some other less serious cause, it’s likely a good foot massage will help. The foot massage can calm the nerves of the feet and lower legs which can produce an upward cascade of relief that extends into the lower back. You might also want to look into more supportive shoes.
Can a foot massager help someone with diabetes?
To the uninitiated this might seem a strange question. But one of the most common side effects of diabetes is peripheral neuropathy (18). In short, high blood sugars can cause damage to the nerves in the extremities, including the toes. Neuropathy symptoms include a loss of reflexes, a loss of feeling as well as tingling and/or numbness. It’s generally believed that massaging the feet regularly can help stimulate blood flow and that can help alleviate some of the symptoms of neuropathy. So yes, in many cases a foot massager can help a person with diabetes.
Will a foot massager induce labor?
Stories have circulated for years that foot massages can induce labor. It’s difficult to find reliable information on the subject as most people who address the subject tend to be self-proclaimed experts (and that should tell you something right there). That said, the stories persist and it’s possible, possible, that there’s something to the notion that pregnant women should avoid electric massagers. If only because an electric massager is going to produce an entirely different sort of vibration than a hand massage will produce. Our advice would be that, if you are pregnant, discuss the matter with your doctor before using an electric foot massager.
Are foot massagers expensive?
Foot massagers cover the price spectrum from extremely affordable to fairly expensive. There are certainly some decent ones out there for less than $100. But don’t be surprised if the one you have your eye on cost $100 – $200. Maybe even a bit more. You need to weigh the potential benefit against the price, of course. If you regularly experience tired, sore feet then even a couple of hundred dollars for a massager might be money very well spent.
The modern foot massager provides that much sought-after combination of affordability, convenience and effectiveness. It enables you to recover faster from a long, hard day on your feet. And that alone makes it worth the price of admission for many folks.
But the benefits of the mechanical foot massager don’t stop there. They also provide (at least the best ones do) relief from a range of physical maladies including arthritis, gout, edema, back pain, anxiety and more. While also providing a boost to some people’s sex life.
Any of the above listed foot massagers should hold you in good stead. Just remember that different ones are designed to focus on different parts of the foot and provide different types of relief. So be sure to pick one that addresses your particular issue.
For cpoe.org’s #1 recommended foot massager, click here.