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  • Writer's pictureJenny Whitfield

Self-Care Begins With the Feet

Our feet are our foundation, but it's so easy to neglect them. During World Reflexology Week 21 I shared daily ideas for quick, simple things you can do to show your feet some love. Because it's true - self care begins with the feet!

I bet you all remember to moisturise your face, but what about your feet?!

The skin on our feet can get really dehydrated, especially after a summer in sandals. Dry skin can crack, especially on the heels where it's thicker, which can be very painful and can easily get infected.

So don't forget about your feet - they will be very grateful for a nice rich moisturising cream, a hand cream would be perfect, preferably one with shea butter. Just before you go to bed is the perfect time as it can sink in without you needing to worry about having slippery feet!

And while you're doing it you may as well get the benefit of reflexology. The action of rubbing the moisturiser in will be relaxing in itself, and will improve circulation, detoxification and aid sleep. In the video I show you how to work the diaphragm, spine and brain reflexes for a really powerful, calming foot rub. It's simple but effective, and great for helping you get a good night's sleep.

The next tip might sound silly but I promise it makes you feel great! Try to get outside, in nature, in bare feet, for at least 10 minutes a day.

You could walk around the garden, stand and focus on slow deep breathing, or just sit and drink your morning coffee with your bare feet on the ground.

When we wear shoes our feet are so protected that we don’t send the same sensory messages to the brain. And when we don’t use it we lose it. Standing barefoot on rough ground fires up those nerves and strengthens the area of the brain that deals with balance and motor control. It’s particularly important as we age, and also vital for growing kids.

We’re also better able to adjust and realign our posture when receiving more sensory information, avoiding slouching and other bad habits that cause back, neck and shoulder pain.

Connecting with nature has also been proved to release serotonin and calm cortisol, leaving us feeling happier, relaxed and literally ‘grounded’. It’s a lovely way to start the day and a great way to destress after a busy day.

Research is even being done into our relationship with the earth’s electrical field. Some people argue that connecting with the earth has the power to reduce pain and inflammation, and improve circulation.

So kick off your shoes, get out side, and spend 10 lovely minutes connecting with the earth.

With our busy lives, it's so easy to accumulate stress and tension. This relaxing yoga pose releases stress and leaves you calm and balanced.

Legs up the wall pose is a supported version of viparita karani, which means inverted action. Inverted in the sense that your legs are higher than your head and inverted in the sense that you are achieving by doing seemingly nothing!

5 – 10 minutes in legs up the wall pose is easy to do, it’s deeply relaxing and has tons of benefits. It improves lymph flow from the lower body so is great for swollen feet and ankles, achy knees and tired legs. It increases circulation to the upper body which is excellent for reducing fatigue. It opens the chest and encourages deep breathing which calms the nervous system and eases anxiety. It helps with headaches, insomnia, hot flushes, period pain, chronic pain, tight hamstrings and tense shoulders. So much benefit without even having to move!

So find an uncluttered wall and grab and mat or blanket. Get into a comfy position with your back flat on the floor, your hips close to the wall and your legs vertically up the wall, so you’re in an L shape. If it’s uncomfortable try placing a cushion under your hips, or bend your knees slightly if your hamstrings are tight. You could put a pillow under your head or even wear an eye mask. Then relax, breath slowly (try a few rounds of in for 4, out for and let your stress melt away.

Do not do this pose if you are pregnant or if you have a hernia, glaucoma or heart problem. Be very cautious if you have neck, back or sciatic pain. Consult a yoga teacher if you are unsure. You can read more here:

This one’s for all you runners. It’s also brilliant for anyone who wears high heels and for people who sit still a lot, although it has lots of benefit for everyone.

Foot rolling is easy to do and it’s good for the whole body. You can use a tennis ball, golf ball, squash ball, bouncy ball or, ideally, a spiky massage ball as this can work more specific spots and even get into reflexology points for a super-charged massage.

Foot rolling works because it releases and stretches the fascia (connective tissue) in the foot, which has an effect on fascia, ligaments, tendons and muscles all up the body. As well as working out any tight spots in your feet, you will feel the release in tight calf muscles, hamstrings, even back muscles. You can see the effect it has by bending over to touch your toes before and after foot rolling. You should notice you are way more flexible afterwards!

It also exercises and strengths the muscles of the feet. This improves alignment all up the body, which also helps relieve knee, hip and back pain. Just like walking in bare feet, foot rolling fires up the nerves in the feet, strengthening the area of the brain that controls motor function and balance. Plus it increases circulation to the lower body. This is really beneficial in helping to reduce swelling, decrease inflammation and lower blood pressure.

The practice of doing foot rolling is very mindful and soothing. It connects you to your body and is great for reducing stress and anxiety.

So how to roll your feet? You can do it sitting or standing. Position the ball just under the ball of your foot. Press and release, roll side to side, breathe deeply. Then place the ball under your heel and roll all the way up to your toes. Repeat this several times, making sure you cover the whole foot. Then get into the arches, rolling in all directions. Lastly, position the ball in the centre of the ball of your foot, then clench and flex your toes several times. Make sure you do both feet. Use a pressure that feels right to you. You want to press hard enough to release the fascia and work out the knots, but not so hard that you aggravate anything. There will be sore spots and these are the bits you want to give extra attention to.

Do not do this if you have broken skin, bruises, verrucae or athlete’s foot. Although foot rolling can be very helpful for plantar fasciitis and other painful foot conditions, it is best to get an expert’s advice before trying it.

Reflexology is way more than a foot rub, but that doesn’t mean that the massage element isn’t really important. It’s probably the thing that draws many people to reflexology in the first place; who doesn’t love a good foot massage?! It’s a key part of the relaxation because touch releases a flood of oxytocin and endorphins – our feel-good, happy, stress-busting hormones.

You can get this benefit massaging your own feet, but this weekend I challenge you to give a lovely foot rub to someone else. Babies and kids really love it, even the ones with tickly feet! Just make sure you are firm enough not to tickle but gentle enough not to over-stretch their delicate ligaments. It would also be a really special way to help an anxious teenager.

I’d love to know whose feet you massaged and if you were lucky enough to get one back!

You can find foot massage techniques here:

You don’t need expensive products to care for your feet and get them nice and soft after a summer of sandals.

Raid the kitchen cupboards and you’ll find all the ingredients you need to make an exfoliating foot scrub. It works well with any sugar, particularly demerara, sea salt or Himalayan salt, bicarbonate of soda, or - to be really eco-friendly - old coffee grounds. Just put a few spoonfuls in a bowl and add enough oil to form a paste. This could be olive oil, sunflower, sesame oil or any moisturising or massage oils you have, such as sweet almond or apricot kernel. You could also add a couple of drops of your favourite essential oil. Peppermint is refreshing, rose is calming, lavender promotes sleep and geranium is good for balancing hormones.

Then just rub over any dry or rough areas for feet that look and feel lovely and smooth.

Sunday evenings are perfect for making a bit of time for self-care. You could put all these ideas into practice and have a home spa night!

First have a go at rolling out the knots and relaxing the feet, especially if you've had a busy weekend.

A foot soak is the easiest way to DIY a little spa experience. You could add Epsom Salts to the water to soothe achy muscles, relieve arthritis and help sleep. Mini bathbombs are just the right size for a foot soak and they smell amazing. You could add a few drops of essential oil but you will need to mix it with an oil first so that it doesn’t sit on the water and irritate your skin. After 10 minutes, exfoliate your feet with a home-made scrub or a pumice stone – natural lava is best. Rinse and pat dry with a soft towel. Then use a nice rich hand cream to moisturise your feet and have a go at the reflexology techniques in the video above. Finally, spend 10 minutes in legs up the wall pose and enjoy the calm.

Self-care is so important and you deserve it!

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