Once pretty much the domain of women, the foot massage has been trending with male spa attendees in the last few years (which have also seen boutique metro spas targeting men, sometimes exclusively). The male kneejerk reaction to paying for a foot massage tends to occur in financial terms: This type of massage is dismissed as comparatively unimportant and a waste of money, and possibly time. Experts suggest more and more that proper care of the feet — including regular massages — keeps the body in better general order. The sole as entry point for energy? Perhaps. Regardless, foot reflexology is deservedly on the rise. The Kitsilano-based Footworks Relaxology is a specialized massage studio whose services are mostly in the name (also on offer is body acupressure). If you’ve yet to try a foot massage, here’s what to expect.
First off, a quick word about the art of foot reflexology: this is a natural therapy that uses pressure-point massage techniques to restore balance in the body, alleviating stress and improving health (even, some claim, curing hangovers). The foot massage business has expanded over the years to include full body massage with deep tissue massage and shiatsu, but those are optional.
Sessions at Footworks (though other respectable spas should be similar in their approach) begin with a soak in a basin of river rocks and rock salt. The process of rolling your soles over the rocks both disinfects and detoxes your feet, while the hot water relaxes your entire body. During the soak, the relaxologist (your massage therapist) performs a 10-minute shoulder rub, to further enhance the calming experience. After the foot bath, your feet are wrapped in warm towels and you can choose to add a foot and leg scrub with exfoliating salts and an essential oil for an additional $10. It’s a worthwhile addition, making the skin feel noticeably softer and and providing naturopathic benefits. The oils are available in a variety of scents, for different health goals: bergamot to enhance mood and aid digestion; grapefruit for circulation, stress and fatigue; lavender for headaches, anxiety and muscle pain.
The real work begins. Your feet (and sometimes legs) are slathered with body butter and oil, and the relaxologist begins touching the pressure points on your toes and feet. For a first-time visitor, it’s a feeling that takes a few minutes to acclimatize to, but once you’ve sunk into the chair and succumbed to the process, it’s intensely relaxing. Pressure points on your legs are then activated, followed by a calf massage and finished off with a hot towel rub down. Choose from a 25 minute session for $25, a full session of 50 minutes for $39, or the 75-minute extended session for $50.
If more than your feet need an overhaul, Footworks has three back rooms dedicated to body massage. Their specialty is acupressure body massage, but they also offer deep tissue and shiatsu. Rates are $49 for 50 minutes and $74 for $75; also available is chair and hand massage, at $1 a minute.
Footworks exudes that fairly typical spa vibe and while it’s not exactly female, it’s certainly not male. It’s not a case of location, location, location so much as ambiance, ambiance, ambiance, which is to say, arguably a bit too much, depending on one’s tastes: the soft music everywhere, the earthy tones, the large leather recliners with gold curtains dividing the chairs (for privacy). But hey: It’s a spa, and it’s a very, very good one at that.
2992 West Broadway, 604-730-2992
Image by Hong Photography.