It’s no accident that foot treatments such as reflexology are becoming more popular with the public; such treatments feel great and are usually quite affordable—especially when purchased at one of the so-called “foot spas” popping up across the country. But what the public may not fully understand is that a simple foot massage and a reflexology treatment are two different animals, and that the foot spa on the corner offering 60-minute treatments for $29 is not likely to provide the benefits afforded by a bona fide reflexology session at a well-established spa or wellness center. Many spa owners believe it’s time to capitalize on this key difference. Should you give reflexology more play on your spa menu? We asked spa owners and managers who do just that to chime in on their approach to touting this oft-underestimated alternative treatment.
Currently, no regulations exist for reflexology practitioners in more than half of the states. This has paved the way for the opening of numerous foot spas offering services at cut-rate prices and, in the unregulated states, has created opportunities for unscrupulous operators. In Washington State, a number of phony foot massage businesses in strip malls were serving as fronts for prostitution and human-trafficking operations. To combat this illegal activity and support legitimate therapists, a new Washington State law recently went into effect faster than just massage alone. Luckily, our therapists appreciate extra training, so when reflexology is offered as a continuing education course, they take it,” she says.
Other benefits to reflexology are more practical than wellness-oriented. Men and women who have never had a massage before are often leery of getting undressed and spending time on a massage table in a room alone with a complete stranger. For these clients, having their feet worked on while remaining clothed makes for a good, non-intimidating introduction to spa services. The treatment can even be performed in a pedicure area, out in the open. Sometimes just a tweak of terminology can entice clients to try the treatment. After all, many may not recognize, trust or fully understand the term “reflexology.” Salon O Organic Day Spa’s Millan chose to title the full service “Reflexology Massage” because “massage” is a familiar term with which her guests feel more comfortable. You might even want to think beyond massage tables and pedicure thrones for performing reflexology.
Zenergy’s ART-registered practitioner, Mark Cook, does his work while the client sits in a state-of-the art vibroacoustic therapy (VAT) chair. The chair uses audio technology created by doctors to quiet the racing mind, thereby enhancing relaxation and calmness, according to Cook. Music therapy delivered through headphones and audio signals sent to sound generators in the chair’s cushion combine to provide a sound vibration massage from the inside out. Used in concert with foot reflexology (hands, ears or face treatments also work), VAT augments the overall treatment experience and results.
Ordway suggests doing a foot soak before beginning any foot reflexology treatment. This not only cleanse your clients’ feet, it helps them change the focus from a cerebral to a body-centered experience. At Eviama, therapist soak guests’ feet in a sage bath and then perform a Himalayan salt scrub.
Telling clients and potential clients about your new foot treatment can be done in a variety of ways. One obvious approach is to mention it when they book a pedicure. “We pair up our pedicures with reflexology,” says Millan. “They go hand-in-hand with each other—or should I say foot-to-foot. People neglect their feet so much and suffer from discomfort that when you tell them what refl exology can do for them, they are hooked.”
Zenergy featured Cook in its newsletter and added a page dedicated to reflexology to its website. It also created a poster to display in the club and has mentioned the specialized foot treatment in many local radio ads and in the spa’s printed brochure.
Reflexology is also a natural for sample treatment opportunities. Whenever Eviama hosts an event introducing new cosmetic products, Ordway includes an option to experience a mini foot reflexology session, along with mini makeovers for guests. This has been a part of the spa’s monthly promotions over the years. Eviama’s reduced-price spa samplers include reflexology and PediKarma, in addition several body treatments.
Are there drawbacks to offering reflexology? It doesn’t seem so. Millan says many spa owners shun adding reflexology to their menu because they don’t think it will sell, but remember: This service requires very little space and little to no extra investment. “Adding reflexology to your nail services is a no-brainer because your pedi clients are already sold,” says Millan. “Increasing those tickets makes a great way to not only offer something new, but also to increase your revenue.”
From the concrete we walk on to the shoes that entrap women’s extremities to society’s pressure to look a certain way, feet are constantly challenged in many of today’s environments, and many individuals need relief. Reflexology is a proven remedy. “It’s a direct line from your feet to your heart,” reminds Ordway. “Everyone—women and men— need that kind of support.”
–by Heather Larson