Foot reflexology for runners
“I ran my best time ever in the 20 kilometers!” he exclaimed triumphantly. Without muscle pain, acidity and cramps in his legs and feet, he had walked a wonderful route and the smile on his face spoke volumes.
In the run-up to his first marathon, the Frankfurt Marathon, Rodrigo had already run an official half marathon several times and then the same distance a few more times within his training schedule. This comment came after he received his first foot reflexology treatment which took place during his training schedule. This was followed by two more foot reflexology treatments; one just before the marathon and another right after the marathon.
How does foot reflexology work and what benefits can a foot reflexology massage offer to runners?
Do you have a running race or (half) marathon planned soon or are you running to lose weight and get fitter? What do you do to relieve muscle pain, acidity, cramps and tension on your body, prevent injuries and improve your performance? The answer lies under the soles of your feet.
When most people think of running, they think of an intensive cardio workout. Although the entire body is active as you run, most of the impact is on your feet. The force on our feet is no less than ten times our body weight. Our feet sweat, hurt, develop blisters, crack, peel, itch and smell slightly while running. Our feet are essential, but why do runners pay so little attention to their feet? The calf muscles and hamstrings are stretched, we measure our cardio with a special band or watch and we eat and drink additional nutritional boosters such as proteins to cope.
But after the knees, most injuries occur in the feet. It's time we shift attention to our feet.
As a runner you put pressure on your feet in specific places, usually you are not aware of it. Due to your movement and the landing of your feet, you put pressure on certain parts of the foot more than others and you cause stress in certain parts. For example, you may notice that you experience more pain in your lower back, hips, pelvis and knees after running, but wear and tear can also occur in your feet due to tense feet, built-up lactic acid, stiffness and joint pain. This in turn leads to heel spurs, irritation or swelling of a sensory nerve (morton neuroma) or tendonitis. These types of complaints are often resolved through surgery, but have you ever thought about a natural approach?
By means of reflexology on the feet, pressure is applied to certain parts of the foot (foot reflex zones). This stimulates your body's self-healing capacity and your entire body is treated and not just a local pain point. This relaxes your feet and provides relief, but what else does foot reflexology do for you as a runner? Below you will find 6 benefits of foot reflexology for runners.
How can this holistic form of massage benefit runners and athletes?
Reflexology aims to reduce the effect of stress and tension on the body. Reflexology therefore helps the body and muscles to recover and relieves fatigue and pain. By providing the legs and feet with a reflexology treatment both before and after running, we try to combat acidification and thus prevent injuries. But where exactly does this come from and how does it work?
The origins of foot reflexology
The origins of reflexology go back to ancient Egypt, India and China. It was not introduced to the West until the early 20th century. Reflexology is a natural and non-invasive health therapy. It is based on the theory that different points on the feet correspond to different parts of the body. For example, you can find a zone for the head on the foot, but you can also find your intestines, your shoulder, back, eyes or your nose. A modern reflexologist applies pressure to these points to identify an area of the body that needs extra attention.
How does reflexology work?
Reflexology works through the connections of the limbs, especially the feet but also the legs, hands, arms, head and ears that can influence the organs. Reflexology aims to relieve the effects of stress and tension in the body so that the body can bring itself back into balance. Stress has an inhibiting effect on muscle recovery, by relieving stress, reflexology can help with recovery, fatigue and pain. One of the main results after a reflexology treatment is an intense feeling of relaxation and relief from stress and tension. It can also help with sleep. Heavy periods of training can cause disturbed sleep patterns. A reflexology session allows the body to function more effectively because a tense body is ineffective.
Reflexology provides similar results to massage; One of the differences with massage is that pressure is applied to points that are not directly close to an injury or sensitive pain point.
Scientific research on foot reflexology
Scientific research conducted with an MRI by a university in Japan shows that when the point in front of the eyes on the foot is stimulated, there is an increase in blood flow to the area of the brain where it would be expected if the eye itself were touched. This was also repeated on the reflex zone points of the shoulder and small intestine where the same effect occurred. This indicates that there is some kind of connection between a specific reflexology point and a specific point in the brain.
Research from Bonash University in Australia shows that reflexology removes lactic acid from the legs four times as quickly as a regular massage. Lactic acids can lead to sore muscles, which is not good for running. So a foot reflexology massage is particularly beneficial for marathon runners in the last 10 kilometers when acidification occurs. Treatment ensures that acidification is alleviated and removed more quickly. This way the body can absorb more oxygen and nutrients through improved circulation.
Can you apply foot reflexology to yourself?
Are there DO-IT-YOURSELF points that you can apply or do you need a professional reflexologist? You can try to massage the bottom of your foot yourself. Rolling a wooden foot roller over the bottom of your foot or a golf ball also provides some degree of relief.
But it is not easy for everyone to treat the feet themselves unless you have a certain degree of flexibility. Hand reflexology is an easier way for a do-it-yourself session. The same reflex zones can also be found on the hands. For example, the 'swimming fins' on the fingers, between the knuckles, represent the upper lymphatic channels. By massaging these points firmly, for example squeezing them a little with your other hand, you can stimulate circulation in your upper lymphatic channels. If you are flexible enough, you can also do this on the webbed toes (between your metatarsal bones, the grooves between the bones on your forefoot). In the photo you can see two points where the channels are located. By ironing and kneading upwards from this area towards the attachment to the toes, you can prevent acidification to some extent.
But treating a single reflex zone itself is never as effective as tackling the entire system, especially because reflexology is a holistic therapy that takes all aspects of a person into account. A one-hour professional treatment is of course more effective than a self-administered treatment, purely due to the knowledge and experience of the reflexologist. You can of course also ask your foot reflexology therapist if she can give you some additional points of attention that you can apply at home. This helps with a smooth recovery process.
What evidence or experiences do you have that foot reflexology can have a positive effect on someone's sports performance?
Runners and athletes have personally experienced changes in their performance through reflexology.
Think of Martina Hingis, former number 1 in tennis who loves reflexology. In an interview she was asked what she does to recover, to which she replied: “I get a good massage, I stretch and I like reflexology. As an athlete you always look for that one percent more so that you can demand more from your body when you are on the field.”
Greek Handball Team Diomedes Argos
Greek handball team Diomedes Argos also saw a significant and measurable decrease in overall medical expenditure during two periods when they had orthopedic reflexologist Spiridon Dimitrakoulas on their team. During these two spells they won the European Challenge Cup as well as two Greek Championships.
Marathon runner Arjan
A client of mine who runs marathons gave the following reaction after his first foot reflexology treatment: “If you have your feet massaged with the idea that it is just like a regular massage but on your feet, you cannot be more surprised. I no longer have problems with my back, no more tension in my body and I am less likely to suffer from acidification while running. These are the short-term effects of 1 treatment. I want one more time!”.
What if you are ticklish under your feet, legs, knees or have a very hard sole?
Can you still enjoy the benefits of foot reflexology?
If the pressure is applied correctly, reflexology is not ticklish at all. It feels very different, so sensitive feet should not be a barrier to not taking a reflexology treatment. I have three clients whose partners and even the physiotherapist are not allowed to touch their feet, they are so sensitive under their feet. But they do come to me for treatments. It just depends on how you grip a foot and where you apply pressure.
Thick skin or calluses on the feet and hands can be an indication of an imbalance and are therefore interesting for the reflexologist. It can also be caused by wearing slippers a lot. A thicker skin over the entire foot is not a barrier to not enjoying a foot reflexology massage or experiencing its effect, but it would be best to go to a reflexologist with a firm pressure, just as there are people who like a want a firm body massage.
Is there an optimal time for runners to undergo reflexology treatment?
The best time for runners to receive reflexology treatment is recommended in the two days before a race and the first two days after a race.
Before the race it is very nice to receive a treatment to relieve the tension and stress of the race and thus relax.
If you look at recovery after a race or marathon, the optimal days to undergo treatment are on a rest day and in the first four days after the race. The best is even within the first two days after a race. Stress impairs recovery within the first 96 hours after injury and reducing stress ensures optimal recovery.
Ultimately, the best way to see what the effect of reflexology is is to try it yourself. Also try to maintain the results by booking a treatment with a foot reflexology therapist once every four to six weeks, and reserve this time for yourself for recovery and self-care.
February 24, July 5 and September 3, 2015
Japanese Research Foot Reflexology
Scientific research into foot reflexology in Japan
Martina Hingis talks about foot reflexology
Diomedes Argos and their unseen hero
AOR on running and reflexology
Run and Become