Everything the serious pedicurist needs to increase her pedicure business and improve her techniques.


Step Into Foot Reflexology

Offering foot reflexology in your salon is a perfect complement to pedicure services.

Gerri walked into the salon with lower back pain. She gingerly sat on the facial chair and removed her shoes and socks. Twenty minutes later she was smiling. The back pain had disappeared and her feet felt better than they have in a long time.

Bob has little or no sensation in his feet as a result of nerve damage caused by diabetes. At the beginning of the session he couldn’t feel the reflexologist’s hands on his feet, but after about 25 minutes, he could. It’s a very relaxing, beautiful feeling.

What put the smiles on Gerri’s and Bob’s faces? It’s foot reflexology, and it’s a growing trend in salons. It’s a great way to generate more income from your business while helping people to improve the quality of their lives.

Carolyn Stenger, a pedicurist at Classic Look Ltd. in Lansdale, Pa., saw her bookings increase as a result of adding foot reflexology to her service. “The clients who receive foot reflexology tend to schedule return appointments more often than those who don’t,” Stenger says.

Fueled by the public’s heightened awareness of its benefits and the emergence of full-service salons and day spas, foot reflexology is finding its way into salons all over the country. Mary Trabocco, owner of Total E-Clips,- a full-service salon in suburban Philadelphia, credits this trend to the growing sophistication of women regarding their hair and body care. Says Trabocco, “Some services work, others do not. Foot reflexology works. I know from its track record that foot reflexology is beneficial; it’s a necessity not a luxury.”

An aromatherapist and certified reflexology instructor who works in the salon industry, Susan Goetzinger, director of the Foot Reflexology Awareness Association in Sherman Oaks, Calif., has another perspective. “The higher the technological sophistication of our society, the higher the need for touch to relieve stress and to heal. I feel that in the very near future, we will be going to day spas for skin care, pedicures, manicures, massage, reflexology, nutrition, aromatherapy, and physical therapy. In not so many words, stress management.”

What Is Foot Reflexology?

Foot reflexologists believe that every part of the body has a corresponding point on the feet. They use hand, fingers and thumb pressure techniques on those points. Working the feet in this manner is believed to affect the corresponding part of the body.

There are several methods of foot reflexology currently being practiced, including the Foot Relaxation method, the Original Ingram method, the Standard American method, and the Gentle method. While all methods are effective, there are some differences, including variations in techniques, sequences, and reflex areas.

There are three main theories that explain how foot reflexology works, the nerve theory is based on the fact that there are more than 7,000 nerve endings the feet. Working the feet stimulates these nerve endings, sending impulses though the spinal cord and brain to corresponding parts of the body.

The second theory, called the zone theory, states that there are five longitudinal zones running through the body. Stimulation of any spot along a particular zone will affect all other areas of that same zone. This theory, developed in the early part of this century by Dr. William Fitzgerald, is the basis for most modern foot reflexology practices.

The third theory takes the zones one step further and relies on the existence of the meridians, also called energy channels, in the body as traced by Chinese doctors 4,000 years ago and used in acupuncture. The thinking is that the zone theory is a rediscovery of the meridians because the six major meridians ran through the feet.

While they may not agree on the theoretical aspect of why reflexology works, most reflexologists agree on the practical aspect of how it works. Quite simply, it is believed that deposits, called crystals, develop in the feet, blocking nerve impulses. Reflexologists find and break them up. The content of crystals has not been determined, but hardened toxins, calcium deposits, or uric acid have all been considered. Destroying the crystals unblocks the nerve and allows impulses to flow freely again.

Getting Down to Business

There has been little scientific study of foot reflexology. Experienced reflexologists, however, have case studies in their files in which people had their symptoms relieved or eliminated.

There is a tendency of the client to ask health questions or expect the reflexologist to identify hidden health problems, but foot reflexologists do not diagnose illnesses. In feet, most reflexology schools train students to be very careful in how they discuss the reflex areas with their clients.

It is a good practice to have every new reflexology client sign a consent form with language stating that she knows that reflexology services are not a substitute for medical care. Consent forms and health questionnaires are usually available from a reflexology school. If a client becomes critically ill, the reflexologist may be blamed for the illness. The client (or her family) may claim that they were told that reflexology would cure her and therefore did not seek medical assistance. In addition to a lawsuit, the reflexologist might be charged with practicing medicine without a license and ordered to cease and desist her reflexology practice.

Foot reflexology does not require a license in most states. Many reflexology schools issue certificates to students who successfully complete their coursework. The American Reflexology Certification Board, a national organization, will certify qualifying practitioners of the Standard American method.

Getting Started

You have some options here. You can include reflexology in one of your current services, such as a pedicure, or offer foot reflexology as a stand-alone service. Either way, you will have to learn foot reflexology or hire a foot reflexologist. If you already have a massage therapist on staff, check with her to see if she has reflexology training.

Look for a certified foot reflexologist with solid practical experience. This person should be confident in her knowledge and techniques and good with people. The best test is to ask her to do foot reflexology on you and your staff. Would you pay this person? Some areas of the feet may be sensitive to the pressure, but the tendons should never be sore or bruised as a result of the service. How do you feel immediately afterward? How do you feel the next day? Did you get results (e.g., relaxation or pain relief)?

If you decide to learn foot reflexology, look for training that includes signifi­cant amounts of supervised practice with classes spaced so that you have time to practice between sessions. 

The minimal physical requirements are a quiet area with a chair (a facial chair works well) that allows you to have comfortable access to the client’s feet. You will want a stool or chair to sit on. To set a more relaxing mood, use subdued lighting, put some plants in the area, and play soothing music.

Remember to keep your charge in line with the rest of your menu. Salons in larger metropolitan areas will probably be comfortable charging anywhere from $20 to $30 for a half hour. If you enhance a service with foot reflexology, charge an additional fee based on whether you do relaxation or a full session.

Word of mouth and education are the best ways to introduce your customers to foot reflexology. Education is important because foot reflexology is still a relatively new concept to a lot of people. I use a variety of techniques to educate and interest clients. The techniques I use include offering discount coupons and free 10-minute demonstrations, playing a foot reflexology video in the waiting area, and displaying information in the lobby.

Overcoming Customer Concerns

People can be very self-conscious about their feet. Even people who are not self-conscious will still sometimes make remarks about their ugly feet. There are two excellent responses to these remarks. You could say, ‘Your feet will feel pretty when the session is over,” or “I’ve seen some really ugly feet in my work. Your feet are definitely not in that category.”

There are people who truly have smelly feet, even after they bathe. There are products available to salons that deodorize the feet. Other options include briefly soaking the feet or spraying small amounts of pure rose water on the feet.

People with ticklish feet are surprised when they find that foot reflexology does not tickle. This is because the reflexologist has a firm hold on the foot and works specific areas, with no intention of hurting or tickling the client. A client explained it to me this way, “It feels good, so it doesn’t tickle.”

Approached properly, foot reflexology can be an excellent addition to your menu. In the words of Trabocco, “If people are looking for magic—they’re walking on it.”

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