At the beginning of every reflexology treatment, I take a minute to observe your feet before I start the treatment. Why? The colour, temperature, texture and condition of your feet can suggest what’s going on in your body, and help me identify potential imbalances in the body. These things change over time, indeed, your feet will probably look quite different at the end of a treatment to how they did when you first got on my couch, and it’s fun to compare before and after photos! Likewise, it is interesting to see changes over a course of treatments. These clues are often born out once the treatment commences, and I can feel for imbalances as I work the reflexes with my fingers.
Remember, these are only clues. I will look first to see if these things are influenced by your footwear, general temperature in the room, the weather, injuries to the foot or any other common sense explanations. What I do not do is read your feet – some reflexologists believe you can learn about a person’s personality and past traumas based on the appearance of feet. This is a whole other discussion and one that I do not subscribe to, or think helpful for clients who have come for a relaxing reflexology treatment.
So what am I looking for?
Here are some of the things that I look out for and why:
Colour and Temperature
Reflexology links specific parts of the foot, known as reflexes, to other organs and systems in the body. Meridian Reflexologists and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that energy, or Chi, flows along the Meridian pathways throughout the body, and when this energy becomes blocked, illness can occur. In the feet, this can be represented by colour. For example, hot and red reflexes can indicate excess energy, where an area is working hard; whereas pale, white and cold areas can suggest deficient energy. So I might see red tips of the toes when someone has sinus congestion, or a pale, cold instep when they have a sluggish digestive system.
Generally cold feet and a blue tinge tends to suggest poor circulation. Yellow areas on the feet can suggest a build up of toxins in that area. Feet often have a range of temperatures, and sometimes each foot can differ too. For example, your toes might be cold, but the heels hot.
Changes on the feet can show internal organ condition, and be influenced by diet. For example, red areas at the outer edge can indicate expansion of capillaries due to excessive consumption of foods such as caffeine, refined sugars, alcohol or medications. This shows that the heart and circulatory system is irritated and being overworked. This can lead to general fatigue, and is often accompanied by overactive liver, kidney and bladder functions.
Here I am looking at how hard or soft different areas of your feet are, as well as any areas of dry skin, hard skin or cracks. This can suggest dehydration, as well as deficient energy in an area. Hard skin is the body’s way of protecting itself – think of a blister or area of hard skin where shoes have rubbed, or hard skin which has built up as a result of your gait. Hard skin around the heels can be indicative of lower back pain or knee problems. If after discussion there is no obvious reason for this hard skin, it may signify a physical or even emotional response. For example, people with shoulder problems often have a small circular area of hard skin under their 5th metatarsal joint.
Don’t worry, I don’t actively smell your feet! But some feet will have an aroma, and even this can give clues as to what is going on in the body. Cheesy feet can be a sign that there is a large amount of waste matter building up in the body. This is often related to diet, poor circulation and as a result, constipation. An acetone smell can suggest the urinary system is out of balance, which can be improved by drinking more water and receiving reflexology to support the urinary and digestive systems.
Corns, Moles and Blemishes
If there is a corn or mark on the feet, again not explained as a result of footwear or gait, their location may again suggest an imbalance on that area of the body. While moles do not tend to move (!), corns and callouses can change and disappear as the body heals.
Which direction are the feet pointing? Straight up, rolling inwards or outwards? Is one foot doing something different to the other? How flexible are they? Is there any resistance when I move them? Foot inversion or eversion can point to weak muscles or issues further up the kinetic chain. Resistance when I’m rotating ankles, or the client moving the feet for me, can suggest someone who likes to be in control and who finds it hard to switch off!
As well as looking to see which reflexes are affected, I’m also looking to see which meridians may be out of balance. For example, if redness, dry skin and a corn all appear on the same meridian, this suggests a blockage. 6 of the body’s 12 meridians start or end in the feet (the others run horizontally across the body, down the arms). The location of lumps, bumps, corns on the toes can be a strong indicator of which meridians may be in need of support.
Intrigued? All this before I even start the treatment! Have a good look at your feet and take note of what colours you see, any areas of hard skin or blemishes. And keep checking my social media pages as the focus this week is Reflexology!