Few students and therapists really think about this. Usually you fall into a routine at massage school, and bitch about it if you don’t like it, but mostly therapists continue doing what they’re used to.
Some modalities require that you don’t wear footwear. Ashiatsu, pictured above, and Thai massage are examples of massage modalities where you use the feet as tools. Many therapists don’t practice those styles. This post is for therapists who normally work on the table and don’t use their feet as tools. Also, this will answer why some schools require shoes.
If you’re at a school that doesn’t require shoes then it’s probably not a large chain school as they seem more concerned with professionalism. If you work in a relaxed environment you may also see more therapists slipping off their shoes. You probably can’t get away with this at a high end spa. I’m going to present both sides and not pick for you. YOU’RE RESPONSIBLE for knowing the consequences of your actions. If your school or job requires footwear don’t mess with them. When you’re on your own or in a relaxed center you choose.
Arguments for going barefoot. You didn’t become a therapist so that you can dress up in a suit and sit in a cubicle all day. We are supposed to be in a relaxed environment and enjoy our work. Part of that allows us to have different standards on professional dress, listen to soothing music, having candles burning, or whatever creates a nurturing environment for you and your clients. Going barefoot also helps you feel grounded. Some clients have a lot of issues they will throw at you, or you may be going through your own things. Getting to a peaceful place where you are safe and relaxed is important while massaging. Finally, some therapists feel that going barefoot gives them a better grip. I don’t like this reason, because I wonder what kind of footwear they’re buying that has such a horrible grip. Isn’t grip a factor when you choose a shoe. When I was in the restaurant industry I chose a shoe that gave me a great grip in case the kitchen floor was greasy or wet. I remember seeing some servers take a fall, and after making sure they weren’t hurt, running around them pointing and laughing. Well, maybe not in that order. I don’t require the same grip now, but I still make sure not to get slippery footwear. If you go this route PLEASE TAKE CARE OF YOUR FEET. Even if your client is comfortable with your bare feet they don’t want to see your toe jam and dirt trapped under your toe nail fungus.
Arguments for shoes. It just looks more professional. Isn’t the industry constantly struggling with professionalism. Does any other healthcare practitioner take off their footwear. Can you imagine your doctor or dentist slipping off their footwear as they come in to check you out. Also, safety and health concerns like a hot stone falling off a client onto your bare foot. Your employers carpet may look clean, but when was the last time you saw it getting cleaned. What if the last therapist in the room was barefoot, but they had althlete’s foot. Your feet could become filthy, not to mention prone clients can sometimes drool. Imagine effleuraging the back and drool falls onto your foot, or you step in a puddle of it. Some clients don’t like feet. Just seeing feet is enough to get them to shut down and you don’t want your client getting offended. Sure they may never know, but some will open their eyes and not like what they see. Worse they may not like what they smell. On the other hand some clients like feet too much. If a client is excessively pestering you about going barefoot this is probably a red flag that your client is interested in becoming aroused by looking at your feet. I didn’t become a therapist to get people off, including with my feet, not that my feet would be arousing for anyone. Shoes offer more support if your day is long, so you don’t start getting foot pain. It would be ironic if a therapist got plantar fasciitis from massaging.
I’ve massaged both ways. I get the appeal of being barefoot, but prefer shoes because I like the support and I feel my shoes give me a better grip. Also, I don’t get lots of pedicures or meticulously clean my feet. In truth after minimal care, wrestling, and martial arts I’m sure nobody wants to look at my beast feet. I didn’t mention socks in this post. They can be a middle ground, but hurt grip. Whatever you decide make sure to get off on the right foot. Hmmm, I’m leaving that last line in, but will apologize for it.