Broaching the Subject of Stinky Feet is no Small Feat

By Mandy Urena

(Author of If These Hands Could Talk: The Girl who Touched the World)



My friend and fellow massage therapist Joanne hates massaging clients’ feet, and either avoids massaging them like the plague or glosses over them as quickly as possible.


“Why are you so anti-feet? “I ask.


”Feet stink and sometimes I can’t get the smell out of my hands. And feet are ugly. And the yellow nails…I just can’t”, she replies.


I see her point although I don’t mind massaging the feet at all. In fact, as a reflexologist, I love feet and could spend a full hour massaging those puppies. Seeing the client totally surrender falling into a deep slumber, I know the body is starting to heal itself and my job is simply to facilitate that healing.


A good foot massage is the icing on the full-body massage cake and its therapeutic value cannot be understated. So, how can we therapists ensure that we do not suffer a stinky foot at the foot of the massage table?


  1. We can ask our clients to shower prior to their appointments. This can be verbalized on the phone or be added to our client intake online.

  2. We can incorporate a little spa treatment into the massage by wringing out a hand towel in hot water and adding a few drops of lavender or rose essential oil. It only takes a minute to wrap the towel around the foot and for cheesy feet to start smelling like a bouquet of flowers. What better return on investment?

  3. We can opt to do pressure point massage over the sheets or blanket, adding some tapotement to stimulate blood circulation. It feels both relaxing and energizing, even if we don’t physically touch the skin.

There is also a more drastic measure for the defiant client who refuses to comply with the foot washing and who shows up week after week with chronically festering feet in tow (or should I say, in toe?) In this case, a colleague of mine who shall remain nameless (but let’s call her Cecilia from Boston) has suggested we try her failproof solution. This life hack came about because Cecilia was sick of feeling nauseous from her client’s feet that smelled like feta. Her friendly reminders to wash before every session fell on deaf ears, so she decided it was payback time.

Knowing that Mr. Tuesday Morning at Ten’s favorite parts of the massage were face and feet, she decided to go against protocol and rub feet first, immediately followed by the face—without passing Go,


without collecting $200 and without washing her hands. This way, any stench, toe jam, fluff balls from socks and any other contaminating foreign body stuck to her hands, were transferred directly to his face as she massaged his cheeks, chin, nose and mouth. (I think I just threw up a little bit in my own mouth visualizing this scenario). It took only a few sessions of tough love for her regular to begin regularly scrubbing his feet with soap before climbing up onto the massage table.