All reflexologists see the feet during a treatment, but most don’t really look at them and even fewer know how to study them and use the knowledge from this in their practice.
Foot reading means going beyond just seeing the feet in front of us. It is about looking at them carefully and knowing how to interpret what their appearance is telling us about the holistic health and well being of our clients. But despite the wealth of information the appearance of the reflexes gives us, the subject has never really been given the attention it deserves by the profession as a whole.
This is a great pity because knowing how to read a client’s health on their feet is one of the most useful skills we can possess. It gives us so much more information than simply using our sense of touch alone, and if we don’t know how to foot read we are not giving the best possible treatment to our clients.
Analysing Every Aspect of the Feet
With such a wealth of information about our clients’ health literally staring us in the face, it is strange that foot reading has not been used more. Maybe it is because feet all share the same fundamental physiology, that before we start to look at them carefully we tend to assume that they all look fairly similar. However, the more feet we study the more we become aware of just how different the appearance of each pair is. This is because the entire history of the health and well being of each person is shown visually on their feet, and they are all just as unique and varied as their individual owners.
These differences mean that we can gather an enormous amount of information by closely studying not only individual reflexes, but also different sections of the feet as well as their overall appearance.
Each physiological aspect can tell us something: the curve of the three arches and the shape and alignment of the toes, tension in the muscles and torsion at the joints, variations in colour, distended veins or broken capillaries, the width and depth of lines, differing skin textures, dips and swellings in the lymph and other tissue.
I will be looking at all these things in the book, and what they are telling us about the physical health and emotional well being of the person, if only we know how to read them.
Visual Reflexology is about using foot reading within the wider scope of our practice. How we can best apply our observations to improve our treatments and connect with clients. And how to use foot reading in the future development of the profession as a whole.
Even as foot reading has become better known over recent years, the focus so far, on the whole, has been on how to foot read. So I also want to look more at the reasons why we should foot read, i.e. what it adds to our therapy beyond what we already get from client notes and palpation (palpation=what we feel on the feet), and I use the term Visual Reflexology to mean this
I will look at Visual Reflexology in the chapters that comprise the first part of the online book and will be considering what added value foot reading gives to a client’s experience of their treatment, what it adds to our practice generally and what role it can play in the future of the profession. I expand on this a little below but will look at it in much greater depth in the book.
Before the start of the treatment
If we know how to read the reflexes, this can guide us in the questions we ask clients before we even touch their feet. And very importantly, visual skills are of great use for reading the health of clients who have problems communicating how they feel, such as children or those with learning difficulties, or who are very ill and too weak to talk.
It can also help us decide how best to plan the treatment by showing us the most evidently problematic or disturbed reflexes that we will need more time to work on. And it can encourage a more holistic approach than simply focusing on individual reflexes does because looking at the feet gives us an overview of the whole person in a way we don’t get from palpation. And as we can compare the differences between the left and right foot we can easily see imbalances between the two sides of the body.
During a treatment
During the treatment itself, we can use it to complement our methods of palpation. The appearance of the reflexes can help us decide which techniques would be best to apply in order to balance the reflexes as effectively as possible, whether stimulating or calming, and for how long. Then any changes in how the feet look as the treatment progresses will let us know how effective our work is being. And looking out for movements in the feet, as well as the body of a client during a treatment, and understanding what they mean, also gives us vital clues to how well our treatment is working.
After a treatment
We can keep a record of changes that occurred in the appearance of the feet during treatments, between appointments, and in the longer term, and if we wish we can also take photos of the feet. Using these records alongside our palpation notes and client feedback gives us a much fuller picture of how effective a course of treatments is being.
Also, reading the feet can help inform us as to which other health care professionals, if any, we should refer the client to. This is turn will help us decide how best to move forward with our treatments.
Within the wider context of our profession
We can use foot reading to deepen our understanding of the nature of the reflexes and help us to reach an agreement as to where to map them on the feet, as well as addressing other important challenges the profession faces.
I will go into all this in greater detail in the book chapters
An Example of Visual Reflexology
Fungal Skin Condition
We can see a lot of peeling skin on the toes, which is athlete's foot caused by an overgrowth of the bacteria candida, and we should refer the client for a clinical diagnosis. However, they will likely be prescribed a topical fungal cream which may only keep the symptoms at bay.
Holistically, the most important thing for an overgrowth of candida is to keep the gut bacteria healthy, so the main things to consider are nutrition and digestion. So when we see fungal growth like this is it telling us we need to focus our treatments on the relevant reflexes to support gut health. But it is also telling us that in this case the impact of the candida is affecting the reflexes in the head.
We can also look at the emotional connections to fungal overgrowth and poor diet. And consider referring the client to another therapist such as a holistic nutritionist.
My way of foot reading
It is still the case that many reflexologists know nothing about foot reading, or have only heard about reading the personality on the feet, as there are several books that have been written on the subject. But even amongst those who have read these books, many do not realise that there is also a mass of information about the physical health to be read on the feet.
In the book, I look at learning to read all the energetic fields on the feet, but I tend to start with the initial emphasis on the physical health of the person because although we work holistically, reflexologists are still bodywork therapists. Then I move on to the mind, body, and spirit, before considering all the energy fields together as a unified whole.
My way of foot reading is firmly based on reflexology theory and practice, and there is no need for additional training or understanding of any other energetic approach or modality at all. Anyone with a basic understanding of reflexology, even students just starting out, will be able to understand the content of the book. Then, in the same way, that we all develop our own individual style and method of working with our hands, members can find their own unique way of using their foot reading skills.
Naturally, as with any aspect of reflexology, there are varying approaches to reading the feet beside my own. They are all valid and we can learn a lot from studying different methods, so I will also be looking at other forms of foot reading. The ultimate goal is for foot readers who teach from different perspectives to work together, and in fact, a lot of collaboration is already happening and it is very exciting.
Foot reading is gradually becoming part of the mainstream as it is realised how much it can add to reflexologists’ treatments and overall skill set. But there is still a long way to go until it is no longer considered an area of minority interest, or a field of advanced study. It is by foot readers sharing our knowledge and working together that we will gain the greatest holistic understanding of this wonderful side of our profession, and persuade the professional bodies that all students need to be taught how to foot read as an essential part of the basic curriculum.