What is it?

Barefoot massage therapy, also known as Ashiatsu (ashi-at-su), is a broad yet specific form of gently compressive deep tissue therapy provided by the massage therapist’s feet.

Because the massage therapist is able to use their body weight, an amazing depth is achieved that is helpful at alleviating postural, sports-induced, and injury-specific tension.

The therapist is able to modify pressure easily, as with deep tissue massage, to ensure that your needs are met.

Locations: Halifax Location, Dartmouth Location



  • Relaxes muscles and joints

  • Facilitates greater range of motion

  • Restorative & therapeutic as a form of deep tissue therapy

  • Can be used to effectively treat trigger points (“knots”)

  • Improves circulation of blood & lymph (waste) in the body

History of Ashiatsu

There are many cultures that promote using their feet to provide massage.  Thai barefoot massage is a popular practice in which therapists use staccato-style compressions on a clothed client. In India, a type of barefoot massage called Chavutti Thiurmal uses an overhead rope to aid the massage therapist’s balance.

This style dates back over 2000 years, and is taught mainly out of Kerala.  In Japanese culture - also the origin language of the term ashiatsu (“ashi” meaning foot; “atsu” meaning pressure) - we commonly see parallel bars mounted over the table for the therapist to use for support.  At Sore Spots, we fuse the stable structure of parallel bars with the stylistic techniques used in India, the basics of General Swedish Massage, and our own therapeutic approach to massage care.  

Credit: Ashiatsu Canada, Nicole Ramien, RN/RMT

Is there any reason not to have an ashiatsu massage? 

Ashiatsu may not be indicated for every client that comes through our doors. Please thoroughly read the list of exclusions below prior to booking a session.

  • Breast implants within the last nine months

  • Major joint surgeries within the last 6 weeks

  • Eye procedures/Lasik surgery within 72 hours

  • History of tuberculosis, thrombosis, or ongoing kidney disorders

  • Rib or any bone fracture/break within 6 months

  • Phlebitis or cellulitis

  • Spondylolisthesis

  • Osteoporosis

As with any massage treatment, your therapist may choose to modify treatment or not provide treatment based on the presence of certain conditions.

What do I do if I don’t want anyone to touch me with their feet? Isn't that a little gross?

At Sore Spots, we fully comply with health and safety standards that are current in the massage therapy profession. As massage therapy is not a regulated health profession in Nova Scotia, Sore Spots follows the Standards of Practice set forth by the College of Massage Therapy of Ontario. We use lotion holsters with pumps that ensure no contamination of lubricant.

Each massage therapist takes scrupulous care of their feet, engaging in foot soaks, scrubs, and pedicures (use of nail polish is not permitted) on a regular basis. Also, towels covering stools (used for balance and table access) and washable mats on the floor are changed between clients. Just like with a regular hands on treatment, we wash our feet before and after every session.

We wear one-time-use sockettes before we begin treatment and put them back on before we leave the room. Our bare feet never hit the floor!  

That must be way too deep?

Actually, some of our clients who prefer a more gentle massage love Ashiatsu because of the nature of the broad strokes provided by the foot.  Deeper compression can be achieved without the pain associated with a sharp elbow, finger, or thumb, so clients are able to relax into a greater therapeutic experience.  For our clients who love deep tissue, we are able to access the same depth accomplished by the hands by using the feet. 

Is ashiatsu massage therapy covered by my insurance plan?

Because ashiatsu uses all the same principles of hands-on massage therapy, it is currently a recognized modality and is covered the same as hands-on massage under your extended health insurance policy. As always, please check with your insurance provider as to the specifics of your personal plan.

Frequently Asked Questions