In 2014 I wrote an article discussing the different kinds of shoulder massage that is available on different massage chairs. In that article, I had to break down the different types of shoulder airbags and massage mechanisms employed by those airbags and what areas of the “shoulder” region are massaged by the differnet types of airbags. It can get confusing when someone asks if a chair has shoulder massage.
Well, everyone knows what the calf and foot is, so answering the question of whether a massage chair has calf and foot massage is moot. But, what does matter is the type of foot and calf massage a chair can offer. That is what this article will address.
- Airbags – These have been the most common form of foot and calf “massage” in the past. As a matter of fact, all the Japanese-made massage chairs still only use airbags in the feet and calves. Airbags are used primarily for compression of the inside and outside of the legs and feet. The compression affects the musculature as well as the joints (feet). Some chairs also use airbags behind the calves to push rubber nobules into the belly of the gastrocnemius musles, aka your calf muscles. Some chairs use airbags underneath the feet to do the same. I put quotation marks around the word “massage” because some would say that compressing the feet and calves is not truly massage. It can be therapeutic, no doubt, but it may be a stretch to call that compression a massge. The iRobotics 7 and the Fujiiryoki 3800 also employ a stacked calf airbag massage mechanism. Instead of the more traditional one calf massage mechanism, these models have two calf massage components stacked on top of each other. This allows for broader contact and massage for the calves as well as massage closer to the knee joint.
- Rollers – Foot rollers (under the soles of the feet) have become quite popular in the Chinese-made chairs. The American-made iRobotics 7 massage chair also employs foot rollers, but the Japanese chairs do not have them yet. I think they are a great feature and, used in concert with the foot airbags, offer a great experience for the user. Some chairs, i.e. Apex Ultra and Titan TP-8400, have strong airbags pushing down on the feet which can become very intense when combined with the foot rollers. Sometimes adjustments to the air pressure need to be made to make it bearable. But, for pretty much all chairs with foot rollers, they can be turned off too if it gets to be too much. Some other chairs, like the Osaki Dreamer, Cyber, 7200CR, and 4oooT, have foot rollers that are quite light. Chairs can have anywhere from 2-6 rollers per foot, which can affect the way the rollers feel. For all the talk of reflexology in the alternative health care world, the foot rollers really fit nicely in that conversation.
Calf rollers are a fairly new feature that we are seeing more of, but still not nearly as popular yet as the foot rollers have become. The two chairs that we carry with calf rollers are the Apex Ultra and the Human Touch Navitas Sleep. Here is the difference 1.) the Apex Ultra has a round disc behind the belly of each calf muscle that spins around and rubs that spot of the calf muscle (gastrocnemius). It is a nice feature but after a while it can become annoying after some time of spinning in the same spot on your muscles. You cannot turn it off like you can the foot rollers, and 2.) the Navitas Sleep actually has calf rollers that roll up and down the sides of each lower leg to give you a phenomenal massage. It can be intense, but man is it cool, in my honest opinion, and I think it is a phenomenal feature for athletes and folks who stand on their feet all day. Incidentally, both of these models that have calf rollers also have foot rollers and airbags or paddles (Human Touch – see below).
- Paddles – This is a feature exclusive to Human Touch chairs. It is a patented technology that uses soft rubber, molded “paddles” that move in a wave-like pattern to enhance circulation of the blood and lymph in the feet and calves. It is really quite remarkable. It is quite different from airbag technology and you’ll understand what I’m saying the moment you sit in the chair and use it.
That’s about it for my insights to the foot and calf massage options available out there. I hope it helps in some way.
Dr. Alan Weidner
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