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After hitting museums, hiking, biking, and touring, your feet deserve a mini spa treatment.

Picture this: You’re on a dream holiday, one with excellent hiking, food tours, museums, and other activities that require a functioning body. But after just one day of pacing through a packed itinerary, your achy feet have trouble keeping up with your ambition and threaten to throw the whole vacation off course. How can you prevent this from happening? 

For the weary-footed among us, massage therapist Lara Katsman of  New York City’s Haven Spa has developed the Tourist Massage, employing alternative healing methods like heat and aromatherapy to target those areas that beleaguer travelers the most,  while also helping to re-adjust the internal clock after long flights. Below, we talked to Katsman about her remedying techniques and picked up some tips on how use them on our own tightly scheduled journeys.    

Why did you decide to develop this massage?

“I wanted to focus on something that we don’t target in usual sessions. In the Tourist Massage, we deal with shoulders and backs, yes, but the main target is feet: We spend half of a 90-minute massage on them because they’re the most neglected body part. They’re constantly abused and when we’re traveling, even more so.  The process begins with a heat application, which helps to prepare and relax the feet. Then an intense foot and leg massage, combined with stretches to create a little bit of therapeutic inflammation, followed by increased blood flow towards the lymph nodes, depuffing exhausted extremities. The cooling gel we apply in the end calms and reduces tiredness.” 

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How would I replicate that process when I’m out on my own?

“So let’s say you’ve been hiking. Take your sneakers off and sit down, lean a little bit against something, and elevate your legs, letting all fluid drain away towards the lymph nodes, which we have behind the knees and in the groin area. If there are rocks around you, press your feet against some rocks. Some will be cooler, some will be hotter, and the contrast will help;  that is what your body needs for relief.”

What can I do when I’m back in my hotel room, with more tools at my disposal?

“Well, the first rule is always to elevate. Then the next thing is to press against a smooth surface. If possible, use a stone—maybe one you took from your hike—and use it to stimulate the feet. If you are in a hotel room and there are no stones available, you can use a washcloth or some sort of towel. Roll the towel tightly, hold it with both hands and roll it all along the soles of your feet. If you can do it with hot temperature and then cold temperature, that’s even better. ”

What about just soaking your feet?  Does that work?

“Soaking your feet feels nice and soothing when they’re in the water. But when you take your feet out and and walk, it feels the same, because you did not really do enough. You’ll then elevate your legs and work your feet with the rolled towel with the different temperatures. And if you have some refreshing peppermint oil on hand, it feels fantastic.”

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Speaking of peppermint, aromatherapy is utilized beneficially in your massages.  What scents are useful to travel with?

“Spearmint or peppermint oil is best for feet because it has a strong smell and is also a refreshing scent. Basically, you just inhale a few drops, it gives you a little boost, and you’re good to go. This is how aromatherapy works. If you’re trying to calm the mind, lavender always works, but something more interesting for traveling is bergamot. It’s from the citrus tree but it doesn’t have the citrusy, acidic scent. It’s more of a sweet scent, and not only does it soothe nerves, it calms your digestive system, which is basically the number one trigger for discomfort when we want to relax. It’s amazing how bergamot can calm you down.”

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