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Ashiatsu Massage: Experience the Benefits of Barefoot Massage

Ever heard of Ashiatsu massage? Not sure? Maybe you’ve seen the opening scene of Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle (2003) with Lucy Liu where she jumps on a man’s back as an undercover Ashiatsu masseuse… 

Ashiatsu massage is also known as barefoot massage, an awesomely unique massage technique that fuses ancient Eastern medicine and modern Western practice. If you’re looking to try something different when it comes to deep tissue massage, Ashiatsu may be just what you’re looking for! 

On this page, we’ll explore what Ashiatsu massage is along with the multiple benefits it can provide. 

What is Ashiatsu Massage?

Simply put, Ashiatsu massage is a therapeutic massage technique where the practitioner uses their bodyweight and feet to apply pressure to your body. This barefoot bodywork has roots stemming from Buddhist monks and emerged in various parts of Asia - starting in China and later on in other countries such as Japan and Thailand.

Today, as the benefits of massage therapy have gained widespread recognition, the styles of Ashiatsu have evolved and grown in popularity around the world - from the Philippines to Hawaii and India to name a few. Now, this type of massage can be found in most massage locations. 

The use of feet to apply deep, broad strokes to your muscles is what sets this type of massage apart from other styles. The deep penetration and use of pressure are what make it awesome for relieving tension, improving circulation, and promoting overall relaxation.

ashiatsu massage technique


What to Expect When Getting an Ashiatsu Massage

Just like other types of massage, the main reason behind relaxation and pain relief is due to the  manipulation of your body’s soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons, etc.)

In Japanese, Ashi means foot and atsu means pressure - which translates to foot pressure. So, if you have a dislike for close contact with others’ feet, this massage style is not for you! 

As the therapist uses their feet, they can apply deeper pressure using their bodyweight and also use longer strokes to release any muscle knots. Most people may think the practitioner just walks on your back but it’s more of a gliding motion.

Getting a massage in this style will indeed involve the practitioner being on your back and using bars for support and balance. As they proceed to use the soles of their feet, they are able to help you achieve relaxation while applying the deep pressure your body needs! 

The main difference aside from using their feet is that Ashiatsu often uses a lower and wider massage table and of course, the bars over the table for the therapist - some of this equipment may vary depending on the location. 

Just like most professional spas, they may ask some questions to get a brief health history to make sure that there are no contraindications to you receiving a session. 

Is Getting a Back Walking Massage Worth It?

If you have stress, muscle tension, or knots - Ashiatsu can very well be worth your time and money. Some of the benefits for this type of massage include:

  • Deep muscle relaxation 
  • Improved circulation
  • Pain relief
  • Better range of motion (as massage can help you loosen tight muscles!)
  • Stress relief

The pressures applied in Ashiatsu massage can vary from (Swedish) traditional or deep tissue so if you are used to stronger pressure, this can be an option for you. 


ashiatsu massage benefits

Ashiatsu Barefoot Massage Contraindications

There are several occasions during which Ashiatsu massage may not be for you. Some of these conditions include:

  • Broken bones or fractures
  • Bruises
  • Diabetes
  • Acute stages of conditions
  • Frail or elderly
  • High blood pressure
  • Hemophilia
  • Pregnancy
  • Skin infections and more… [1] 

As reported by a study published in Pain Medicine, massage therapy (in general) is now being integrated into acute care hospital settings and can potentially provide the following benefits:

  • Integrates physical relaxation into the healing process
  • Mental relaxation 
  • Enhances one’s ability to cope with emotional aspects of pain
  • Generally recognized as safe
  • Improves pain management
  • Few risks or adverse effects [2] 

So even if you might be unable to find Ashiatsu massage in your area, evidence shows that getting any good massage is worth it! 

Ashiatsu Massage FAQ

What does Ashiatsu massage do?

Ashiatsu massage also known as barefoot massage helps the body achieve several things such as deep muscle relaxation and (like most other types of massage) improved circulation. The use of a therapist’s bodyweight in combination with gravity will allow them to reach deeper tissues with less discomfort for the client - other practitioners often have to use their hands, elbows, or thumbs to reach certain pressure levels and with different effects. 

Is Ashiatsu better than deep tissue?

Some may argue that Ashiatsu massage is better than deep tissue massage because it can provide stronger pressure (through the use of body weight on the feet) and deeper, longer strokes. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, the broader surface area of the sole of the foot can provide better outcomes in comparison to the hands, fingers, or elbows that other techniques use. 

What is the difference between shiatsu and Ashiatsu massage?

The main difference between these two techniques is how the therapeutic massage is given. Shiatsu applies pressure via thumbs, fingers, palms, and possibly elbows or knees. Ashiatsu, on the other hand, uses feet to provide deep tissue massage - as the therapist utilizes overhead bars for control and balance. 

Shiatsu massage may also use different pressure levels and may focus on the body’s meridians or energy pathways. Ashiatsu massage appears to have a main focus on delivering deep pressure and aims to release tension and knots in deep muscle tissue. 

What do you wear to an Ashiatsu massage?

You can wear light clothing to your massage but will likely have to undress so the therapist can appropriately drape (cover) you as needed. There are specific draping methods that provide the needed body exposure so the therapist can reach certain areas as they go through your session - a half-drape may be used (half of your body being out in the open). 

Ashiatsu Massage: Conclusion

Ashiatsu massage is a unique therapy that appears to benefit those with aches and pains, especially back pain! Your back muscles can run deep and have such a large surface area - this along with the fact that it can harbor stress and tension are reasons enough to give Ashiatsu a shot if you haven’t already! 

If you are unfortunate and have no immediate access to a good massage spa, you can always use the QL Claw to release the tension in the deep muscles of the back. It’s the ultimate personal massage tool and you won’t have to go to a spa to reap the benefits of it - Release those muscles and relieve your pain ASAP… check it out!

use the QL Claw if you can't get an ashiatsu massage





[1] Mace, M. Barefoot masters Ashiatsu bar advanced home study. 2008.

[2] Crawford, C., Boyd, C., Paat, C., Price, A., Xanakis, L., Yang, E., Zhang, W. The impact of massage therapy on function in pain populations - a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials: part I, patients experiencing pain in the general population. Pain Medicine, 2016. 

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