Best Foot Massager
The Cloud Massager is a versatile and effective foot and lower leg massaging machine. This customizable unit will accommodate most feet and deliver a variety of massage types including kneading Shiatsu, air pressure, vibration, as well as heat. The adjustable bar allows one to fit this machine to a chair, bed or angle it for the calves. This massager also has an oscillating airbag feature that moves one foot and then the other laterally across the rollers. This unique massaging method is great for addressing overstimulation when the user's feet are being kneaded.
While the Cloud Massager will likely have you feeling like you're on cloud nine once it's up and running, we found that the user interface left something to be desired. First off, there are no clear indicators of what setting the machine is in, just different colored flashing lights that will require either a good memory or the keeping the user's manual handy for referencing. Additionally, there are no speed settings to dial-in the experience. That said, this machine offers an all-around better massage experience than the competition and it's easy to clean for multiple users.
The TheraFlow Original Dual Foot Massager is a compact wood roller with 2 knob types (low and high profile) that stimulate the soles of the feet. This unit lacks remote controls, power cords, and dials. As such, the unit is simple and easy to operate while being virtually maintenance-free and easy to store. Cleaning the TheraFlow is a breeze, too. Just wipe it down with a gentle cleaning agent.
The main knock against the TheraFlow is that it requires input from the user — feet are massaged by pushing them back and forth across the knobby roller bars. There are 10 independently rotating roller bars, 5 to a foot. 4 on each side of the unit are uniform low-profile knobs while the remaining roller offers raised, off-set knobs that provide a bit more intense experience when your feet are in need of a little more work. This level of simplecity may be a bit too much for some. However, this basic unit will always be ready to roll. Moreover, in comparison to the price of other models in the class, the TheraFlow provides some low-cost retail therapy as well.
The economic Nekteck has the look of a hot rod which is appropriate since it has plenty of muscle and issues heat while tuning up your feet. The digital push-button interface is streamlined, too, with intuitive massage settings that are easy to operate. This unit is foot focused, meaning it won't work on ankles or calves like others in the class. However, it hits the whole foot with 3 speeds (low, med, and high), 3 adjustable air pressure settings, and kneading shiatsu rollers for the sole.
While there is plenty to praise the Nekteck Foot Massager for, it isn't without its shortcomings. For one, the unit is pretty agressive, particularly on the heel portion of the foot. This is largely due to the downward pressure that the airbags put on the foot to keep in contact with the rollers below. So, if you have sensitive feet, this might not be the machine for you. As an additional consideration, this unit maxes-out at men's size 12. Despite these limitations, we think that this machine is a bargain, especially for those who are seeking a robust massage.
The FIT KING Leg & Foot Air Massager is unique in that the user can sit in any position that she wants whereas other models require that the user be in a seated position or lying down. These wrap-up boots massage the calf and foot with air bladders. The result is a full lower-leg kneading sensation delivered to the user in whatever position is most comfortable. Additionally, the unit is remote controlled with 2 massage types (rolling and uniform pressure).
Unfortunately, this unit favors small and medium size feet with men's size 11 feet protruding slightly out of the wrap. Additionally, the speed of the rolling massage is not adjustable, so you're stuck with playing with pressure instead. Potential purchasers of this product should also be advised that this machine delivers a fairly slow and somewhat subtle messaging action. That said, it proved to be quite nice although it took us a while to warm up to it.
The Snailax 2-in-1 is a versatile Shiatsu kneading machine. It has a foot garage that cocoons the user's feet in a plush synthetic cloth while being warmed and kneaded. The cover can also be removed so that the heated kneading balls can be applied to almost any part of the body. For those of you with big feet, this machine is pretty roomy and will accommodate up to men's size 14 feet. The massage balls operate in a circular rotation that is smooth and strikes a good balance between delivering a solid massage but not over doing it. Additionally, the grippy underside of the unit helps to secure it in place while you receive your pedal pleasure.
Conversely, the Snailax 2-in-1 only address the sole of the feet. Unlike other models here reviewed, this machine has no air pressure. Additionally, the balls that perform the kneading action only cover a portion of the foot requiring one to move their feet around to work the entire sole. Moreover, the speed of the massage is fixed. On the upside, the direction of rotation is adjustable and the overall compact size of the unit means that it's easy to store.
The RENPHO Foot Massager has 3 massage speeds and 3 air pressure settings allowing the user to dial-in their preferred massage intensity. The user's feet are pressed down and forward into the machine by two airbags and the message is delivered by rollers that work the soles of the feet. Further enhancing the experience, the unit offers heat to loosen the mussels as they are kneaded.
Unfortunately, we found the roller action to be pretty aggressive, and, even on the lowest settings, a bit too much for our liking. Also, the design of the unit requires the user to remain in the seated position — an issue that other models have resolved. Finally, the control interface is slanted away from the user and the indicator lights are a bit dim. This makes the interface hard to see and thus the operating procedure is more difficult than it needs to be. That said, if you like a firm foot rub, this could be just the unit for you.
The Miko Shiatsu Foot Massager provides kneading Shiatsu action in combination with downward air pressure pushing the user's feet into the rollers. While many machines use this method, we found the Miko to be more comfortable and relaxing than the others. In part this is because the unit is open in the back so you don't feel like your feet are in a vice. The open back also has the added benefit of accommodating large feet.
Conversely, the open back means that, while large feet will fit, they will not get the full benefit of the rollers on the heel end of their soles. Additionally, the unit does not work the sides of the feet, nor does it provide any ankle massaging action. However, the user interface is intuitive and easy to operate as it color codes the pressure and has a digital display showing the 5 pressure and 2 kneading settings.
The Best Choice Products Therapeutic is a kneading and rolling Shiatsu massage machine. However, it's most notable feature is its side-of-the-foot massage rollers. They are, in our opinion, pretty awesome. The machine has 3 rolling speeds and will pretty much fit any foot size since it is open ended in the front. Despite these seemingly positive features we would not recommend this unit.
Why do we suggest looking elsewhere for a foot massaging machine? First, the unit's roller action is on the intense end of the spectrum. Per manufacturer recommendations, the unit is limited to 30 minute massages and it does not have a heating element. Perhaps most damning in our estimation is that the first machine we ordered did not work at all and the replacement was a different design or a different model altogether — it was unclear. Despite the low cost, this machine isn't worth the money.
Why You Should Trust Us
Senior research analyst Austin Palmer is a seasoned electronics tester who is always on his feet — both at home with his toddler and in the lab running test. When his dogs are barking, he knows what they knead. Likewise, Senior Review Editor Nick Miley is no stranger to sore feet as his plantar fasciitis flares up on long bike rides, ski days, and hikes. Over the years he has experimented with several different treatments and massage styles.
Using their personal experiences and appreciation for a quality foot rub these gumshoe gearheads devised a set of assessments and evaluations that allowed them to make direct comparisons between the class of massager models. All the products were tested in-house and no detail went unscrutinized. Despite the somewhat subjective nature of evaluating a massage, this team labored to be objective in their descriptions of the type — and range — of massages that each unit delivers to the user.
Analysis and Test Results
The following is a deep dive into the metrics (or categories of analysis) used to evaluate each foot massage model in our review. Specifically, we looked at comfort, sizing, adjustability, and coverage/massage area of each machine. The following is a deep dive into the specifics of each metric as well as which models performed well in the individual metrics and why.
While comfort is admittedly a subjective analysis of how one's feet feel when in one massager or another, we made concerted efforts to take a broad view of how diverse users would feel when using one of the models under our review. As such, models like the Snailax 2-in-1, FIT KING, and, to a lesser degree the Cloud, stand out because they do not bind the foot, nor do they significantly restrict the position or posture of the person using these units. We assume that when one is receiving a foot massage they do not want to sit at attention but would rather like to slump into a cozy position. Additionally, these models will accommodate both small and large feet — more on that in the sizing metric discussion.
Other factors aside from foot size and position that we consider when assessing foot massagers for comfort are the way that the model holds the foot in position to deliver a massage. Many models compress the top of the foot and heel with airbags and in some cases this can be uncomfortable or even painful. Those models that are the most comfortable either wrap the lower leg and foot as in the case of the FIT KING or leave the foot unencumbered as in the case of the Cloud, TheraFlow and Snailax 2-n-1. These last two models are unique in that they allow the user to control the pressure of the massage by the pressure the user places on the massage surface.
Sizing and comfort have a lot in common, especially if you have large feet. As such we took stock of the fitting of each model under our review. There are several models that can accommodate feet as large as 14+. These are the Best Choice Products, Cloud, FIT KING, Snailax 2-in-1, and TheraFlow. These models will also accommodate a wide variety of ankle and calves. However, it should be noted that the FIT KING, Cloud, and Best Choice Products will limit the massage coverage for larger feet as the toe or heel will extend beyond the massage surface.
Users with feet size 12 or smaller will find the Miko, Nekteck, and RENPHO to be plenty big. These models are what we dubbed "foot garages" and as such will massage the whole bottom of the foot so long as the foot fits into the unit. These models do not present any limitations to ankle or calf sizes either.
The adjustability metric takes stock of the massagers' ability to adjust both speed and pressure of the kneading. It also looks at massage type and heat options. Surprisingly, few models allow for both speed and air pressure to be adjusted independently. The models that do are the Nekteck and the RENPHO. Both of these models offer 3 settings for massage speeds and 3 settings for downward pressure. Unique in the class is the Cloud which allows the user to adjust between different types of massages: kneading Shiatsu, airbag pressure as well as vibration.
Those models that provide adjustability in massage speed alone are the Best Choice Products and Miko. The manually operated TheraFlow allows the user to set their own speed and pressure by way of movement. Most models have heat, though none allow for adjustments of the heating element. Those models that do not include a heater are the Best Choice Products, FIT KING, and TheraFlow.
The coverage metric assesses the areas of the lower leg that each mach massages. This assessment assumes that one's foot fits properly into the model (see the sizing metric for details). The FIT KING offers the most comprehensive coverage by hitting the entire foot — top, bottom and sides — as well as the ankle and calf. Next up in coverage is the Cloud which hits the top, sides, and some of the ankle area. The Nekteck and RENPHO offer top, side, partial heel coverage.
The Miko is a bit more limited than the previously discussed models. This machine works the whole sole plus the tops and the sides but ends the massage about midsole on a size 11 foot. The Best Choice Products machine doesn't get all of the top of the foot but gets most of the sides, and no heel. The TheraFlow and the Snailax are the most limited in their coverage, addressing the muscles in the sole of the foot exclusively.
The above review of foot massagers offers readers a detailed analysis of all the factors contributing to a quality machine as well as a satisfactory massage experience. Specifically, we addressed four categories that collectively cover all aspects of these machines. These are comfort, sizing, adjustability of the massage, and massage coverage or massage area. If you are in the market for a little slice of foot massage heaven, the above article will provide you with direct apples-to-apples comparisons of the market's leading products. Enjoy.
— Nick Miley and Austin Palmer