AFTER POUNDING THE PAVEMENT for countless hours during the Lenten holiday, whether from doing the traditional Visita Iglesia or simply looking for a cool spot to ease the summer heat, your feet must have withstood a grueling test of endurance and strength. The strain that goes with every stride puts pressure on the feet and entire body.

Now, it?s time to cool your heels and pamper your feet. There are spas that cater specifically to foot care. Their services range from a soothing scrub and relaxing massage to an invigorating reflexology. Whichever treatment suits your fancy, it will not only abate the soreness of tired feet but will also give a relaxing feel to the entire body, especially when it?s done by a skilled practitioner.

Score with a scrub

Too much walking can cause dry patches on feet, resulting to calluses. A foot scrub gently exfoliates and softens rough portions while increasing blood circulation. The treatment usually begins with the feet soaked in gentle and often fragrant solutions that prep rough and thickened skin for sloughing. Peppermint and lavender are some of the more popular foot soaks available today. For a more soothing effect, try an aloe-based foot soak.

After a few minutes of soaking in warm water, the treatment zooms on softening the rough spots with a pumice stone or foot file. This procedure pays special attention to the heels, balls of the feet and toes. Finally, the feet are coated with moisturizing lotion. Top off the treatment with new pedicure.

Maximizing massage

Although machines that massage the feet are fast becoming popular, there is no replacement to human touch. There are several foot massage techniques. A good way to start is to bring back circulation by rubbing the foot. This will also make the foot less prone to injury should you choose to apply deeper manipulation.

After the foot has been warmed up, it can be followed with the thumb walking technique, wherein the thumbs alternately apply firm pressure along the sides of each foot from top to bottom. This area has tendons that are often tense, and easing these knotted tendons can be truly relaxing.

The toes are then gently rotated one by one in opposite directions or they may be pulled upward, followed by kneading the sole of the foot with the knuckles of the fist using rotating movements.

Reflections on reflexology

The theory behind reflexology is there are ?reflex points? on the feet that relate to specific organs and glands in the body. Practitioners believe that stimulating these reflex points promotes health in that organ in addition to bringing back circulation to tired and sore feet. If done by a skilled practitioner, reflexology is a deeply relaxing treatment with benefits that can be felt throughout the body.

Reflexology has been practiced for thousands of years in such places as China, Egypt and India. It was around the early 1900s when reflexology techniques were developed and enhanced as we know it today. It is increasingly becoming a popular form of natural therapy as it provides numerous benefits. It can aid in the relief of aches, pains and tension; can aid in digestion and elimination difficulties; can help improve sleep patterns; can increase mental and physical wellbeing; and can induce profound relaxation.

Reflexology is different from massage. Whereas massage is applied to the muscles and soft tissues of the body, reflexology works through nerve-endings. A treatment should not be painful, though there may be uncomfortable or tender areas that are highly stressed. In recent years, reflexologists have begun to incorporate the acupressure techniques of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) into the treatment. The Xiamen-style foot massage is gaining popularity among reflexology aficionados, some even claiming they have gone to ?therapeutic bliss? after the treatment.

The next time you embark on a walking spree, be sure to put your best foot forward and be forearmed with the best ways to soothe your sore feet and uplift your tired body.

E-mail the author at spaholics_inq@yahoo.com