Foot Fetish: Spa Foot Treatments on the Rise

Move over, back. At spas these days, it's all about the feet.

More spas have introduced specialty foot treatments, and the offerings go far beyond basic reflexology. And while many may sound gimmicky, the demand for spa treatments that focus on the feet are increasing.

At the Institute Beaute, a podiatry clinic and medical spa in New York City, foot facials; foot micro dermabrasion; and even foot pillows, where the balls of the feet are injected with fillers like Botox, are oft-requested treatments.

Dr. Suzanne Levine, a podiatric surgeon and founder of the salon Institute Beaute, said the demand primarily comes from women wearing shoes that are higher than ever.

"We've gone from heels to spikes," she said. Part of the attraction of higher-than-ever heels, she said, is status.

"We're going back to the same trend of the 1600s when status was determined by the shoes people wore. Today, we look at the bag and look at the shoes. They're statement pieces, pieces of worth. You may see a woman in a very inexpensive dress but very expensive 8-inch heels."

For this reason, she said, foot problems, and therefore foot treatments, are needed by everyone, not just the wealthy.

As a result, some spas have specifically targeted fans of high heels.

At Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, N.Y., the spa offers the "High Heeler" for calf and foot relief. Canyon Ranch SpaClub in Las Vegas offers the "Healthy in Heels" treatment.

Canyon Ranch is among the well-known spas around the country focusing on the foot. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub in Las Vegas opened the Healthy Feet Center inside the Venetian in 2011. It was the first facility of its kind, the center said, that is wholly devoted to advanced foot health and comfort.

The program concept expanded to the Canyon Ranch destination spas in Tucson, Ariz., and Lenox, Mass., in 2012. And the services are coming to the SpaClub at Sea division, which includes Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises, as well as Cunard's Queen Mary 2.

One offer is a "Gait and Footwear" analysis, which includes a video analysis of your gait and a "precise assessment of the biomechanics of your feet as you walk across an orthotics mat."

The focus on the foot is so popular that SpaFinder Wellness forecast it as a top spa trend for 2012.

Sallie Fraenkel, executive vice president of SpaFinder Wellness, agrees that shoes have gotten much higher but also points to the other extreme – people wearing flip-flops and flats that offer virtually no support.

"It's the two extremes," she said.

She also said the increase in need for foot-related treatments can be attributed to the obesity crisis. "The added pressure on your feet has an impact."

A subset of the trend seems to be the use of food items on the feet.

At the Spa Anjali Beaver Creek, the 75-minute Organic Coffee Foot Relief treatment uses organic oils and coffee exfoliant to soften and nourish, and then ends with a masque of mint and herbs. The spa at Conrad Miami offers the Divine Chocolate & Champagne Pedicure, which includes a mimosa champagne sugar scrub to cleanse and exfoliate followed by a chocolate masque. The Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain in Scottsdale, Ariz., uses wasabi in foot treatments at its Asian-inspired spa.

It may seem gimmicky, but Fraenkel likened the increased use of food in foot treatments to the way restaurants use seasonal or unusual ingredients on their menus to keep them fresh and entice customers.

"It's unusual for us to think about putting food on our bodies as opposed to in our bodies," Fraenkel said. "But this isn't going to harm a person and some food items, like honey, may help."