How to Give Yourself a Leg Massage

Woman rolling her legs with foam roller

by Katie Ferraro

When you know you’re in for a long day on your feet, you want to be prepared. Besides having a reliable pair of shoes in your arsenal, creating a routine of stretching and massage is a great way to get your body ready for any activity that may come your way, and help you bounce back fast so you can keep up with an always busy schedule. Here, we break down a quick 15-minute massage routine you can incorporate at the beginning or end of your day to give your legs the boost they need to carry you through. 

The Tools

In order to properly give yourself a leg massage, no tools are necessary. However, having a foam roller and a lacrosse (or massage) ball, will be a real game-changer. Really any type of hard ball —- like a softball  or a baseball… —- would work as a substitute. As for the foam roller, anything cylindrical and sturdy. like a can of vegetables, will do the trick.

Now that we have the tools, let’s talk about the technique.

Start with the Feet

When my legs feel heavy, I often find that the most relief comes from the soles of my feet, so let’s start there. Either sitting or standing, put the lacrosse ball under your foot and roll the ball under the middle part of your foot. Apply pressure by pushing down on the ball. This isn’t the most comfortable feeling at first, mostly because we tend to take for granted how hard our feet work on any given day. But as you go, you’ll probably feel the release of the muscle, ultimately leading to sweet relief.

How to Massage Your Calves

From there, let’s move to the calves. Continuing with the lacrosse ball, sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you and cross your ankle over the opposite leg, just above the knee. Take the lacrosse ball in your hand and start rolling it in a circular motion over your calf muscle. Apply pressure as needed. Another way to massage your calves with the ball is by putting the ball on the floor and rolling over the ball as demonstrated in this video

Still sitting on the floor with your legs in front of you, grab the foam roller and place it under your calves. Crossing one ankle over the other, move the foam roller up and down your calf, focusing on the points that are “sticky,” using the weight of your top leg to apply pressure. Spend a few minutes on each leg.

If you don’t have a tool to use, no sweat! Your hands can do the trick. There are three basic techniques you’ll use: gliding, pressing and drumming. With gliding, you’ll take sweeping strokes up and down your legs with your palm open. Pressing is more of a squeeze, and drumming is exactly how it sounds. Runner’s World goes in depth with all of the techniques here.

How to Massage Your Hamstrings and Quads

Since your hamstrings and quads are big muscles, your foam roller will come in especially handy as you work your way up the leg. While you still have your foam roller under your legs, move it up to the top of your hamstring. Again, move the roller down your hamstring until you find the part that is particularly sore, using small motions to massage the knot. If you come to a place where you feel a very specific knot, you can also use a lacrosse ball to dig a little deeper.

Once you’ve given your hamstrings some love, flip over and get into your quads. Facedown, using your elbows for balance, get into the top part of your legs, one at a time, using the same techniques as outlined above.

Doing these massage techniques for 10 to 15 minutes will invigorate your legs and make them feel lighter. Besides, self-massage is severely underrated, especially after a long day on your feet. Your legs take you a lot of places, so consider dedicating time to give them a little TLC!

Any good massage routine can also be boosted by compression socks. By design, compression socks boost circulation, help blood flow to the heart and reduce pain and swelling in your legs and feet. 

Katie Ferraro is a writer and group fitness trainer in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing or at the gym, you’ll find her somewhere in the wilderness camping, hiking or backpacking.


Self Massage Techniques (Runner’s World)

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