No change of clothes, no massage oil in the hair, and no appointment necessary. And these are just the practical reasons for why reflexology, the Traditional Chinese Medicine massage that views the bottom of the feet as a map of the body, is the perfect on-the-fly treatment for New Yorkers.
Kneading, pressing, and pulling these reflex zones creates a deep sense of relaxation and targeted wellness benefits that go way beyond relieving sore feet. (Even if marching across Manhattan, and, no, not in MBT sneakers, inspires a treatment.) It’s the reason reflexology spas are as common as Starbucks throughout China.
Yan Mei Foot Reflexology Center on Mott Street is that perfect hole-in-the-wall spot for cheap, high-quality reflexology. It starts with a five-minute foot bath in a bucket of brown water—the color comes from the “Chinese medicine” steeped in it—in a small, shared room with cushioned armchairs and ottomans. (Germophobes take note: The bucket is covered in a new plastic bag with every use.) The massage comes in various time increments, with a 15-minute minimum (see full price list below). My therapist, who didn’t speak much English, did understand when I asked him to dial down the pressure. The darkened room had a flat screen TV with sound off, and was quiet save for the grateful moans from the woman sitting next to me, who apparently had very sore feet.
Even so, after a 35-minute treatment for which I paid $20 and tipped $5, I emerged feeling like I’d just woken up from the best night sleep.
The Yan Mei Foot Reflexology Center, 158 Mott Street (between Broome and Grand), 212-219-9788. Open 7 days a week, 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
15 minutes: $12
30 minutes: $20
60 minutes: $30
90 minutes: $45