The Arch Massager: Inventing the Best Foot Massager for Plantar Fasciitis At-Home Care
This is the invention story of the Arch Massager, engineered to be the best Plantar Fasciitis foot massager on the market, as told by Luke Ferdinands, our co-founder who invented the Arch Massager for his physical therapy patients.
I've been a physical therapist to elite athletes and chronic pain sufferers for almost 20 years. Throughout my career, I've always used the latest research to guide my treatment protocols.
For patients with chronic foot pain, Plantar Fasciitis, and heel spurs, science shows that a massage technique called Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization effectively reduces pain by facilitating the healing of painful scar tissue. With IASTM, a physical therapist uses a specialized instrument (usually made of steel) in place of their hands to deliver a more acute, more specific massage treatment to problematic soft tissue. IASTM is the most effective method of Plantar Fasciitis massage.
Luke performing IASTM to treat Plantar Fasciitis.
I found that my Plantar Fasciitis patients’ ideal treatment plan included instrument-assisted mobilization twice a day for 5 minutes. However, traditional IASTM requires in-person treatment, and there was no way anyone would drive to the office twice a day for 5 minutes of massage. Also, no insurance would cover it, and it was unlikely anyone would pay for it out of pocket.
So , in order to deliver the best care to my patients, I had to find a way for people to reap the benefits of this treatment at home.
At first, I gave patients a lacrosse ball for self-massage on the days they didn't come in to see me. The lacrosse ball is a go-to at-home remedy for a reason: It can do an okay job of recreating basic IASTM, and it's widely available.
The lacrosse ball method almost always kept symptoms from getting worse. My patients were able to put their weight on the ball and generate enough pressure to massage their dysfunctional tissue. However, the pressure wasn't specific enough to make real forward progress. This was especially true for patients with heel pain and pain on the inside of their arches - in other words, Plantar Fasciitis patients with pain in the hard-to-reach areas of thier foot.
Because the lacrosse ball wasn't quite good enough to resolve Plantar Fasciitis, I tried teaching a few of my more enterprising patients how to use IASTM tools for self-treatment. Stainless steel IASTM tools are readily available online, and they allow patients to reach the exact spot that needs treatment.
Even with these purpose-built massage tools, it remained difficult for patients to generate enough force to effectively treat the soft tissue in the heel and arch. It was much less effective than having a second person holding and manipulating the massage tool.
The Alleviate team put our heads together to create something new to solve this problem. In our minds, it was clear that for the solution to be the best massager for Plantar Fasciitis, it had to check three boxes:
Contoured to target the most important trigger points of the foot like an IASTM tool;
Hands-free and portable like a lacrosse ball; and
Stable, no matter how hard you grind your foot.
I created the first model of the Arch Massager with my daughter’s Play-Doh. After landing on a design concept, we 3D-printed the subsequent few iterations of the Arch Massager and began testing it with patients.
The results were exciting. Finally, my patients were able to apply the right amount of pressure to the right parts of the foot. That allowed them to create a change in the structure of their damaged tissue, which is key to full recovery from Plantar Fasciitis, going beyond temporary pain relief.
The best part? In between PT appointments, my patients maintained their results and continued making progress towards eliminating the root cause of their foot pain.
The design of the Arch Massager reflects our three requirements for a Plantar Fasciitis foot massager.
Use the Arch Massager just 2-3 minutes a day to break up the scar tissue, release tension and relieve pain. We recommend pairing it with the Recovery Balm for an even better outcome.