If you're on your feet a lot, one of the best things about stepping into your hot tub at the end of a long day is the chance to get a good foot massage.
Some spas are better for this than others though—all thanks to a feature known as a foot dome, or 'volcano'.
Let's explore some of the questions you might have if you're considering whether to buy a spa with or without a foot dome.
What are hot tub foot domes?
A foot dome is a raised area in the footwell of a hot tub. They are designed to be used as a footrest while you sit in the spa, and usually have several jets to deliver a therapeutic foot massage.
Foot domes are mostly found in higher-end acrylic spas—you generally won't see them in cheaper or rotomolded models.
One example of a hot tub with foot dome is the A8 by Bullfrog Spas:
By contrast, their A6 model does not have a foot dome:
You're also more likely to find foot domes in spas without loungers. Loungers take up enough space that there isn't always a large enough footwell left to accommodate an extra feature there.
Benefits of foot domes
As much as we'd all like to have access to unlimited foot massages or our own personal reflexologist, this isn't an option for most of us. And this is why spas have foot domes: they claim to be able to achieve some of the same benefits.
Reflexology is a type of therapy which involves applying pressure to certain parts of the feet. Many people find it relaxing, and a great way to relieve stress.
Foot domes can certainly deliver on the promise of jets that are well positioned to massage the feet. Expect to move your feet around on the jets to find the best spots and really target the areas where you need pressure, though.
Full leg massage
From the name, you might think foot domes are just for feet. But vertical jets are actually useful for targeting the entire backs of the legs.
Many spa owners find that by shifting forward in their seat, they can use the jets on the foot dome to reach their ankles, calves and hamstrings.
If you struggle with tight muscles in your legs, a foot dome could be great for you—especially considering how most spa seats do not have jets that make it easy to target these areas.
Hiker, runner or cyclist? This could be particularly useful for you.
They can help with floating
Some shorter people struggle with staying in place while using the spa. If you have strong jets on the seat backrest, it can be hard to avoid getting pushed out of your seat.
In this case, a foot dome can be a useful anchor to stop you floating. If you can push your feet against the foot dome, you can use it to hold you down in your seat properly.
Downsides of foot domes
Although a lot of spa owners swear by their foot domes, there are of course reasons why you might opt for a spa without one.
They take up space
If you like to be able to stand up in your spa (to switch between seats, for example) then you'll find it harder to move around if you have a foot dome. You don't want to risk tripping over by not having the footwell clear.
They can also get in the way if you have long legs. Some taller bathers find themselves uncomfortably cramped if they try to balance their feet on the dome as intended—which can make the spa feel smaller.
Repair is difficult
Eventually, some part of your hot tub will break and need replacing. If it's one of the higher jets (or some other mechanical part with proper access) this is annoying but not too much of a problem.
However, if your spa springs a leak from one of the jets on the foot dome, fixing it is a long and painful process. You have no choice but to:
- Drain the spa
- Turn it on its side to remove the base
- Set it back on blocks
- Fill it enough to find the leak
- Fix the leak
- Fill it enough again to check the leak is fixed
- Drain it again
- Put the base back on
- Remove the blocks and put the spa back in place
- Finally refill it
There is no reason why foot dome jets are more likely to break than any other jet, but if it happens, you will likely regret having a foot dome—at least temporarily!
It's a permanent feature
Foot dome or no foot dome is a decision you have to make at purchase time. You can't add or remove one later. Once it's there, you're stuck with it.
Some people find they don't actually enjoy foot massage, so it's an expensive mistake to make if you just find the experience annoying, tickly or unpleasant.
That's why the only real way to know if you'll like having a foot dome is to wet test a spa with one.
Alternatives to foot domes
If you like the foot massage aspect of a spa but you're not sure you want a raised foot dome, there are spas with 'half domes' or partially raised sections with foot jets on the side.
There are also plenty of spas which just have jets along the walls of their footwells, with no raised section at all. This way, you can still get the benefits of either direct massage or just whirlpool-style foot therapy.
An example of a high-end spa that takes this approach instead is the Artesian Piper Glen.
Are hot tub foot domes safe?
With any underwater step or raised surface that you can't see, there's a risk that someone is going to trip over it.
If you're planning to just use the spa for relaxing, and everyone who uses it knows the dome is there, you can minimize the chance of accidents.
What's more, many people find they don't actually stand in their spa at all. If you simply shift between seats in the same seated position, you likely won't have a problem.
On the other hand, if you have a lot of guests and/or parties, you might find a foot dome causes you more trouble than it's worth.
Are foot domes worth it?
Foot domes are a bit like loungers: some people love them, others hate them.
If you're still on the fence about foot domes, call your local spa dealer and see if you can wet test a spa with one—ideally a model you're considering buying, because foot dome shapes also vary between models and manufacturers.