DIY River Rock Acupressure Mat

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There are big benefits to going barefoot. An acupressure mat is a great way to bring some of those benefits indoors. Here’s how to make a river rock mat and why you’d want to.

Why I Walk on Rocks

Walking barefoot across rocks may not sound like fun, but there’s a method to the madness. We have over 200,000 nerve endings in our feet. These nerves give the brain feedback and tell it to adjust our muscles, gait, and body position accordingly. This phenomenon is known as proprioception.

When we wrap our feet up in tight shoes and stifle this sensory information, both our brain and body suffer. Stimulating nerve endings with a variety of terrain, including rocks, helps our proprioception. It’s not the same as walking across rocks in thick-soled shoes. We need the feedback directly from the ground to our brain.

Stimulating the nerve endings in our feet is often called reflexology. This isn’t some “out there” term but has legitimate science and medical studies backing it up. It’s as simple as putting pressure on specific spots on the feet. This can help restless leg syndrome, lower blood pressure, and more.

Stimulates the Vagus Nerve

I’ve talked about the benefits of stimulating our vagus nerves before here. Foot reflexology is an easy way to do that. By putting pressure on the foot’s nerve endings we:

  • increase vagal modulation
  • decrease sympathetic modulation
  • lower blood pressure

The benefits of foot reflexology don’t stop there though!

Foot Reflexology Makes Life Hurt Less

A 2014 report in Complementary Therapies and Clinical Practice found reflexology has a big impact on pain. According to 68% of respondents, reflexology worked just as well if not better than conventional physiotherapy. 95% of patients were more relaxed and 86% had less pain, including chronic pain.

Other studies use reflexology for pain. A 2019 study in European Journal of Oncology Nursing looked at reflexology for lymphoma patients. The foot reflexology group had less fatigue, less pain, and better sleep.

Foot Reflexology for Kids

Children can also benefit. A 2019 French study used reflexology for children’s pain. Children with chronic or persistent pain from headaches and musculoskeletal issues had significant improvement. After each session their pain and anxiety were less.

Reflexology’s Benefits for Women

In 2019, researchers looked at anxiety during pregnancy. First-time moms with moderate to severe anxiety were divided into groups. The moms in the reflexology group had much less anxiety than the control group.

Along with other natural PMS remedies, reflexology may also help PMS symptoms. In 1993 the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology looked at reflexology for PMS. After two months of weekly 30 minute sessions, women had significant improvement in their PMS symptoms.

A 2018 study examined the effects of reflexology on moms with premature babies. The moms given a reflexology foot massage made more breast milk than the placebo group.

Make a River Rock Mat

Many of us don’t have a riverbed handy in our backyard. And while being outside and getting ecotherapy is great for vision, heart health, and more, it can be hard to do it all the time. Making a river rock mat can’t replace outdoor time, but it can bring some of nature’s benefits inside.

This mat can be used as:

  • a decorative doormat
  • at the sink for washing dishes
  • under a desk
  • in the bathroom for a spa experience

DIY River Rock Acupressure Mat

Give your feet some natural massage with a textured mat made of smooth river rock stones.

Cook Time 1 hour

Author Katie Wells


  • 1 new doormat
  • 10 lbs river rock pebbles
  • glue Gorilla Glue or epoxy


  • Ensure the mat and the pebbles are completely clean before starting.

  • Arrange the rocks on the mat so that they fit together like puzzle pieces. You don’t want large gaps in between. This part takes the longest!

  • Dab a small amount of glue on the back of a pebble and press it firmly onto the mat for a few seconds each. Follow the instructions for the glue you’re using.

  • Allow the glue to fully dry and cure before moving the mat.


Note: Make sure the glue will bond to both rubber and rock.

The Best Rocks to Make a River Rock Mat

I chose smooth rocks that were fairly flat. Rocks that are too lumpy won’t stay on the mat as well and can put a little too much sharp pressure on bare feet. Teeny tiny rocks are more of a pain to work with so I opted for ones a few inches in diameter. If you can find larger, flat rocks then that will work well, the medium size was just what I could find at the local store.

Where to Find Rocks for River Rock Mat

We’ve talked about what kinds of rocks to use, but where do you find them? I got my river rock at a local store in the craft section. You can also find them in bulk in the gardening or landscaping section at a store. I opted for the craft version though because the ones in my local gardening section were too round.

You can also find polished river rock online here or more matte, flat rocks here.

You’ll need about ten pounds of rock for this project.

Do you use acupressure? Will you try making this mat?


  1. Berry G, Svarovska B. Report on a membership audit of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Reflex Therapy (ACPIRT). Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2014;20(3):172-177. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2014.04.002
  2. Bertrand A, Mauger-Vauglin CE, Martin S, Goy F, Delafosse C, Marec-Berard P. Evaluation of efficacy and feasibility of foot reflexology in children experiencing chronic or persistent pain. Bull Cancer. 2019;106(12):1073-1079. doi:10.1016/j.bulcan.2019.05.008
  3. Chen YS, Lu WA, Clemente FM, Bezerra JP, Kuo CD. Increased Parasympathetic Activity by Foot Reflexology Massage after Repeated Sprint Test in Collegiate Football Players: A Randomised Controlled Trial. Sports (Basel). 2019;7(11):228. Published 2019 Nov 3. doi:10.3390/sports7110228
  4. Levy I, Attias S, Stern Lavee T, et al. The effectiveness of foot reflexology in reducing anxiety and duration of labor in primiparas: An open-label randomized controlled trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2020;38:101085. doi:10.1016/j.ctcp.2019.101085
  5. Mohammadpour A, Valiani M, Sadeghnia A, Talakoub S. Investigating the Effect of Reflexology on the Breast Milk Volume of Preterm Infants’ Mothers. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2018;23(5):371-375. doi:10.4103/ijnmr.IJNMR_175_16
  6. Oleson T, Flocco W. Randomized controlled study of premenstrual symptoms treated with ear, hand, and foot reflexology. Obstet Gynecol. 1993;82(6):906-911.
  7. Rambod M, Pasyar N, Shamsadini M. The effect of foot reflexology on fatigue, pain, and sleep quality in lymphoma patients: A clinical trial. Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2019;43:101678. doi:10.1016/j.ejon.2019.101678
  8. Sajadi M, Davodabady F, Naseri-Salahshour V, Harorani M, Ebrahimi-Monfared M. The effect of foot reflexology on constipation and quality of life in patients with multiple sclerosis. A randomized controlled trial [published correction appears in Complement Ther Med. 2020 Mar;49:102330]. Complement Ther Med. 2020;48:102270. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2019.102270

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