Most massage chairs, nowadays, have some sort of a foot and calf massaging mechanism as part of their feature set. Some chairs may just have the calf massage, but most of them have some sort of lower extremity massage function. These calf and foot massaging mechanisms are often called an ottoman.
Different Types of Ottomans in Massage Chairs
Some ottomans are designed to have the foot and calf massaging mechanism all-in-one and completely attached as one solid unit, like the Human Touch A touch HT-9500 massage chair and the Omega Aires, but others have the foot detached from the calf massager, thus facilitating the ability of a taller person to stretch out their legs by flattening out the foot portion of the ottoman, making it parallel to the massager for the calf. An example of this type of foot and calf massager would be the Panasonic 30007. The downside with this type of use of the foot massager is that the foot massager ends up massaging the sides of the ankles of the user.
Inada has found a happy medium by engineering an "accordion-like" attachment between the foot and the calf massagers, allowing a taller person to simply extend their longer legs with the foot massager staying perpendicular to the calf massager.
The clear majority of the foot and calf massagers use airbags to create the massaging effect. Each manufacturer has its own proprietary setup of the airbags to provide their own unique feel, but the basic gist of every massager for foot and calf is that the airbags compress the calves and feet in one form or another. Some compression happens all at once, while others inflate in a sequence mode so that it feels like the airbags are "rolling" up and down the legs.
A very small number of massage chairs claim to have rollers in the feet bottoms. So, the feet end up getting the same kind of therapy that the back does with the standard back rollers. I believe the Elite Optima and one of the King Kong chairs have the foot rollers in addition to the airbags. Human Touch claims that their HT-9500 massage chair has "paddles" in the ottoman that create a unique feel when you use that chair. That chair, in my opinion, and based on the many, many chairs I have sat in, has the best foot and calf massager of any of the massage chairs we've seen. It is a wonderful experience for your feet.
Inada recently came out with a new model, the Inada Yume, which adds an interesting twist to the whole ottoman massage field. They have added what they call Thera-Elliptical-Kneading, wherein the sides of the calf massage wells move up and down in an elliptical motion to massage the calf muscles along with the airbag compression massage. It is very interesting and feels phenomenal.