It just so happens that I have a brand new set of Ashiatsu BarefootBars, created by founder of Ashiatsu Oriental Bar Therapy Ruthie Hardee. Because my husband and I are taking over a ton of responsibility with our headquarters, we are responsible for doing some new advertising campaigns, complete with new photos.

It also just so conveniently happens that we also own a photography business. Knowing Ashiatsu inside and out is a perfect melding of skills for our bar photos.

I actually own 4 other sets of portable bars, which are quite a bit different from the new ones. My original set was purchased in 2002, right after I took Ruthie’s class. They were $1000 plus shipping back then, and I also purchased a ski bag to go with them ($150 10 years ago). These bars weighed in at about 75 pounds and completely broke down. They attached to a Golden Ratio portable table specifically designed for barefoot work and the bars. When pressed for time, I can get a set up in 15 minutes and down in about 10 minutes, but it takes probably 15 minutes to figure out how to get them back into the bag!

Back to the new bars. To the inexperienced eye, they would appear the same. Essentially, they are the same form, but wonderful improvements have been incorporated to this design.

Firstly, they are heavier, and made of maple. They are gorgeous! The arches don’t come apart like my older sets, which make them sturdier. 4 additional crossbars attach to the primary crossbars, securing the massage table legs quite firmly. (The previous designs required the therapist to have a table designed to go with the bars, and bolts went through the massage table legs to stablize it to the bars).

Dowel rods run across the arches and over the massage table, inserting in holes at the top of the arches. New custom designed bolts can currently be tightened with the included T-handle (although that design may be tweaked even further as some people over tighten the bolts). This smooth design lends itself to simplicity and a clean line.

The first time Paul (my long suffering spouse) and I put the bars together, we followed the directions. Unfortunately, the directions aren’t completely done, which was also part of our mission the day we set up, taking installation photos, do’s and don’ts. So we fumbled a tad but got it done just fine.

Because I was scheduled to do an Ashiatsu / Ashi-Thai demonstration for the northern Kentucky AMTA convention last night, I decided to take the new bars with me. Never mind that I had never actually put them up by myself…

They were already set up in my office, so my first job was to take them down, which I had not done before. I learned some valuable tips with doing things in perhaps not the right order. It took 20 minutes and 47 seconds to take the bars down and place them in the bags. (Yes, I timed myself to keep myself honest!). This included having to run upstairs and get the 2 bags which were hanging on hangers from the photo shoot.

The great thing about these new bars is that they attach securely to almost any 32″ portable table. I had taken my old Golden Ratio 42 lb table, and I was quite relieved to not have to lug it inside for the demo. The school lab where I was presenting had all electric lift tables and just ONE portable table stashed away in closet. Last night, I used a Blue Ridge table, and it secured well to the bars. (It took 21 minutes, 47 seconds to set them up the first time.)

Usually, tile floors are a menace when using the portables. Last night, I had no troubles with the new set sliding at all, and they remained stable with no negative sway during both my Ashi-Thai and Ashiatsu barefoot massage demonstrations.

My verdict: the new bars are fabulous. They are solid maple throughout the main construction (the arches are layered wood). The only downsides I can see in comparison to my old bars are: they are super heavy. I didn’t weigh them, but my guess is at least 80 lbs without the arches (although this weight makes them sturdy, they are heavy to carry). I also really loved that the old bars broke down completely and fit (very) snugly into a wheeled ski bag. These bars need 2 bags, one which is custom designed, and the other a massage table bag. This disadvantage really only comes into play when transporting/carrying them and also for storing if you don’t have a lot of room. Again, though, this design makes them much sturdier.

The new long bag for the bars is deep purple with “I love ashi” on the side as well as some cute foot prints. A second bag insert is a perfect storage space for the cross bars.

Many will balk at the new price that comes along with the new design. Having used the bars, I can tell you that they are worth every penny–if you scrimp and try to make your own, you will probably look like you are doing massage while holding onto a swing set. It’s like buying an Mercedes versus a Kia (and I can say that as I’ve driven Mercedes and own a Kia). Both may do the job, but one is built for comfort, safety, pleasure and longevity.