(Flickr photos above by photocapy, left, and xiaming, right)

Foot massage businesses are everywhere in Hong Kong and China. Foot-shaped signs advertising them are on every corner and hang off every building. And as far as I could tell, no way of differentiating the legit and the illicit until you were actually at the door.

Getting one at any hour of the day is as common as grabbing a drink at a pub. So after dinner, Mark, Carolynne, Jason and I decided to give our aching feet some attention.

We had seen lots of signs on our way to dinner, so we backtracked. Some of them are located in mixed commercial and residential buildings. Others closed at 10 p.m.

Elevator, Hong KongWe followed one sign for a massage business up a few dark stairwells, until it felt too shady and we ran back down, one of us (whose name rhymes with Maryland) inadvertently kicked over a tea cup set in front of an ancestor shrine that was in a dark corner of a landing.

Another building had three foot massage stores advertised on the third, seventh and tenth floors. We should have known better when we asked the security guard which one was open and he answered, “I don’t know. I don’t know anything.”

The doors on the third and seventh floors had bars in front of them and doorbells.

The one on the tenth floor had a tinted window but the light was on, so we knocked. A woman’s voice answered, “We’re full! We’re full!” Riiiiight.

We eventually found one that was open til midnight. Our feet were thoroughly attended to, as we watched Chinese news on the TV, sipped tea, and compared painful parts of our feet to the parts of our body that were ailing, according to the big foot chart on the wall.

To save you the scary skulking around dark stairwells, here are two foot massage business that we tried that were great — and legit.

Foot Villa, 8th floor, Jade Centre, 98-102 Wellington St. Central, Hong Kong, 852-2545-4884. Open 10 a.m. to midnight.

Relax Zone, 2nd floor, 27-29A Elgin St., Central/Soho, Hong Kong, 852-2973-0809. Open noon to midnight.