It’s officially sandal season. Your feet have spent a long winter crammed into thick wool socks and heavy boots and now they’re going to be visible. “Out of sight, out of mind,” right? Okay, but you don’t want to send small children (or anyone else) running at the sight of your discolored toenails or flaking callouses. The answer is a pedicure.
Every single one of us should be getting a pedicure on a regular basis and I’m not just saying that because I personally love them. According to podiatrist Charlton Woodly, DPM, regular foot care is important for your overall health. “A lot of diseases actually manifest themselves in the feet,” he says. “If you don’t take care of your feet, and you lose the ability to walk without pain, it can really impede your life.”
Those diseases range from the uncomfortable to the life-threatening. Fungal infection, for instance, can cause your toenails to become discolored or even fall off. Ingrown toenails can lead to bacterial infection or painful open lesions. Athlete’s foot can lead to itching, blisters, and pain. Some people can even develop dangerous skin cancers like melanoma and basal cell carcinoma (which can be deadly if left untreated).
Regular foot care can help prevent and control foot-related health issues and keep your feet looking sandal-ready in the process. Here’s what to do.
Inspect Your Feet Daily
A casual inspection in the shower is enough. What you’re looking for is anything different or weird, like changes in toenail color, redness, bumps, or blisters. “Always check between the toes,” says Dr. Woodly. “Make sure you’re drying between them and don’t leave creams or lotions between them either,” since fungus and bacteria thrive in moist environments. If you notice something strange, call your doctor before trying to deal with it yourself.
Be Careful Where You Walk
“Always be aware of where you are walking barefoot, especially on carpet,” says Dr. Woodly. Carpets can hide tiny objects that you can step on and hurt your feet. And if you have cuts or open sores, carpets hold bacteria that can cause infection.
Cut Your Toenails Straight Across
Dr. Woodly advises to never cut too deep into the corners, since that could potentially cause an ingrown situation leading to infection. Always cut them straight across and not too short. “Your toenails should go right to wear the skin ends,” he says.
Use a Pumice Stone to Remove Calluses Safely
Rough, dry calluses aren’t nice to look at, but usually don’t mean anything bad. “They’re just dead skin on top of dead skin,” says Dr. Woodly, “and are usually caused by pressure from a bony prominence or from a shoe or some other type of irritation.” They can be painful if left unchecked, so you should remove them regularly. Over-the-counter callus removal patches (which contain dead-skin eating acid) can do more harm than good if you don’t use them as directed and graters like the Ped Egg can cut too deep if you’re not careful. Dr. Woodly prefers the regular use of a pumice stone to exfoliate feet and gently remove built-up dead skin.
Get Regular Pedicures
A pedicure is the most effective way to maintain foot hygiene and keep your hooves looking fresh. A professional who works on feet regularly can identify any serious issues much better than you can. Plus, there’s nothing as uniquely relaxing as getting a professional job.
Depending on how fast your toenails grow, you can get a pedicure as often as you want, as long as it’s done safely. “The average person should get one at least once a month,” says Dr. Woodly, but more power to you if you want to go more often. To make sure the place you’re going is good, make sure they always use tools from a new, unopened package for each procedure, that you can clearly see the license of the person performing your treatment, and they should never attempt to cut out or remove an ingrown toenail (“it’s not in their scope of practice,” he says.)
You Can Give Yourself a Pedicure
If you can’t find an hour out of your schedule to get a professional pedicure, you’re missing out. But you can do it yourself if you’re so inclined. Here’s how.
1. Soak your feet for at least 10 minutes in warm water and Epsom salts. This will help soften and hydrate dead skin and dry patches for easier removal.
2. Scrub your feet with a foot scrub to exfoliate and then gently remove any calluses with a pumice stone. Then put them back in that water for a few minutes.
3. Clip your toenails straight across using a straight-edge toenail clipper.
4. File the freshly-clipped nails using an emory board to smooth away any rough edges.
5. Slather on some foot cream and make sure you rub it in well, especially between your toes.
6. Put on some slippers before you walk around to protect your newly-clean feet from debris.
The Products You Need to Give Yourself a Pedicure:
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