The products, colours and advice that will transform unloved feet to polished perfection
Hidden in socks, wedged into heels, and forced to trudge 5,000 steps a day: feet seem to do all the hard work but get a fraction of the pampering devoted to the rest of our bodies.
‘People have become fixated with the idea that feet are unattractive, no-go areas, to be apologised for and hidden away,’ says nail guru Leighton Denny. ‘I’m amazed that women think nothing of sinking £500 on drop-dead-sexy heels, but shirk at paying a fraction of that to get their corns, hard skin and jagged nails into shape.
‘But, in the same way as an on-trend designer belt or handbag can push an everyday outfit into another league, a trip to the podiatrist or a thorough pedicure will make run-of-the-mill shoes look 10 times more expensive, and are the difference between looking good and looking really fabulous.’
So, whether you’re a pedicure refusenik, an occasional buffer or rather like your feet and can’t wait to show them off in this season’s hottest colours, read on for our must-do tips.
Give nails a break
‘Constantly painting your nails with bright colours will dry them out and turn them yellow over time,’ warns Bastien Gonzalez, whose clients include Naomi Campbell and Gwyneth Paltrow. He is famous for his polish-free pedicure, and incorporates a trick that he learnt from his grandmother: using chamois leather to buff nails to mirror-like perfection. ‘Concentrate on achieving shiny, strong nails and smooth, healthy feet rather than masking everything with nail polish,’ he advises.
‘The key to healthy feet is to vary your shoes,’ assures Dr Khan, consultant podiatrist at the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. Wearing heels for long periods, he says, ‘will shorten and tighten your calf muscles, leading to lowered arches and bad posture’. Conversely, he notes, ‘Very flat shoes can strain the tissue that runs from your heel to the ball of your foot, and cause heel and arch pain. By switching your shoes you keep muscles active as they don’t get used to one position.’
Apparently, the ultimate shoe should have a one-inch heel and a sole moulded to the print of your foot. It’s time to dust off the Birkenstocks!
Take a footbath
‘Essential oils really come into their own as products to treat your feet,’ asserts Geraldine Howard, founder of Aromatherapy Associates. ‘A bottle of tea tree or peppermint oil should be in everyone’s bathroom cabinet. On a hot day I run an inch or two of cold water into the bottom of the bath and add some of either oil. A quick paddle will rev-up feet. Peppermint is best for cooling down hot feet and tea tree has antiseptic properties – great if your feet have spent the day wrapped up in boots.’ Another trick is to add a few drops of either oil to your moisturiser and treat feet to a DIY massage.
Know your trends
We all know that toenails can pull off the bright colours that we might shy away from on our fingernails. And this season is no exception; fire-engine reds, citrusy corals and only the loudest pinks should be in your nail wardrobe. The most fashion forward may want to dip a toe into the slate greys and matt blues that are also big trends right now. But be warned: unless your nails are perfectly buffed and manicured they’ll look the wrong side of grungy.
Little and often
Ensure your feet are always peep-toe-shoe ready by enlisting the help of a little low-key maintenance, recommends nail-pro, Denny. ‘Use a small blob of foot scrub every other day in the shower to slough off dead skin, lighten and brighten nails and keep cuticles in check,’ he suggests. ‘Then slather with a rich foot cream and dab a coating of nail oil over the tops of your toes. Keep toenails neat and short; cut them straight across, then file from the side to the middle, rounding the edges to help prevent in-growing toenails. This is the “squoval” effect and is the most flattering shape for toes.’
Rethink your nail file
Most people are used to filing with an old-fashioned emery board, but it’s worth changing to one of the new generation of crystal files. They last a lot longer and do a much better job of keeping nails in shape, as they seal in the edge of the nails as you file; this means less chance of uneven edges, snags and chipped polish.
‘People always make the mistake of using a foot file on wet skin,’ observes foot guru Margaret Dabbs, ‘but when you soften the skin you mask the area to be treated. I always file a client’s feet dry – you get a better grip and you’re less likely to over-file or miss areas. Look for a foot file with a sturdy handle and make sure you don’t leave it in the shower as it will lose its abrasiveness.’
Those in the know book ahead for a Shanghainese pedicure at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, where resident podiatrist, Mr So, buffs and polishes toes to perfection. You’ll leave feeling as if you are ‘walking on air’.