By Prudence Wade
With the arrival of the summer we’re hit with the familiar panic. What kind of state are our feet in? What will we have to do to get them looking presentable?
“There’s an element of ‘out of sight, out of mind’,” says Emma Price, podiatrist and co-founder of PodiPedia.co.uk. “If you don’t have any foot pain, you don’t necessarily think of your feet. It’s not until you get some nice weather and put sandals or flip-flops on, and then go: ‘Oh, what’s that?!’”
For Price, feet can “absolutely” affect your confidence. “Personally, it makes me feel great knowing that I’ve got good looking feet,” she says.
It’s time to start showing some love to get our soles ready for summer…
If you haven’t been regularly buffing and moisturising your feet during the colder months, they’re probably looking a bit rough and ready – but deeper problems could have developed as well.
“There’s the potential for fungal infections if they’re not dried properly before you put your socks on,” explains Price. “If your footwear is quite tight, you can get some rubbing – sometimes you can get calluses or corns developing on the sides of your feet, but normally they’re painful. Corns don’t generally silently appear – you know about them.”
Fungal nail infections could be another issue. Price says: “You might not notice them if you’ve got old nail varnish on and you don’t realise there’s something growing under there.”
Your feet might also be in desperate need of moisturisation, as they can “dry out with central heating”, says Price. All these are good reasons to keep up a solid footcare routine all year round. If you develop any serious issues, you should see a podiatrist, but if you’re suffering from sad and dry feet, there are things you can do at home.
For Price, the first port of call is to remove any nail polish you might be wearing. “Lots of people just leave the varnish on, so get that off with a really good low acetone or no acetone nail varnish remover,” she says. Next, invest in Price’s favourite tool: a foot file.
“You need to file your feet if you have any hard skin or dryness – file before you go into the shower,” she says. Once you’ve had your shower or bath, “Dry your feet thoroughly and put on a really good, urea-based emollient. Urea is a chemical in good foot creams that basically softens the skin for you and helps it stay moist – it’s different to a normal moisturising lotion.”
It’s also important keep your toenails trimmed, preferably with “a really good nail file”. This will help keep your nails shaped and short, she says, “and if you do it regularly – once or twice a week – you can keep those looking really great”. The podiatrist prefers a file to nippers or clippers, because it stops you creating edges. “Often an ingrown nail will happen because you have poor cutting technique: you’ve left a 90 degree angle or a spike, or you’ve cut down the side. With a file, you can’t really create problems for yourself.”
Price describes a foot file and nail file as her “weapons of choice for public consumption. It keeps you out of hot water and it’s much safer for the general public.” She recommends giving your feet a “quick zhuzh” with both tools at least twice a week.
On top of this, she recommends annual or biannual check-ups with a podiatrist. “I’m very much about prevention being better than a cure,” Price adds, emphasising that podiatrists can spot early signs of serious medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.
What mistakes should we be watching out for?
She says motorised rotation sanding devices are fine if used appropriately, but doesn’t recommend using one to attack the thick calluses on your feet. Podiatrists use a scalpel blade designed to cut through skin, “and we can take off huge amounts of skin for you – you wouldn’t believe the difference, it’s amazing”.
She also isn’t so keen on pumice stones, as “they can be quite rough”, she says. “The classic is people having a bath and then they attack their foot with a pumice stone – and rarely can that actually be helpful. I think they rip your skin, when what you want is a file that’s going to produce – it’s a bit gross, actually – a really fine powder.”