Happy feet make for a happy woman. When your feet are killing you, it shows on your face very quickly. With every step you take, your feet have to absorb the stress of up to twice your body weight – so no wonder eight out of ten people suffer from foot problems.
Except for the strappy sandal season, we tend to neglect feet because they’re under wraps. But a regular pedicure isn’t just a beauty indulgence; it can keep foot troubles at bay. In winter, you can of course skip colourful varnish and leave nails naked, or with a coat of clear polish.
TEN STEPS TO SEXY FEET
- Cut nails straight across; shaping can result in ingrown nails. (Some people find it easier to do this after soaking feet, see step 3.)
- Apply cuticle oil or lotion to soften them; any product designed for manicures is fine for feet, too.
- Soak your feet in a washing-up bowl of lukewarm water, with a few drops of essential oils well blended into the water. Peppermint cools, chamomile softens and lavender heals.
- Rub in cuticle remover; wait a minute, then push back cuticles with a rubber ‘hoof’ stick or orange stick wrapped in cotton wool. Don’t cut cuticle skin: leave that to professionals. Don’t be tempted to push back cuticles so far the little ‘moon’ shows; cuticles protect the nail bed, which is a mass of blood vessels and damages easily.
- Slough off dead skin with a pumice stone or foot exfoliant.
- Using sweeping movements from the toes to the ankle, massage the feet with a rich cream to stimulate, relax and help flexibility. According to dermatologists, kneading and rubbing the feet not only relieves aches but also helps relax the mind.
- Before you varnish, clean nails with soapy water. Dry thoroughly.
- If you don’t have any ‘toe-separators’, which salons use for pedicures, cheat by separating toes with rolled up tissues or cotton wool balls. Otherwise it’s easy to smudge polish.
- Apply base coat, varnish and then top coat. Work from little toe to big toe to avoid smudging, varnishing from the bottom of nails to tips. Then brush on two coats of colour, waiting a minute for each one to dry.
- If you’re in a hurry, when your varnish is no longer tacky, very gently massage in a tiny drop of baby oil or jojoba oil, which will set the polish fast. If not, enjoy the opportunity to put your feet up while your nails dry.
TIPS FROM THE TOP
- Coco Chanel never painted her fingernails but always wore toenail polish, working on the theory that feet were a dreary business and needed every help possible.
- Follow the advice of that great style-setter The Duke of Windsor, who said: ‘Only two rules really count: never miss an opportunity to relieve yourself, and never miss an opportunity to rest your feet.’
- Explorer Monica Kristensen not only massages Elizabeth Arden’s Eight-hour Cream into her own feet but also those of her sled dogs, to prevent cracking. (This works just as well outside Antarctica.)
- Chiropodists can instantly diagnose a cigarette smoker by their dry, rather cold feet as smoking inhibits the delivery of oxygen to the extremities. Yet another reason to quit.
PUTTING YOUR BEST FOOT FORWARD
- A good salon pedicure should include a soak in an antiseptic foot bath, removal of calluses or thickened skin on the foot’s pressure points, a foot and lower leg massage, and varnish.
- If you have your toenails painted in a salon, take strappy shoes of flip flops along and wear them afterwards – or schedule another treatment before you get dressed to give polish time to dry. Otherwise your varnish will acquire the imprint of your tights on the way home.
- High heels not only throw you off balance, putting you at risk of back trouble; they can also cause painful bunions and ankle problems. Buying shoes that are too small makes the situation worse. Shop for shoes in the afternoon, when feet are slightly swollen, to avoid buying a size too small.
- Change your shoes and, if you like to wear high heels, vary your heel height every day.
- If you can’t wean yourself off high heels, do what you can to help circulation by massaging calves and feet regularly, which will stop them from swelling.
- Carry a foot spray in your handbag.
- Whenever your feet are tired, revive them with a refreshing soak. Leading aromatherapist Clare Maxwell-Hudson recommends five drops of lavender essential oil mixed in 10ml jojoba oil, diffused in a warm (but not too hot) footbath. Soak your feet for ten minutes.
- Apart from incorrect nail cutting, ingrown toenails can be caused by tights or stockings that are too small.
- Each morning, give feet a dollop of moisturiser, a dusting of powder and a spray of eau de Cologne. Walk out light-footed and light-headed.
During the average lifetime, we will walk 70,000 miles (112,630km), or four times around the earth.