While not exactly a foot fetishist, I admit it: I am foot-obsessed. Long convinced that happy feet truly make a happy woman, my feet are unusual in that they are probably as smooth and perfectly-varnished in November as May. (Not least because they are publicly bared, three times a week, on a yoga mat, where I’ve always felt it’s poor etiquette to arrive with chipped toenails and sandpaper heels).
Over the years, though, I’ve also talked to many health professionals who’ve convinced me that healthy feet (if not prettily-varnished feet) are the very foundation of wellbeing. Take the Chinese doctor who persuaded me to wash my feet ritually before bedtime (to prevent colds and flu – and yes, it seems to work). Or ‘medi-pedicurists’ like Margaret Dabbs and Bastien Gonzalez (see below) who prescribe little-and-often foot care to prevent build-up of hard skin, which in turn can make walking – nature’s perfect exercise – uncomfortable. (I book in once a month like clockwork for a Margaret Dabbs medi-pedi at Liberty, and it’s the best beauty investment I can think of.)
And if you really want to take the foot/health link one stage further, I believe absolutely in reflexology – and the brilliant practitioners I’ve seen over the years include Rye-based Sophie Kingsley, who – by working on the meridian points in the foot – can, in my experience, work magic elsewhere in the body.
Our poor, long-suffering feet – which carry us as many as 75,000 miles in a lifetime – really deserve this sort of devotion. And at this time of year – smoothed to silkiness and polished to perfection – they really demand to be shown off, too. (And not just on the yoga mat.) Happily, Bastien Gonzalez, the aforementioned jet-setting medical pedicurist, explains that feet respond very fast to ‘extra love’: ‘The simplest thing is a little daily massage before you go to bed, to maintain the skin’s elasticity and suppleness. Start today and you’ll see – and feel – an improvement in just seven days.’ Use an ultra-rich foot cream or body balm, and especially work it into any callused areas, ‘literally breaking down the thick, hard skin with your fingers,’ advises Bastien.
My favourite foot-savers? They’re many and various, actually. however I absolutely love Margaret Dabbs Intensive Hydrating Foot Lotion.
You might also like to try this recipe for a D-I-Y foot treatment, from The Ultimate Natural Beauty Bible, (written with my co-author Sarah.)
PEPPERMINT FOOT BALM
90 ml. (3 fl. oz.) sweet almond oil
15 ml. (1/2 fl. oz.) avocado oil
20 g. ( 3/4 oz.) beeswax
40 drops peppermint essential oil
Heat the oil with the beeswax in a double boiler (just as if you were melting chocolate); when the wax has melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly before adding the peppermint essential oil and decanting into a sterilised jar. If the cream is too ‘loose’, re-melt and add a little more beeswax. Use the balm at night for a rich, skin-softening foot massage; it’s also incredible for smoothing rough skin on heels, ensuring feet are worthy of even the most elegant Manolo mules.
I also resolutely believe in buffing feet, daily, and am now completely obsessed with my MICRO Pedi, which is a ‘motorised’ foot-buffer: switch the button, and it rotates, removing every last atom of hard skin in a nevertheless gentle way. No more elbow-grease with a foot file for me, I can tell you. And that ‘gentleness’ is important: Bastien’s tip is to buff lightly – never hard. ‘Hard buffing compresses the layers of skin, which is just what you’re trying to avoid.’
My one tip is to place a towel on the bathroom floor first, as it creates what I call ‘footdruff’: a shower of skin particles that are – well, ewwwww covers it. In addition, Bastien adds: ‘Brush around the cuticles daily with a toothbrush in the bath. It’s softer than a nail brush and will help to get rid of dead skin. It’s amazing what a difference this can make, too, after just a week.’ Then (if you’ve time in this busy season), book yourself a pedicure and get yourself some gorgeous, sparkling party toenails. Can’t squeeze in a salon visit? Then follow these steps, for a D-I-Y pedicure…
First, soak your feet (having buffed away the hard skin, as per Bastien’s guidelines). File your toenails or clip them straight across (otherwise there’s a risk of ingrown toenails), and use a hoof stick to gently nudge back the cuticles. Massage in a super-rich cream (see above for my recommendations), and then prepare to paint. If you’re not in a tearing hurry, paint using a traditional varnish rather than the quick-drying versions – there’s a wider range of shades to choose from and the results tend to be glossier. (After years of trialling different polishes, the brands I recommend most highly are OPI, Christian Dior, Revlon and Lancôme: they all last exceptionally well without chipping). Then add a fast-drying top-coat. A few drops of just about any oil – even olive oil – dropped onto the nail after a few minutes also help ‘set’ the varnish, and prevent any stray fluff ruining your toe-scape.
A salon pedicure, though, is a brilliant investment at the start of summer (let someone else buff those hooves!) – and should last up to a month. By that time, though, you might be bored rigid with the colour, so Roxana Pintilie – a manicurist I once interviewed at the Warren-Tricomi salon in New York – shared this excellent tip: ‘I start out with a light colour, like a pale pink. Then a few days later, you can put on a coat of something darker – say an orange. Then three days after this, maybe a layer of gold. That way, you’re not stuck with the same colour for weeks.’
Definitely smile-inducing, when you look down at your wiggling toes in a pair of gorgeous summer sandals. Just one more way, in fact, that happy feet can make a happy woman…