Life & Beauty Weekly: Beautiful You

Put Your Best Feet Forward

By Nicole Pearl Kaplan for Life & Beauty Weekly

Put Your Best Feet Forward

If it seems like you’re on your feet all the time, it’s because you probably are! Running from place to place throughout the day is really hard on your feet. And since regular pedicures are as much a pipe dream as weekly massages and afternoon naps, you need a quick way to combat calluses, cracked heels and brittle toenails.

Thankfully, you can clean up and beautify your feet at home in not much time. Check out these expert strategies for fixing your most annoying foot issues. You’ll have flip-flop-worthy feet in no time. 

1. Cracked Heels
Unsightly heel cracks can result from wearing open-back shoes, which leaves them exposed to the elements. Feet are especially susceptible when wet. “Moisture on the foot from sweating or coming out from a shower or pool will evaporate if not protected by socks or a good moisturizer, resulting in dehydration and cracking of the skin,” says Dr. Benjamin Barankin, a Toronto dermatologist and medical director of Toronto Dermatology Centre.

The best way to treat and prevent cracks is to apply a thick moisturizer — and socks if possible — immediately after your feet get wet, Barankin says. “Consider using moisturizers that have urea. And don’t go barefoot or in sandals after a shower or pool.”

2. Calluses
Friction inside shoes can lead to these patches of thickened skin. “Calluses are the skin’s way of protecting itself,” says Barankin. “Minimizing the rubbing of your skin against shoes that are too tight or poorly fitting is important. Our feet change shape as we age, and more rubbing takes place, so a shoe with a wider toe box is important.”

Completely removing a callus will cause it to return quickly, so instead, soften and smooth the spot gradually to keep calluses under control, says Barankin. Every day in the shower, spend a little time exfoliating with a paddle-shaped foot file. (It should feel about as coarse as sandpaper.) Since it’s easier to soften rough calluses when skin is moist, wait to file until the very end of your shower.

For very rough, stubborn calluses, first dab on a cream or scrub with glycolic or lactic acid, then use the file. The acids will start to break down and soften skin, helping the file do its job.

3. Brittle Toenails
When toenails get dry, they turn hard or brittle and can look unhealthy. Overusing nail polish removers, overexposure to water (for example, regular visits to the pool) or any trauma to the nail plate can lead to dehydration.

While you might be able to camouflage the unpleasant look with lacquer, dry nails are susceptible to breakage and infections — two things you can’t hide with polish. Your best defence: Massage cuticle oil into the nail plate daily. It keeps toenails strong and flexible, and protects them from water and chemicals.

4. Scaly Skin
Long showers, soaking feet in a pool or lake and pounding the pavement all day in sweaty socks can actually suck moisture from your skin. Result: scaly or ashy-looking feet.

If it happens, try exfoliating heels with a pumice, which also increases circulation to feet, helping them look and feel better, says Barankin. For tops of feet that are more sensitive, rub in a salt or sugar scrub. Afterwards, apply moisturizer that contains glycerin or hyaluronic acid, both of which draw moisture from the air and hold it to skin.

5. At-home Pedicure
You may not have time for a pro pedicure, but taking three minutes to treat your toes will keep them — and your feet — looking pretty for weeks.

  • Trim and file. Clip toenails straight across, then file the corners at a slight 45-degree angle to prevent ingrown nails, says Barankin
  • Smooth the nail surface. Brush a ridge-filling basecoat on to even out the nail bed and make sure polish — whether a colour or clear — goes on smoothly and evenly.
  • Polish. If you’re pressed for time, pick a clear or light-pink or beige shade, which is less likely to show uneven edges. Then, paint each nail in only four brush strokes: one down the centre, one to cover each side and a swipe across the tip.

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