I feel a special shade of terrible.
So. Feet are weird. They’re like long hands with really short fingers. That we walk on. I think feet are really kind of awesome in structure -- they’re architectural, like bridges.
But feet do tend to freak a lot of people out. There’s interacting with another person’s feet -- which a lot of people cannot even contemplate doing. And then there’s having people interact with your own feet -- which is apparently a whole other level of special torture for some folks.
I think part of why people are so anti-feet is because feet have this rep for being dirty. And, yeah, we stick them in socks and shoes (or not) and walk around on them all day (or not) and they get kind of sweaty sometimes. And sometimes they get dried out and the skin does weird things and there are a whole host of funguses that rejoice in the presence of feets.
Y’all, I think feet are way cute and even so I’m sitting here making this "ew" face that is usually reserved for when Ed makes me smell things that have gone off in the fridge.
Basically, feet (and armpits, too) (and maybe crotches) get the side eye and when other people want to touch them -- or want us to touch theirs -- a lot of us recoil in horror.
Actually getting a pedicure at a salon can be a strange experience. You wind up in a throne-like chair with a person -- often a woman of color -- crouched at your feet. There’s a lot of problematic stuff going on in the salon world, so I do recommend finding a reputable salon that treats its employees well. But then I’d also think about WHY we consider taking care of someone’s feet to be such a shit job.
My second toe is longer than my big toe - my father claimed this is a sign of intelligence.
Feet may be weird but they aren’t bad or inherently gross. Having someone care for them isn’t an act of torture.
It’s probably also going to sound weird to you when I say that my family -- who are not, by and large, touchy feely -- gave each other foot rubs when I was a kid. I grew up well versed in just how nice it feels to have someone take the time to massage your toes. And any nascent foot aversion I had got worked out pretty quickly, too.
This is why I don’t even think twice about pedicures now. In fact, if my toes are not painted, I feel like I am a special kind of naked that is far too outrageous for anyone to actually see.
Here’s the thing: I am told, by my mother, that I didn’t have toe nails when I was first born. Like, I had tiny little toes and no toe nails. Whether or not this is true -- or even normal for newborns -- I have thus been lifelong grateful just to HAVE toenails. And so I want to make them as pretty as they can be.
Also, they are, rather like my fingernails, shaped a little irregularly.
Writing for xoJane is an exercise in sharing all of my embarrassing secrets. I don’t actually have a lot of them, so I guess I need to make some more.
Anyone can polish their toenails if they want to! There are no rules about who can have a pedicure!
The point is: I don’t polish my toenails every time I polish my fingernails but it’s a pretty near thing. The idea of not having polish on my toenails is way weirder to me than feet or having someone touch my feet. My feet are awesome -- they carry me around all the time. Sometimes they hurt. They deserve some nice treatment.
Going to the salon for a pedicure is even more expensive than going in for a manicure, so I understand fiscal objections to pedicures really, really well. I treat myself to a spa pedicure once or two a year and manage with my at-home-haircut version the rest of the time.
If you live somewhere dry or if you are prone to dry skin:
Gently exfoliate your feet and heels with a loofah or even a shower puff. Then dry them. Find a super moisturizing lotion and slather it on until your toes are super slippery. This might end up feeling a little like you are sliding around in pudding. That’s OK. Put on a pair of socks and sleep that way. The skin on your feet will thank you by being soft and moisturized. Do this as often as you feel like!
If you’ve got little toes:
Toss out your toenail clipper. Those things are big and scary! There is no reason you cannot use your regular nail clippers. If you do not own regular nail clippers, you probably ought to, if only to deal with the raggedy edges of broken or chipped nails.
It's helps to hold onto your toes when you're polishing each one of them. as Ed demonstrates here.
If you’re going to polish your piggies:
Remember that, just like with manicures, painting these things takes practice. If you get the polish everywhere, that is OKAY. It’ll come off in the shower! In fact, if you wear socks and shoes, it’ll probably come off when you take your socks off because your feet have been hanging out in socks all day, getting moist.
Dear self: Context doesn’t matter. “Getting moist” still sounds unfortunate.
Also, don’t skimp -- use the base coat! Your toenails will stain the same way your fingernails will.
If you’re a tense little stress monkey -- or even if you aren’t:
Use a tennis or golf ball to give yourself a foot massage. There’s a bunch of different ways to do this but it’s really good for the muscles in your feet. Sit down and put a golf ball or tennis ball under the sole of your foot. Move your foot around and use the ball to massage and apply pressure. You can use as much or as little pressure as you want.
If you have good balance, you can try standing on the tennis ball to super stretch your muscles. This can make a huge difference in how easy it is to bend over and touch your toes. If you are into that sort of thing. It’s OK if you aren’t.
Obviously, not all of these are appearance-related tips. That’s because a pedicure is not just about making your feet look nice. A pedicure is about making your feet FEEL nice. To you. And to other people, if you choose to let other people touch your feet.
It's okay to make a mess! Ed can clean up his toenails in the shower just like you do with your fingernails.
If your feet are a little swollen:
Take 10 minutes and stick your feet in a bowl of cool water -- even cold water if you can stand the ice! Throw some cucumber slices in there, too. What’s good for your face isn’t bad for your feet, after all. Your feet have skin on them. The cool water will help reduce swelling and inflammation. This feels really good. You can also put some oatmeal in there. Trust me -- oatmeal baths are awesome all over.
Also, try to swap out the shoes that you wear. If you’re a high-heel wearer, try to wear different heights (or even flats) sometimes. Heels alter all that fabulous foot architecture and change the way your foot works. The higher the heel, the more pressure is placed on the ball of your foot. And the more your tendons can shorten.
That’s not a good thing.
I just really like it when our polish matches - sometimes I get the dog in on this action, too.
If you’ve got rough skin:
Use a scrub. You can buy fancy sugar scrubs -- or you can make them. You can also use baking soda to make a fine-grained scrub. Or, if you’ve got a face scrub that you love, you can just use that. Because, again, skin. Feet aren’t faces, but still.
You can use tougher exfoliants if you have tougher feet. But remember that it is better to take things gradually. Give yourself a regular foot scrub every couple of days instead of going hardcore with the pumice stone or something.
It’s summer and there are articles all over the place about sandals and going barefoot (which I almost never do because I hate having things between my toes). A lot of media is going to tell you that you have to make sure your feet are pretty. Screw that -- but I like making my feet feel good.
The toenail polish is just the icing on the feetcake.