Is it better to look good or feel good? Both, when you're pondering pedicures

Whether you’re getting ready for a romantic evening out, or looking ahead to when sandal days are back again, treating your feet to a pedicure can help you look and feel your best—as long as you keep foot health front of mind.

“It’s important to ensure your pedicure is done properly, whether you’re doing it yourself at home or enjoying a professional treatment in a nail salon or spa,” Steven Gordon, DPM, a podiatrist at Reston, Manassas, and Leesburg Foot and Ankle Centers and member of the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA).

APMA offers some pedicure pointers to help you love how your feet look and feel:

  • Start with a good soak in warm water for at least five minutes. Soaking will help soften calluses and prep feet for removing dry, rough skin. To exfoliate, use a pumice stone or foot file. “Never use a foot razor to remove dead skin, and ban your pedicurist from using one on you,” says Dr. Gordon. “It’s too easy for a quick slip-up to cause permanent damage or lead to serious infection.”
  • Shave your legs a day or two before your professional pedicure, but not the day of. Shaving can cause minor abrasions and fissures in the skin, allowing bacteria to enter while your feet soak or the nail technician handles your feet. A little bit of stubble won’t bother her at all.
  • When doing a home pedicure, use toenail clippers with a straight edge and cut nails straight across. Avoid other cutting tools, such as manicure scissors, as they can increase the risk of ingrown nails. For salon pedicures, bring your own tools; shared tools can spread bacteria if they haven’t been cleaned properly. Use an emery board to smooth and round nail edges.
  • Never permit a nail technician to cut or trim cuticles, which protect nail beds from bacteria. Instead, use a rubber cuticle pusher or liquid remover to gently push back cuticles just a little bit. Use a wooden or rubber manicure stick—never metal or anything sharp—to clean beneath nails.
  • Remove polish after it’s been on for a while. Keeping nails polished for extended periods may promote fungal growth. Leave toenails polish-free for a few days between pedicures.
  • After your pedicure, don’t walk around in flimsy flip-flops, especially the ones salons sometimes give customers before they leave. They don’t provide adequate protection or support for your feet.

You can also look for foot-friendly products that have earned APMA’s Seal of Acceptance or Approval by visiting www.apma.org/seal. Podiatrists have evaluated these products and found them to be beneficial to foot health.

Finally, never put up with foot pain. “Discomfort and pain that last longer than several days could be a sign of a more serious problem or infection,” Dr. Gordon adds. Seek treatment from a podiatrist—the foot and ankle expert.

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