All of a sudden, it’s hot and sunny everywhere — summer, officially — and even the shiest, palest, most woebegone toes are peeking out from their hiding places up North.
They’ve been scrubbed and buffed, their nails clipped and polished. And they’re ready to be seen in the season’s trendiest foot-baring fashions.
Here, of course, it’s always sandal season. There are women in Florida who completely eschew close-toed shoes. And our men? They get away with whatever they can whenever they can.
Which tends to make us all a bit complacent when it comes to putting our best feet forward. We scoot into our flip-flops to do yardwork, grocery shop, sometimes (gasp!) even for work or to go out to dinner or clubbing. The rules are loose, and we’re mostly okay with that.
But it couldn’t hurt to — every once in a while — attempt a bit of a refresh. To toss out the old footwear and bring in something new. To make sure our tootsies are truly presentable when we’re out on the town. And to keep hardworking heels, arches and toes happy and healthy.
A good foot-care regimen is pretty basic:
• Wash feet daily.
• Soak them when they’re sore.
• Dry them when they’re wet and moisturize them when they’re dry.
• Wear footwear that fits and offers support (including casual open styles).
• Keep toenails trimmed.
• See a specialist for any unusual aches and pains.
Sounds easy enough. But we get a lot wrong, says Dr. Leo Krawetz of Healthy Feet Podiatry in Tampa.
WHAT TO WEAR
Let’s start with those flip-flops Floridians love. "A flip-flop is good if you’re taking a few steps around a pool, and that’s about it," Krawetz says. "With overuse, they cause a lot of problems with arch and heel pain."
Sandals with a strap are a better choice if you’re doing more walking, he says. The strap stabilizes your foot — at least a little bit — which can help you avoid the kind of trips and slips that cause sprained ankles and broken toe bones. Your footwear also should cup and stabilize your heel (think Birkenstocks, Keen or Ecco sandals), and some sort of arch support is a must.
Bursitis, an inflammation of the ball of the foot at the base of the second toe, is another common foot problem that is exacerbated by overdoing it with unsupportive footwear. "You’re basically trying to hold your flip-flops on by curling your toes when you walk, and that puts excessive pressure on the ball of the foot," Krawetz says.
So, is there such a thing as a fashionable yet supportive sandal? Krawetz says yes and recommends checking out styles from Aerosoles or Ahnu.
Julia Gall, accessories director at Marie Claire magazine, is all about the Birkenstocks when it comes to comfort and support. "Thank God, Birkenstocks are back in style," she says. "And other designers have adopted the shape with their own take."
But, Gall warns, let’s not mistake flip-flops and other casual sandals for office wear or a night out. For that, you want something "a bit more designed." So, let’s move on, for a moment, from practical to pretty.
Depending on where you’re headed, Gall says there are several standout styles to choose from this season — from metallics to rhinestone embellishments to neon neoprene. Michael Kors’ Mackay embossed leather wedge is one example — a mix of materials that includes croc-embossed straps, a jute heel and a wooden platform. The 4?½-inch heels may have you teetering, but they’re stacked, so walking isn’t as daunting as it looks, Gall says. More challenging — and controversial — are the 5-inch-heeled flip-flops with ankle straps in Rihanna’s 2018 Fenty x Puma collection, "A really fun take on a summer flip-flop," Gall says.
It’s all about statement moments, she says. And for some, that might include an ankle bracelet or even socks.
Not to worry: These aren’t your father’s black socks and leather sandals, but pretty, sheer anklets paired with luxe sandals, or sporty ribbed socks worn with athletic slides or Birkenstocks. (Be brave, Tampa Bay! Fashionistas know the difference between touristy and trendy.)
Speaking of men in sandals, for Gall it’s a big no-no unless you’re at the beach or pool. "For girls with a beautiful pedicure, it’s great to have your feet out there. For dudes, no," she says. Stick to sneakers or loafers, she advises.
Let’s face it: Lady toes, in general, just aren’t as gnarly — and we’ve learned how to banish a lot of unpleasantness with a good pumice stone and some polish.
It’s not that men don’t dig a date with the pedicurist from time to time, too. Phu Ngo, store manager at the Heavenly Nails salon in South Tampa, says men especially love the pampering of a good foot massage. But typically, they aren’t inclined to hide their hirsuteness (to shave or not to shave one’s toes is an ongoing debate), and they’re far less likely to paint on a few coats of OPI or Essie’s latest shades.
HEALTHY AND HAPPY
Speaking of polish, here’s something gals need to know: Keeping it on too long or all the time can lead to the very thing many are trying to hide: discoloration and damage from nail fungus.
Women and men both suffer from this common ailment, Krawetz says. And it’s another foot problem that’s probably worse for Floridians than those who live in states with less humidity. Though you may be genetically predisposed, you also aren’t doing yourself any favors if your feet are often moist and that moisture gets trapped under your nails, if you’re a runner whose nails are bumping up against the tips of your shoes, or if your pedicures are making your nails vulnerable to invading microorganisms, he cautions.
Over-the-counter treatments can work for some nail issues, but if the fungus doesn’t get better, you may need to head to the doctor for a prescription remedy that’s more effective. Medications and laser treatments vary in price and aren’t always covered by insurance. But a series of laser treatments — usually six — is the best way to kill the infection, Krawetz says. And twice-a-year treatments can help keep it from coming back.
Prevention is key when it comes to keeping your feet happy and healthy. Your toenails should be clean and cut short and straight across with sanitary clippers. File down any jagged edges. Gently push cuticles down. And use a pumice stone or some other buffing tool to work on any callouses; don’t try to slice them off.
If your feet are rough and dry, or you have a callous you want to soften, try an over-the-counter cream (Krawetz likes Kera-42, Cetaphil or AmLactin), or ask your podiatrist or dermatologist for a recommendation. But don’t expect miracles. You might be dealing with a bigger issue — a wart or athlete’s foot.
When all is well, feel free to doll up those nails with some color — an old favorite or the latest trend. Local nail techs say coral is hot right now, and lighter shades of blue, purple and pink are in for summer. Red is popular year-round, Ngo says.
To make that color last, ask about the benefits of a gel pedicure, which offers a shiny, smooth look that usually dries faster and typically holds up better. (Let the salon know, though, if you’re sensitive to ultraviolet light.)
Most customers come back every two or three weeks, Ngo says, though some shades last longer than others. A natural-looking French pedicure, for instance, is less likely to show a gap from new growth. He also recommends limiting the number of coats of polish you get while at the salon, so your pedicure has the proper time to dry. Whether you’re going with a pro or you prefer to DIY, make sure everything that touches your feet is clean.
You can get in and out in as little as 45 minutes or, at many spas and salons, you can schedule a foot massage, scrub or some other pampering treatment that will leave you floating for the rest of the day.
After that, how could you ever go back to nasty chips and dirty rubber flips? Just don’t. Think of July as an all-star break for your feet.
Contact Kim Franke-Folstad at [email protected]