All of a sudden, itís hot and sunny everywhere ó summer, officially ó and even the shiest, palest, most woebegone toes are peeking out from their hiding places up North.
Theyíve been scrubbed and buffed, their nails clipped and polished. And theyíre ready to be seen in the seasonís trendiest foot-baring fashions.
Here, of course, itís 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 weíre mostly okay with that.
But it couldnít hurt to ó every once in a while ó 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 weíre out on the town. And to keep hardworking heels, arches and toes happy and healthy.
A good foot-care regimen is pretty basic:
ē Wash feet daily.
ē Soak them when theyíre sore.
ē Dry them when theyíre wet and moisturize them when theyíre dry.
ē Wear footwear that fits and offers support (including casual open styles).
ē Keep toenails trimmed.
ē 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
Letís start with those flip-flops Floridians love. "A flip-flop is good if youíre taking a few steps around a pool, and thatís 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 youíre doing more walking, he says. The strap stabilizes your foot ó at least a little bit ó 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. "Youíre 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, letís 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, letís move on, for a moment, from practical to pretty.
Depending on where youíre headed, Gall says there are several standout styles to choose from this season ó from metallics to rhinestone embellishments to neon neoprene. Michael Korsí Mackay embossed leather wedge is one example ó a mix of materials that includes croc-embossed straps, a jute heel and a wooden platform. The 4?Ĺ-inch heels may have you teetering, but theyíre stacked, so walking isnít as daunting as it looks, Gall says. More challenging ó and controversial ó are the 5-inch-heeled flip-flops with ankle straps in Rihannaís 2018 Fenty x Puma collection, "A really fun take on a summer flip-flop," Gall says.
Itís all about statement moments, she says. And for some, that might include an ankle bracelet or even socks.
Not to worry: These arenít your fatherís 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 itís a big no-no unless youíre at the beach or pool. "For girls with a beautiful pedicure, itís great to have your feet out there. For dudes, no," she says. Stick to sneakers or loafers, she advises.
Letís face it: Lady toes, in general, just arenít as gnarly ó and weíve learned how to banish a lot of unpleasantness with a good pumice stone and some polish.
Itís not that men donít 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 arenít inclined to hide their hirsuteness (to shave or not to shave oneís toes is an ongoing debate), and theyíre far less likely to paint on a few coats of OPI or Essieís latest shades.
HEALTHY AND HAPPY
Speaking of polish, hereís 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 itís another foot problem thatís probably worse for Floridians than those who live in states with less humidity. Though you may be genetically predisposed, you also arenít doing yourself any favors if your feet are often moist and that moisture gets trapped under your nails, if youíre 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 doesnít get better, you may need to head to the doctor for a prescription remedy thatís more effective. Medications and laser treatments vary in price and arenít always covered by insurance. But a series of laser treatments ó usually six ó 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; donít 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 donít expect miracles. You might be dealing with a bigger issue ó a wart or athleteís foot.
When all is well, feel free to doll up those nails with some color ó 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 youíre 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 youíre 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 donít. Think of July as an all-star break for your feet.
Contact Kim Franke-Folstad at [email protected]