How to freshen up your feet for sandal season

— by Adrienne Wyper


The wonderful weather of the past week or so may have put you off your stride, footwear-wise. Just as we might find it difficult to embrace our increasing freedom post-pandemic, our feet also need time – and a little help – to adjust to being liberated from socks and boots. A ‘medi-pedi’ is a great treat for your feet. In addition to removing hard skin and a proper cleaning, other issues such as corns, verrucas, athlete’s foot etc, are also addressed. Margaret Dabbs is acclaimed. But you can take matters into your own hands…

Start by soaking your feet in a bowl with warm water and body wash. Wash your feet thoroughly, clean under the nails and cut them. Cutting straight across can leave sharp edges, so follow the shape of the nail-bed, ie gently rounded. Dry thoroughly, especially between the toes, and assess what needs attention.

NB If you have diabetes, it’s best to see a podiatrist because foot injury or infection can lead to complications.


Hard skin

This is caused by friction from poorly fitting shoes and lack of moisture, lots of running, walking or being on your feet, as well as being overweight. Wearing sandals also causes feet to dry out faster as they’re exposed to the open air (and super-healthy, super-popular Birkenstocks’ suede inners really absorb moisture from the feet!) Feet get drier with age, and need to be moisturised more often. The skin on your feet is much thicker than elsewhere, so use a rich formulation designed for feet.

If the skin is really tough and thick, leave it to a podiatrist. Find one at the Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists.

I’m a bit of a foot-filing addict: I find a scraping session quite relaxing. I’ve tried everything from natural pumice stone to the sandpaper-on-a-stick type to cheese-grater style. Leave it a while after washing, as moist skin is harder to remove. I’m now a fan of Scholl’s electronic foot file, battery-operated with a rotating, grating head – like a sander for the sole. There are several versions – browse here.

Don’t get carried away! Hard skin forms to protect our feet so removing too much can stimulate the production of more.


Cracked heels

These tiny splits in the skin, caused by excessive drying out, aren’t just unsightly, but can also become infected, bleed and even affect walking if left untreated. Urea is the effective ingredient to look for in a cracked heels cream. Regular applications can result in smoother heels in a week.


Leather shoes or sandals too snug?

Put on two pairs of socks, then your shoes or sandals. Blow warm air from your hairdryer onto the tight spot, until it feels warm. Walk around until the leather has cooled. Now try the shoes on barefoot and they should fit better. Repeat the process until the shoes fit.


Beat blisters

Blisters form more easily when the skin is sweaty and, of course, bare feet suffer more friction from sandals’ straps and seams. Too much rubbing on one spot, makes the damaged skin detach from underlying layers, and fluid, known as serum, fills the space to cushion the area. Don’t try to burst a blister – it could lead to an infection or slow down healing. Cover it with a plaster, if possible. Invisible gel options now exist for all foot areas; some are preventive; some protective; and some are both.


Fungal nail infection

This is incredibly common, affecting up to one in four people (I’m holding up my hand), and is most often caused by the athlete’s foot fungus. Nails become thickened and crumbly, whitish or yellowish, and it can take up to 12 months to cure. What worked for me was Boots Advanced Footcare Fungal Nail Treatment Pen. There are options with breathable nail polish to disguise the affected nail.


Heels or flats?

Find your perfect heel height, with a tip from podiatrist Emma Supple of Supple Feet. While seated, lift your leg, with foot relaxed. Place the ball of your foot gently on the floor without changing your foot’s position. The gap between the floor and the underside of your heel is your optimum heel height. She also advises never to wear any shoe for more than an hour after your feet start to hurt.


Give your feet a treat: go barefoot

Kick off your sandals and wriggle your toes in grass, dig into sand, or even squidge in mud. Walking barefoot restores our natural gait, which is good for foot, ankle and leg strength and mobility. The National Trust lists its top 50 places to go barefoot, designed for kids, but perfectly feasible for grown-ups, too. There’s also a theory that being barefoot on the earth can ‘ground’ you by restoring electrical conductivity. More research is needed but we can agree that it feels good!


Adrienne Wyper is a health and lifestyle writer and regular TNMA contributor. 



And here are our favourite summer sandals you can walk in:


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