Beauty

Why you should be taking extra care of your feet this winter

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Ava Welsing-Kitcher
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Heavy boots, soggy socks and restrictive tights: thanks to your winter wardrobe, your feet could do with some TLC. Stylist shows you how…

Who else is guilty of being a fair-weather friend when it comes to your feet? I know I’m not the only one. As soon as spring arrives, my Tevas emerge and I’ll panic-book a pedicure or haphazardly do it myself throughout the summer, only to heave a sigh of relief when autumn approaches and I can bundle up in 40 deniers and Docs and forget about them again for half a year. 

Yes, feet are often the last thing we pay attention to, let alone on a regular basis. But the key to them being happy and healthy lies in year-round maintenance, rather than trying to tackle all that dead skin in one super-strength session each May. While we’re pretty consistent with our manicures, there’s a significant fluctuation when it comes to pedicures: beauty booking app Treatwell reports a peak in appointments in April each year, which then drops off in September.

But why should we bother in winter when feet are covered up? “I see a big increase in hygiene-related conditions in the colder season purely because of how constricted the feet are,” explains podiatrist and foot expert Margaret Dabbs. “Being enclosed in socks, tights and heavy shoes creates a warm, sweaty environment for feet to breed bacteria and fungal infections. On top of that, we’re dealing with more rain and shoes that don’t dry out completely, causing soggy, blister-prone skin and discoloured nails. It’s the worst kind of hibernation.” 

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A standard file and paint won’t cut it, either. The pedi conversation has moved on to focus on foot health over simple aesthetics. Your great aunt probably has her podiatrist on speed dial, but the rest of us tend to see them as problem fixers we don’t need just yet. In reality, we all do. 

These foot wizards are known for treating mobility and muscular disorders, as well as common issues such as blisters, bunions and verrucas, with a strong emphasis on medical health over aesthetics. But many podiatrists can do both. Just like how trips to the dentist used to be solely for root canals and cavities but now incorporate smile-enhancing treatments, podiatry is following suit.

A simple trim and polish doesn't quite cut it.

“People now want the option of having aesthetical boosts for their feet paired with medical health,” says Dabbs. “There’s definitely been a shift that mirrors that seen in dentistry; it’s about tackling issues before they have a chance to spring up, while maintaining pretty feet that are functioning healthily.” But forget stark, clinical offices: there’s been a wave of boutique podiatrists popping up in hotels, department stores and on high streets, making foot care all the more enjoyable.

While the quest for true foot health requires more than just an appointment, the time-poor among us can get away with doing most of the background work ourselves. “If you have ‘normal’ feet (with no major issues like bunions), you can visit a podiatrist every six weeks, but most people don’t realise they have problems until we uncover them,” Dabbs advises. Scroll on for our cheat sheet to healthy feet in case you’ve been doing it all wrong.

How to remove dead skin from feet

Keep it dry

Contrary to common practice, soaking feet before tackling dead skin is a podiatrist’s worst nightmare. “Water weakens the skin tissue (especially if it’s cracked) and makes it more vulnerable to abrasive foot filing,” warns Dabbs. “It also softens and disguises hard patches, and the foot file won’t adhere so well. You don’t need a flashy gadget, just a great hygienic hand file that’s easy to wield and will take skin off evenly, preventing it from growing back harder.” Try Margaret Dabbs Professional Foot File, £24, and follow up with a physical scrub to lift dead flakes from regular skin. 

Soften up

Always, always finish with a moisturiser. “The skin on the feet is 12 times harder than the rest of your body, so your standard lotion won’t penetrate,” says Dabbs. “We also have 250,000 sweat glands in our feet, so something antibacterial, deodorising and non-greasy is a must.” Try Ameliorate Intensive Foot Treatment, £10.50. 

How to take care of your nails

Trim nails regularly

At this time of year we need to keep an eye on our toenails more than ever. “The risk of ingrown toenails heightens during winter due to constricting tights and ill-fitting heavy footwear, leading to added friction and strain,” warns Juanita Hatfield, podiatrist at Ama salon in Brixton. “Regularly trim them using clippers, following the natural shape of the nail without cutting the corners, as this encourages them to regrow down into the skin.” Try Tweezerman Precision Grip Toenail Clipper, £14.95.

Buff to boost circulation 

If you’re going without polish, indulge in a bit of nail buffing – try Leighton Denny Trio Buffer, £5. “Yellowing nails occur from consistently wearing polish, even with a base coat,” explains celebrity pedicurist Bastien Gonzalez. “Leather buffers are unrivalled for boosting circulation for healthy pink nails, as well as unbelievable shine.” And what about the cuticles? “Leave them alone, as they provide a much-needed barrier between the nail bed and bacteria,” he advises. 

The best podiatrists in the UK

Margaret Dabbs London

With clinics in London and across the UK, Margaret Dabbs is highly acclaimed for both a health and aesthetics-centred approach to podiatry. 

What to ask for: The Medical Pedicure, from £85; margaret dabbs.co.uk 

Shuropody

The UK’s biggest pool of expert podiatrists offers treatments for every kind of condition you can fathom, big or small, in reputable clinics. 

What to ask for: prices and treatments vary according to clinic; shuropody.com 

Hatfield Podiatry Clinic at Ama Salon, London

Resident podiatrist Juanita Hatfield is a member of the College of Podiatry and offers personalised monthly sessions at this salon in Brixton. 

What to ask for: initial consultation to assess your needs, £45; amathesalon.com 

Best pedicure colours for winter

  • J Hannah Nail Polish in Artichoke,

    The ultimate olive green to suit all skintones.

  • Nars Nail Polish in Kalymnos

    This is the cooler version of summer’s pastel purple.

  • Nails Inc Nail Polish in Great Eastern Street

    Electrify your toes with a neon coral.

  • OPI Nail Lacquer in Always Bare For You

    Winter’s take on a clean white pedi.

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Ava Welsing-Kitcher

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