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August 22 2014

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Margaret Dabbs Talks Summer Feet

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Margaret Dabbs has been in the business of feet since the mid-nineties, getting a degree in podiatry before opening her first foot-focused clinic in 1998. Since then, Dabbs has opened a slew of other clinics along with a flagship spa, which, besides tending to toes, also has a nail spa and a menu of holistic beauty treatments. She’s also launched her very own line of products for the feet (you can now find them at Space NK in the States, www.spacenk.com). Here, Dabbs offers her top tips for dealing with summertime foot woes.

Broaden Your Shoe Wardrobe
“Wedge heels can have very inflexible heels, so try to wear those that are lighter-weight and allow some cushioning and shock absorbance as you walk. Very high heels can wreck havoc on the feet if worn for prolonged periods of time; they will put pressure on the toe joints and the ball of the foot as well as sometimes cause corn and callus buildup. Mules or flip-flop style shoes don’t offer support to the arch. The key to avoiding these issues is to rotate shoe styles and heel heights; don’t wear the same shoes every day. And remember, pain is the biggest indicator: If a shoe hurts, don’t wear it.”

Don’t Sweat It
“Excessive sweating can be uncomfortable, but it’s a natural body function. And it’s actually quite a good thing as it helps to hydrate the feet. It only becomes an issue if bacteria builds up, as this can lead to foot odor. Simple rules are to keep the feet clean and dry—make sure that feet are washed and thoroughly dried, especially between the toes. Wear socks or tights as these will soak up excessive sweat and will keep the shoes themselves dry. And give the feet some fresh air when you can by walking around at home in bare feet.”

Exfoliate Frequently
“The primary issues we see in our clinics during the summer are dry, dehydrated skin and nails, cracked and calloused skin around the heel areas, and calluses over the weight-bearing areas of the feet like the big toe. In the summer we tend to wear flip-flops, and while these allow air for the feet, the constant slapping on the heel against an unsupported open back can promote hard skin. To combat this, exfoliate weekly with a product like our Exfoliating Foot Mousse; it has the high-performance ingredient emu oil, which is antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory, and has superb healing properties.”

File Dry
“Using foot files on dry skin simply gives the best results and is longer-lasting. Wet skin becomes soft when soaked in water and more prone to tearing and therefore potential infection. Also, the water masks the areas of hard and calloused skin, making it more difficult to remove.”

Speaking of Calluses…
“Hard masses on the big toe are normally due to friction of footwear rubbing the skin and the skin cells becoming compounded. Shoes that are tight or narrow can cause pressure on the toe area. Additionally, your gait can affect where callused and hard skin builds up on the feet. When the calluses build up, it can be painful at pressure-point areas. Generally, anything that causes pain to the feet means it is time to see a professional. Callus buildup is the skin’s way of offering protection to areas where there is friction. However, if it gets to a point where the callus becomes overthickened and pushes into softer tissues, it can be painful and unsightly. Go to a podiatrist who will make sure the callus is effectively removed.”

No Overnight Sock Treatments
“There is nothing more relaxing than soaking the feet in warm water with either a foot-specific product or just salt to provide relief for aches and pains. I don’t recommend any products that advise sleeping in socks, though. Socks are tight to the feet and can therefore restrict circulation. By putting socks over a product you are creating an environment for bacteria—warm and damp—and sweat will simply build up, leaving feet soggy, not fresh.”

All Lotions Are Not Created Equal
“Body lotion simply isn’t designed for the thicker skin on the feet, so it won’t be as effective. Look for foot-specific products; these have ingredients (like the emu oil in our products) that absorb into the skin so it’s effectively rehydrated, rather than simply sitting on the skin surface and leaving a film.”

Break In Before You Go Out
“Generally, leather shoes will give slightly and mold to the feet with wear, but now matter what, if you have new shoes, the best thing is to wear them indoors for a couple of days. If shoes rub slightly around the heel, run a thin layer of petroleum jelly along the inside to prevent the friction of the shoe against the hosiery and skin.”

Take a Polish Break
“Polishes can dehydrate the nail and cuticle areas, making them more prone to cracking and splitting. This not only looks unattractive, but the damage can take some time to put right since toenails take a while to grow back. Prolonged use of dark polish can also cause staining; it helps if you use solvent- and chemical-free lacquer, which is kinder to nails. Most importantly, make sure you give nails a break from polish every so often; a simply groomed and buffed nail can look fantastic.”

Photo: Getty Images

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