Your Biggest Foot Flaws—Fixed!

Never mind your neck; most women feel bad about their feet. We asked the best foot and nail experts to share solutions for the biggest pedi problems

by Deanna Pai • Associate Beauty Editor
pedicure image
Photograph: Anne Menke/Trunk Archive

A good spa pedicure is a great start. But these foot flaws require their own specific TLC.

Problem: Cracking, Peeling
It doesn’t take a detective to determine the cause of parched, peeling skin. “As we get older, everything becomes more dehydrated, including your feet,” says Elisa Kavanagh, DPM, a Manhattan podiatrist who treats the Radio City Rockettes. Without aggressive, daily hydration at home, feet can develop chronic dryness resulting in fissures, those deep cracks that appear on the backs of heels and under the toes.

Solution: For severe cases, Kavanagh suggests daily use of an over-the-counter cream with 20 percent urea, a substance that helps hold on to moisture. A good one: Gormel Creme ($19; Curél Foot Therapy ($5;, with 3 percent urea plus shea butter, is sufficient for mild to medium cracking. The routine: Twice a week, before bed, slather your feet with the cream and slip on a pair of thin cotton socks. After a week, your feet should start to feel significantly softer and smoother, says Kavanagh. To maintain results, you must continue this routine; stopping will make your skin susceptible to cracks again. If wearing socks to bed makes you too hot in the summer, try Bliss Softening Socks and Foot Patrol set ($49; The socks in the kit have a gel lining infused with hydrating botanical oils. Wear them for 20 minutes twice a week for results similar to those with Curél Foot Therapy.

Problem: Rough, Yellowish Skin
Our feet, like our faces, shed dead cells much more slowly as we age. Months of inefficient exfoliation can lead to a condition called hyperkeratosis, in which cell buildup creates a rough, yellow-tinged shield on the foot. “The first place you’ll typically see this is on the backs of the heels,” says Suzanne Levine, DPM, author of My Feet Are Killing Me. The second place? The bottoms of the feet, where the thickening layers of dead skin can actually put pressure on the foot when you walk and cause pain.

Solution: Diligent exfoliation will keep dead-skin buildup in check; twice a week, try using a scrub such as Rituals Yogi Secret Foot Scrub ($16; or an exfoliating device such as Clarisonic Pedi Foot Transformation ($199; For a heavy-duty overhaul, Deborah Lippmann, celebrity manicurist and founder of an eponymous hand- and nail-care line, suggests also using a foot file in the shower, when skin is softened by water. Just run the file across the soles and heels of your feet 10 times per foot twice a week. We like Feet by OPI Callus File ($20; In extreme cases in which there’s enough pain to impede your natural gait, “a podiatrist may have to shave down the buildup with a sterile scalpel,” says Jeffrey DeSantis, DPM, a podiatrist and president of Cambridge Foot & Ankle Associates in Orange, California.

Problem: A Bluish Tinge
Circulation begins to slow in your thirties and forties, at which point, says Kavanagh, most people “experience a diminished blood supply to their feet.” The result: Feet get blotchy or even develop a bluish cast (caused by blood that has become stagnant and oxygen-deficient). Drinking coffee or alcohol or smoking (or, even worse, a combination of the three)  exacerbates the problem, constricting capillaries and slowing down blood flow, says Levine.

First published in the July/August 2014 issue

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