When I was in high school, I was grounded once for leaving the house without shoes, and once for coming home without them. The former: a guy named Marlon was picking me up in his 1970s Mercury Cougar to go to a party at the beach and I wanted to look like the kind of girl who was so laid-back she didn’t care about shoes. This was sort of true, until we ended up standing in the glass-and-shrapnel-ridden Burger King parking lot drinking beer for two hours. The latter: I passed out from heat exhaustion and general hysteria at a Sting concert and had to be hoisted over the crowd to security, losing my laceless purple Keds in the process. Both times, despite my best nonchalant hobble into my parents’ room to say goodnight, my mother was pissed.
She was also a visionary who saw the tortured life my feet would endure, and fought aimlessly to postpone the calloused inevitable for as long as she could.
Even now, twenty years later, there are summers when I am constantly shoeless and have to scrub my 7-Eleven feet (the bottoms black with what looks like parking lot tar, though I was no where near a parking lot) before my husband lets me get into bed. Combine that with a trendy shoe habit, and my 9 1/2s are so cracked and beaten that putting on socks can be an audible experience. You get the picture.
Despite semi-regular pedicures, keeping my feet from looking like they belong to a cave woman is an ongoing struggle. Recently, I met a manicurist who tried to set me straight. Here’s what she told me: Wear socks and comfortable shoes when you can. It helps keep moisture in and protects skin from the pounding of thin leather heels or flats. A thick layer of heavy cream—a basic like Lubriderm or Eucerin, an exfoliating alpha-hydroxy variety, or a thick ointment-style moisturizer like Elizabeth Arden 8-Hour Cream or Kerasal rough heel treatment—under cotton socks before bed may not cut it in sexier households like the Jolie-Pitt residence, but it does work. Buy a foot and callous file, also called a rasp, and use it before and after a shower. It works on wet and dry skin, if it’s extra-rough (but not cracked or bleeding). Give yourself at-home pedicures instead of relying only on salons. Soak your feet in warm, soapy water and use a homemade kosher salt and baby oil scrub to soften skin. Never EVER use a callous shaver. The blade cuts the skin and creates scar tissue that grows back even tougher. And she swore by Be Natural Callous Eliminator, a potent brew of exfoliating moisturizers. After soaking your feet, apply it to rough spots, let it sit for a couple of minutes, and then file them down.
If you do get a professional pedicure, don’t chintz on the $15 version. Those quickie nail places often don’t sterilize their tools properly, so they harbor foot fungus, which can be a cause of severely cracked heels. Try buying your own tool kit, storing it there, or bringing it with you. Unlike me, you probably don’t need to be reminded to wear shoes. But my mom tells me that helps, too.