Five Steps to Happy Toes

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Okay, ladies. It's that time of year again. The temperatures are going up rapidly; your feet are getting too warm wearing those sneakers or closed-toe shoes and are begging to be in flip-flops or those cute sandals that are on sale. If you're anything like me, you, too, will look in horror at what the winter months have done to your feet. The toes are gnarly and the heels are crusty and can rip holes in your sheets. It's time to get those feet pretty and ready for their close up!

I had my first professional pedicure about 10 years ago. Who knew pedis were so lovely? And my feet were so happy. But the expense of a real good pedi (usually at the nicer salons) can be daunting, especially in this economy climate, so I compromised with myself. I have pedis done in the summer because I love French pedis and I have never been able to get the same result doing them myself. Then during the winter months, I will do my own since my toes are usually covered and I don't need the fancy French kind.

You can duplicate the same salon treatment at home using natural, nontoxic products. The following 5 steps will have your feet summer-ready in about 40 minutes. You can do this once a month, with mini-maintenance in the weeks between.

Step One: Soak and Relax
Taking a soothing foot soak is a great way to start. Not only can you cleanse, deodorize and soften your feet, you can take those 10-20 minutes to (wait for it) relax! Soaking the feet helps soften those calluses that have been building up and make it easier to scrape off later. There are different kinds of soaks, of course, and using products that you probably already have in your kitchen, you can take one that accomplishes several different goals. You can take one that relaxes you using chamomile or peppermint. If you want to freshen and deodorize your feet, lavender, patchouli and even creosote leaves can do that. Need a little invigorating soak to get you up and going again? Peppermint and eucalyptus work so well, maybe you won't need that Starbucks latte. And what about those days you've been on your feet all day and they are aching like crazy? Epsom salts with rosemary, lavender and bay will be so soothing, you'll use them even when you're feet don't really need it.

Find a basin where your feet can fit and the water covers them completely. I put room temperature water in first, filling it only partially. I take water heated in an electric teapot and pour it in, agitating the water to mix it with the cooler water. Add enough to the desired level and temperature you want. Don't make it too hot or it can dry out your skin. Add the remaining ingredients you have chosen and soak anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. I usually watch a little TV or read a magazine or book to get myself to pass the time. I have to be truthful; getting me to sit still is a challenge so I always need a diversion to keep me there!

Step Two: Deep Cleanse
After soaking, use a mild cleanser and natural-bristle brush, and cleanse your feet (the soles, between your toes and around your nails), rinsing with the water in the basin. Gently clean under your nails with the pointed end of an orangewood stick.

Step Three: Smooth Your Feet
Finish your footbath with an exfoliating scrub. There are many you can use (including my sugar scrub I'm always hawking) depending on the sensitivity of your skin. I have supplied scrubs that will be gentle, invigorating or an extra-strong one for those times your feet need extra attention. Because their skin is tougher and thicker, feet are very different from elbows and knees. They can stand a coarser scrub like ground pumice, sand, or kosher salt. Use the water from the basin to rinse or, if it's too murky from rinsing off the cleanser, rinse in warm water from a second basin or in your tub. Using a pumice stone or a foot file, gently remove rough, dry skin on the heels, sides and balls of your feet. If you have thick calluses, don't try to remove the calluses all at once or you can end up with painfully sensitive feet. Instead, plan for weekly pedicure treatments and you'll have smooth feet within a month. Now, I have to be honest with you and say that, up until a few years ago, the most effort I put into my feet were washing them during my shower or bath. My heels were in terrible shape. There were so many calluses built up on them, they had started to crack. I never looked at them so I guess 'out of sight, out of mind' applied here. I became dedicated to getting those heels in shape. I did what I recommended here but I also kept a foot file in the shower. I rubbed it gently around my heels, sides and balls of my feet every time I showered. One time I did get a little too enthusiastic and ended up with sores that had to heal before I started the routine again. I did this religiously for around two months and now I rarely have to use the file except periodically during the winter when I am not having professional pedis. 


Step Four: Moisturize For Soft Feet
After rinsing and drying your feet, massage an oil or rich moisturizing cream into your feet, paying special attention to your heels and any other areas that tend to be dry. Also massage a small amount into your cuticles and nails. Gently push back cuticles with the blunt end of an orangewood stick. Don't cut cuticles, and don't pry them away from the nail. Healthy cuticles protect the nail bed and keep bacteria out. If you use my Foot Cream recipe (below), I would recommend you put it on at night (smear it on real good and thick) then wear white, cotton socks while sleeping. I promise that if you do this for a few days, you will see a world of difference.

Step Five: Trim, Shape and Buff
When it comes to trimming your toenails, I can't stress enough that you need to use the proper procedure or you can do some damage. There is a great website that gives you step-by-step instructions on so if you think you need a little more guidance than what I supply here, please go to:

http://www.drmyattswellnessclub.com/healthbeatV8118.htm

The reason I am trying to impress this upon you is I used to cut my toenails the wrong way and ended up with a chronic, infected hangnail. I had to have half of my toenail removed by a specialist. Not a fun procedure and not very attractive, either. So be careful!

Trim your toenails straight across with a straightedge toenail clipper or good nail scissors. Don't trim the nail in an oval shape, dipping down towards the cuticle. This is what leads to the nail growing into the flesh.

Don't cut them too short either and don't leave sharp corners. Using an emery board, smooth the rough edges of your nails and carefully file the sharp corners. File in one direction to avoid splitting and weakening nails.  Finish by buffing your toenails to a natural shine with a nail buffer. Buffing stimulates circulation to the nail bed and helps to create healthy, strong nails. Buffing your nails is an excellent alternative to toxic nail polishes and polish removers. But who can resist the latest OPI color? The name alone forces you to buy it, right?

Here is a list of items and ingredients you may need to make your toes the happiest they can be. This list has everything you would need to make all the recipes I've provided but don't be put off with how many are on here; you can start slow by getting the most essential then add other things a little at a time. That's how I started and in a few months I had a full Nail Spa Basket!

Pedi Spa List
• Basin large enough for both feet
• Baking soda
• Borax
• Foot brush (natural bristle is the best)
• Pumice stone or foot file
• Orangewood stick
• Toenail clippers
• Emery board
• Nail buffer
• Epsom salts
• Essential oils of lavender, patchouli, tea tree oil, peppermint, eucalyptus, rosemary, bay
• Peppermint and chamomile tea bags

Simple Foot Soak
Vinegar is great for deodorizing and removing toxins.

To 1-2 gallons of water, add 1 cup vinegar, apple cider or white.

Simple Relaxing Foot Soak
1 gallon water
1 peppermint tea bag
1 chamomile tea bag
1 cup epsom salts

Add water to basin, using ½ room temperature and ½ hot water. Add epsom salts and tea bags. Agitate with hand for a few seconds until salts are dissolved. Leave tea bags in water while soaking feet. Soak for 10-20 minutes.

Base recipe for foot soak
1-2 gallons water
1 cup baking soda
½ cup borax

To the basic recipe add the following ingredients depending on what kind of mood you're in:

Freshen and Deodorize
5 drops lavender essential oil
2 drops patchouli essential oil

or

10 drops tea tree oil essential oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil
1 small branch of fresh creosote branch

Invigorating
5 drops eucalyptus essential oil
2 drops peppermint essential oil

Oh, My Aching Feet!
5 drops rosemary essential oil
2 drops lavender essential oil

or

1 cup epsom salt
10 drops rosemary essential oil
10 drops bay essential oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil

Foot Cleansing Soap
4 oz liquid glycerine soap (I get unscented at Trader Joe's for about 2.99 for 12 ounces or you can get some online for around $25.00+shipping and handling)

10 drops each:
rosemary essential oil
lavender essential oil
peppermint essential oil

Sugar Scrub
2 1/2 cups sugar, white or brown ( you can use raw sugar but only if you're going to use it on your feet. It's too abrasive for the rest of your body)

1/2 cup olive oil, almond, jojoba, or avocado oil
2 TBS honey
1 teaspoon essential oil, own personal choice

Stir ingredients together and store in airtight container.

Simple Scrub for Sensitive Feet
1 cup epsom salts
2 TBL almond oil (or olive oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil-your choice)
5 drops rosemary OR lavender essential oil

Blend ingredients together and massage feet and ankles making sure you get between the toes and paying special attention to the rough spots. Rinse.

Mighty Scrub for Mighty Rough Spots
1 TBS ground pumice powder or beach sand
2 TBS sour cream
1 tsp honey

To make ground pumice powder, take an old pumice stone and place inside heavy plastic bag. Gently pound stone with mallet or hammer until you have a fine powder. Mix this powder with the remaining ingredients and stir well. If using beach sand, make sure it's real clean; rinse with water before adding to the rest of the ingredients. Massage scrub into your feet, giving special attention to your heels. Wash scrub completely from your feet. Store any leftover scrub in clean jar and store in refrigerator.

Sher's Foot Cream
This recipe was one of the first I made and gave away as a gift. To this day, the recipients are asking for refills. When you see this recipe and how simple it is, you will understand my embarrassment when I get so much praise. But I try to be gracious and say Thank You!

1 cup Cetaphil Body Cream
½ tsp lavender essential oil
¼ tsp peppermint essential oil

Put body cream in bowl; add lavender essential oil with a whisk. Add peppermint essential oil a little at a time until it reaches the desired level. Peppermint can be extremely strong, so add a little bit at first; it's easy to add more but impossible to take out!