Women have about four times as many foot problems as men do--thanks to our love of high heels--which is why we asked Suzanne M. Levine, D.P.M., P.C., a New York City podiatric surgeon, for foot-care advice.
THE BASIC FACTS
The foot is an intricate structure comprising 26 bones, 33 joints, 107 ligaments, and 19 muscles and tendons that hold it together, which allows it to move. There are approximately 125,000 sweat glands that excrete as much as a quarter-pint of moisture each day. Corns (found on toes) and calluses (found on soles) are several layers of dead skin caused by frequent friction.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Here, some reasons why your feet may need extra care:
* Daily wear and tear Ill-fitting shoes (high heels are the worst offenders) are the main cause of foot problems.
* Friction When a particular spot on the foot is subjected to constant pressure or irritation, a blister will form. Over time, the body creates a cushion to protect that area in the form of a corn or callus.
* Ingrown nails Toenails should grow straight out, but sometimes one or both corners curve and grow into the flesh, leading to painful swelling.
* Excessive perspiration Foot odor results when bacteria grow in the moisture produced by the sweat glands.
Get your feet in top shape for summer. Beauty Rx:
1. Do daily maintenance. Levine suggests soaking feet, sloughing with a pumice stone, then following with a rich moisturizer (try: Origins Reinventing the Heel MegaMoisture for Dry, Cracked Feet, $19.50; origins.com).
2. Care for corns and calluses. Don't cut them; see a podiatrist, who can pare them down with professional tools.
3. Trim toenails straight across and use clippers designed for toenails (like the Tweezerman Power Toenail Clipper, $5.50; tweezerman.com) to prevent ingrowns.
4. Go shoe shopping in the midafternoon or later, when feet are likely to be a bit swollen (that way you'll get a pair that fits at all times of the day).
5. Cut odor. Try not to wear the same pair of shoes (or boots) two days in a row; this gives each pair a chance to air out. Powders like Dr. Scholl's Original Foot Powder ($5; drugstore.com) can help lessen odor too.
WHAT WORKS While Suzanne M. Levine, D.P.M., P.C., a podiatric surgeon at the Institute Beaute in Manhattan, offers professional foot "facials" in her office to keep feet soft and supple, you can give yourself a similar version at home with her Foot Facial Kit ($50; footfacial.com) or a collection of your own products. Her kit includes a cream to exfoliate thickened skin, a pumice stone to smooth calluses, a mask to remove oils and impurities, a copper-based cream to hydrate and a nail rejuvenator to improve discolored toenails. "A little pampering every night will give you beautiful feet," says Levine, "so you'll be proud to wear sandals and walk barefoot on the beach."