What Your Pedicurist Knows About You, Just From Looking At Your Feet

They aren't judging you, but they can tell if your shoes are the wrong size, if you're at risk for diabetes and even the type of job you have.
No judgment, only a world of insights.
sstop via Getty Images
No judgment, only a world of insights.

We all started out with lovely feet. Just play “This Little Piggie” with a baby and you’ll see what used to be yours, before city sidewalks, uncomfortable shoes and pounding exercise contributed to years of wear and tear.

While many of us want to feel good about what we’re showing off in sandals, it can be a leap of faith to remove our shoes and socks in the presence of a professional, whether it’s a pedicurist or a podiatrist. Are they checking out our feet and judging? And what, if anything, can they tell about us from looking at our feet?

“There are so many people who apologize for the condition of their feet when calling for an appointment,” said manicurist Erin Beckett-Gland. “They’re embarrassed and warn me that they look awful. But that’s why I’m here — to help them find the healthy feet they can feel confident in showing during sandal season.”

Even if your feet truly look bad, keep in mind that professionals have seen pretty much everything.

“Truth be told, there are a lot of gnarly things that can happen to your feet, and you should not feel embarrassed about them one bit,” said podiatrist Brad Schaeffer, a cast member of the TLC showMy Feet Are Killing Me.” “Everyone has wild foot issues, and most of them are easily treated with proper care.”

What Your Feet Can Say About You

“Feet often tell a story,” Beckett-Gland said. “I can tell when someone is wearing shoes too small for them by the way their toenails split or their toes are curled into hammer toes or claw toes. I can tell when they over pronate, roll their feet inward too much or need an arch support because they have the signs of a bunion and the big toe deviating.”

Podiatrist Robert Spalding, author of “The Science of Pedicures,” said that “hyper-thickened calluses are a dead giveaway of abnormal pressure points on the foot or toes.”

One of the first things he does is check out the shoes someone wore to the appointment. “I match the foot to the shoe, since shoes can aggravate or improve almost 90% of most foot and toe problems,” Spalding said.

You might even be giving away some clues to your profession during an appointment. “We podiatrists have a big patient base among those whose jobs require a lot of standing, like warehouse employees, letter carriers and restaurant employees,” Spalding said. “I’ll notice the shape of their foot, since the more that pressure is applied to the foot, the more it will splay, which means it gets wide and long over time.”

Professionals might also get a hint about some of your activities based on your feet. “When someone comes in with fungal issues, I might ask questions to see if they picked those up from walking around their gym barefoot, or from frequenting poor-quality nail salons,” Schaeffer said.

It’s easiest to spot runners and climbers because of the damage to their big toenails, said nail artist Vanessa Sanchez McCullough. “Constantly banging the big toe against the sneaker usually creates nail damage that will appear bruised, and many times causes the nail to lift from the nail bed.”

Other types of shoes leave their mark, too. “People who wear high heels a lot will very often have bunions and excessive calluses around the toes,” she said.

Certain cues can tell your pedicurist a lot about your hobbies, especially if you're a runner.
Jon Feingersh Photography Inc via Getty Images
Certain cues can tell your pedicurist a lot about your hobbies, especially if you're a runner.

They Can Even Flag Health Issues That May Require A Doctor

“A well-educated pedicurist can spot potential health issues, because both fingernails and toenails can be windows to a person’s health,” McCullough said.

Beckett-Gland said she refers customers to a health care professional if she notices a serious abnormality or other cause for concern.

Sometimes, concerns about a foot problem can lead to a serious diagnosis, Schaeffer said. “We look at the skin, pulses and nerves to determine any underlying conditions,” he said. “Diabetes is probably the most common diagnosis that we can assess during a foot exam. Other times, melanoma can be found in the feet.”

The Mistake Most People Make Before An Appointment

For your safety, you shouldn’t use shave your legs for the day or two before a pedicure. “A razor nick can be a perfect portal for infection,” Spalding said.

There’s also no need to prep your toenails before a pedicure.

“So many times, people get impatient and cut their toenails before their appointment,” McCullough said. “They come see me with really short nails that are difficult to make look pretty.”

Instead, follow Beckett-Gland’s advice to keep it clean and simple: “I wish people would just take a shower before they come in for an appointment. I want them to come with clean, dry feet, with no added lotion, creams or oils. I need to see the feet in their natural state so I can actually see what the issues are.”

How To Take Care Of Your Feet Between Appointments

There are steps you can take at home to keep your feet looking and feeling good. “Exfoliate the sole of the foot once a week with a foot file or a good scrub,” Beckett-Gland said. “Pumice stones are too porous, harbor too much bacteria and are not beneficial to the exfoliation process.”

But don’t stop there. “You must moisturize your feet after exfoliation,” McCullough said. “If you don’t, you’ll find your feet will be drier than before you started.”

Choose a rich lotion intended for feet, experts said. “The basic body lotion isn’t going to cut it when it comes to the soles of the feet,” Beckett-Gland said. “The sole of the foot has no hair follicles, so there are no sebaceous glands to help protect the skin from drying out. Soles also have an extra layer of skin that is nowhere else on the body. Choose products that have a molecular structure small enough to penetrate the sole of the foot skin.”

When in doubt, go to the professionals.

“The best way to maintain a great pedicure is to get pedicures often,” McCullough said. “Most of my clients get bi-weekly pedicures along with their manicures, and they have beautiful feet. Bi-weekly may be too much commitment for some people, so every four weeks is sometimes more realistic.”

Want to save some big bucks and give yourself a salon-quality pedicure at home? Here’s everything you’ll need, recommended by the pros.

HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.

An elevated foot stand to make pedicures easier
Contorting yourself into odd angles just reach your toes can be a deal-breaker when it comes to giving yourself a pedicure. This waterproof, sturdy and adjustable pedicure assistant holds your foot at a comfortable slant so you can paint your toes with ease and save yourself the back pain. The anti-skid feet are compatible with any floor surface, and it easily folds flat for storage.
An electric callus remover for baby-soft heels
Thick calluses and rough, cracked heels can be embarrassing to have and even more difficult to get rid of. This electric rotating callus remover may help you get the baby-soft feet of your dreams. The waterproof design makes this safe for use in the shower, and three attachments with different gradients work to easily exfoliate and soften thick skin.
An ergonomic nail polish brush topper for greater control when painting
If shaky and unsure hands prevent you from achieving a perfectly painted nail, this attachable polish handle by Olive & June might be able to help, even when using your non-dominant hand. Compatible with most nail polish bottles, this ergonomic wide-based handle allows you to have better control by providing you a more secure and comfortable grip.
A peel-off cuticle guard for perfectly painted nails
If you're prone to coloring outside the lines and hate dealing with the tedious post painting cleanup, this liquid polish barrier might be your new best friend. Just paint this low-odor and quick-drying latex around the nail bed and along the cuticle before painting your nails. Once the polish has dried, easily peel away the barrier to reveal cleanly painted nails without that pesky polish spillover.
A nail care kit that includes all of your mani and pedi essentials
Made of durable stainless steel and covered in a non-slip rubber coating, this 18-piece manicure set features cuticle cutters and four different sizes of nail clippers for more precise trimming, as well as a nail cleaner and scraping knife to remove stubborn bits of nail polish.
A luxury vibrating and heating foot spa
This large-capacity foot spa can be a great way to bring the nail salon experience to your home. The adjustable shower bar at the front of the tub can relax stiff and sore shin or calf muscles, and a six-option motorized massage base can help relieve foot pain and improve circulation. Additionally, the tub's quick-heat feature can keep a temperature of 118 degrees Fahrenheit for up to hour, but you can freely adjust the temperature to your preference. Detachable rollers also make this tub easy to move, while a convenient automatic drain pipe makes cleanup simple.
A bag of popular soaking salts to soothe tired feet
With nearly 15,000 five-star ratings on Amazon, this best-selling epsom salt foot soak is made with a proprietary and soothing blend of oils like eucalyptus, tea tree, lavender, peppermint and rosemary to not just relieve achy, tired feet but to also combat toe fungus, odor-causing bacteria, stubborn calluses and more. One Amazon user said that this foot soak even got rid of her husband's toenail fungus that he has been battling for over 40 years.
A deluxe filing set to buff, shape and shine nails
This 14-piece set of professional nail files includes emery boards and filing blocks all of varying grit to help shape, file and buff nails. It also includes two tempered crystal glass nail files which can be good for shaping nails while also reducing the chances of nail splitting and breakage.
A bottle of “mani-saving”drops that instantly dry your polish
Nothing is worse than a smudged set of freshly painted nails. Fortunately, just a few drops of this quick-drying solution by Olive & June can dry nails in about 80 seconds, so you don't have to wait around for an hour while your manicure dries. A blend of jojoba seed oil also leaves nails with a salon-finish shine, and the easy squeeze tube makes for an easy one-handed application.
A crowd favorite cuticle oil for nourished and healthy nails
This nourishing nail and cuticle oil by Essie can be a great way to improve nail health, especially in between potentially damaging gel or acrylic manicures. Formulated with a conditioning blend of apricot kernel, sweet almond and jojoba oils, this is a fast-absorbing treatment that leave nails feeling shiny and healthy.
A gel nail polish kit with a UV light
For a salon-quality gel manicure at home that lasts longer than traditional nail lacquer, this professional-style essentials kit has everything you need to get started, including an LED curing light to harden the gel and acetone to remove it. The bottles are clearly labeled to guide you along the process, and you can find a wide range of gel nail colors also on Amazon for $9.99 per bottle.
A rechargeable professional drill for a number of mani and pedi needs
For jagged nail edges, uneven nail surfaces, stubborn gel polish residue, cuticle and callus removal or overly thick nail beds, this cordless electric sanding drill for nails is a great effective option. It comes with 10 different sapphire and felt attachments and has three speed settings, as well as an integrated LED light.
A nourishing cream to hydrate hands and feet
Formulated with 15% shea butter for deep hydration, this custard-like cream from L'Occitane is great for cracked heels, toes and palms. It also contains soothing ingredients like arnica and lavender to help relieve the feeling of tired feet — an ideal post-manicure and pedicure treatment.
A cuticle dissolver for easy and effortless removal
For particularly stubborn cuticles, this fast-acting exfoliating serum makes cuticle removal effortless, without having to use clippers or uncomfortable cuticle pushers. The phthalate-free product breaks down excess skin in about 15 seconds while ingredients like chamomile and aloe nourish and soften cuticles.
A magnifier light to reduce straining
Easily spot missed cuticles or unpainted nail edges with this bendable magnifying LED light. The heavy base sits securely on any surface, or you can use the included clamp to attach to a table edge. The flexible gooseneck measures 13.5 inches in height, and the genuine glass can magnify up to 176%.

Before You Go

The Poppy manicure tool

Olive & June Nail Products You Need For The Perfect Manicure

Do you have info to share with HuffPost reporters? Here’s how.

Go to Homepage

Popular in the Community


Gift Guides