It all began as a simple way to let our family and friends know, “Ahhh… we have escaped the rat race… we have arrived; and vacation has begun!” You’ve seen them before – the legs-at-the-pool and feet-in-the-sand selfies all over Instagram and Facebook. Mine were posted from sunny spots in Waikiki, Lahaina, Riviera Maya, Fire Island… usually with my cel phone in one hand and some icy, frou-frou cocktail in the other. I repeat, “Ahhh…”
Unexpectedly, friends began to respond to these posts with complimentary comments about my feet, even going so far as to call them “pretty for a man”. “Pretty”: not exactly a word I had ever associated with my feet (or my knees or elbows, for that matter); but heck… I had made a conscious and determined effort to take better care of my feet, teeth and skin over the past decade or so… maybe I just hadn’t noticed that my efforts might actually be paying off.
My “relationship” with my feet (that’s what I call it) began on the yoga mat. I guess, like most men, I had never paid much attention to my feet. Toenails got clipped only when someone else complained (or expressed horror); and feet got washed quickly and unattentively before being stuffed, unceremoniously, into socks and shoes. No biggie. But when you do yoga, you start each practice sitting on your mat, legs stretched out in front of you, looking DIRECTLY at your feet. There is no way you can ignore them; and that’s when I started paying attention. I also began to notice other men’s feet; and I felt a lot better about my own, to be honest. Still, I had the same feeling I had as a kid watching that groundbreaking TV documentary back in the 1970s, “Scared Straight”. Observing and studying the feet of other men around me, I decided, “Oh, HELL NO! That is NOT my future!”
Yoga taught me that my feet were the foundation for all of my standing poses. Without strong, healthy, well-cared-for feet, my asanas had no base from which to soar. Little by little, I began to build that relationship with my feet. We are now BFFs…
I was on that yoga mat in the summer of 2015, doing my morning practice at the campground below Devil’s Tower National Monument in Wyoming. I was nearing the completion of a solo camping trip to check off the last 4 states on my bucket list: Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and North Dakota. A foot selfie was posted to Facebook: toes wiggling in the golden, morning sunrise, with the geologic wonder of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” fame looming in the distance. Immediately, a comment on my feet came back, posted by a close, female friend of mine (I’ll call her “T” in order to protect the identity of her husband “M”, also a dear friend of mine, and his admittedly “gnarly” feet):
“T”: “Nani… ur feet look so soft.”
Me: “Haha! Here’s my message to men of the world: ‘C’mon, guys… get a damned pedicure once in a while! Geez!’”
“T”: “I know… I told ‘M’ u wonder y men don’t have a relationship w their feet.”
The 3 of us still joke and laugh about man-feet every time we meet. And still, no improvement in “M”’s feet.
But just a few days ago, over two years after my return from Devil’s Tower, I received a text from “M”:
“I need to establish a relationship with my (gnarly) feet.”
“T” wins… (the wife always does).
I texted back to my great friend “M” (and post here for the benefit of the adult males in my life and the relief of their significant others) my personal regimen for eliminating ghastly man-foot:
- Start by getting a professional pedicure – add on the callus-removal service and a foot massage.
- Reevaluate your footwear. Are they crushing and deforming your feet? Give those babies some room!!!
- Get a foot scrubber or pumice and scrub the soles of your feet daily in the shower.
- Get a foot-specific moisturizer and apply in the morning and at night. (The best I have found is Flexitol Heel Balm, though it smells unappealingly like diaper-rash cream.)
- Keep your toenails trimmed and clean.
- Once a year (during the dead of winter, when you won’t be seen barefoot outdoors), apply a foot exfoliating mask, which will, in a matter of 2 weeks, slough off all the dry skin on your feet. (I use Changing U Magic Foot Peeling Shoes – yeah, they need a better translator on their product development team – by TonyMoly, which I get in NYC’s Koreatown and Chinatown neighborhoods.)
- Get a professional pedicure regularly, once a month or so. (Yes, you’ll probably be the only man in the nail salon; and you’ll get lots of stares from the women aestheticians AND customers… big deal… do what I do – stare back… HARD.)
- Unless the rest of your body is extremely hairy (in which case your feet actually match your body), tweeze the sparse and unruly hairs sprouting from the tops of your feet and toes. (Yes, it hurts like a muthah; but remember – chimpanzee feet AIN’T sexy.)
- Exercise your feet daily to keep them supple and alive: Curl and flex your toes repeatedly; stretch your arches; rotate your feet at the ankle, clockwise and counterclockwise; spread your toes far apart as possible; do “the wave” with your toes, from big toe to little and from little toe to big.
- Treat yourself to professional foot massages every so often. They are wonderful; and you AND your feet deserve the extra attention.
- Take your shoes AND socks off as much as possible… let your feet BREATHE!!!