Someday we are going to be able to wear bare legs and open-toed shoes again. I'm hopeful that winter will be over some time in the next several years, and that I will get to show off my bright coral pedicure. It is with this sense of optimism that I decided to try out five different foot products, all of which are meant to either beautify your feet (as much as feet can possibly be beautiful) or prevent those new strappy wonders you're dying to buy from wreaking complete havoc on your feet.
I braved frozen ankles, slippery acid peels, numb toes, and extreme flaky grossness to bring you these five foot product reviews. Oh, and if you don't like TMI about feet, you've been duly warned. Read on.
BABY FOOT ($25):
Thanks to years of running and wearing heels (and sometimes running in heels), my feet are those of an honorary hobbit. I've tried every manner of scrub and scraper on the market to get rid of the nasty, hard callouses on my feet. Then a few weeks ago, I went to a class at Tracy Anderson's fitness studio, and she gave us all a goody bag at the end. In it was the Baby Foot peel. I've read a lot of reviews of this product, and had been wanting to try it for a while. It was fate: When Gwynnie's guru gives you a foot care product, you use it.
This Japanese acid foot peel is sold as a one-time-use pair of plastic booties. In the booties is a cold, gooey gel containing 17 extracts, including fruit acids. After washing and soaking your feet, you put the booties on and let the gel cover your feet for an hour. In the instruction booklet, there are multiple warnings about not trying to walk in them. I ignored this, and got up once while wearing them to go to the refrigerator. After that slippery, perilous journey, I put some socks on over the booties (the brand recommends this because the heat increases the efficacy of the acids) and sat down for the remainder of the hour.
After an hour, I washed the gel off and waited. It can take anywhere from 4 to 7 days before peeling starts. On day five I still didn't have any peeling and was starting to get impatient. Some online reviews (there are tons and also lots of peeling foot pictures -- I was equally mesmerized and disgusted) recommended soaking your feet every day after the peel. I did this and the next day I woke up with the flakiest feet ever. And it did not stop for a solid week. I got a massage that week and was totally mortified to have the massage therapist touch them. I tried to explain about the exotic Japanese peel I had done, but she looked skeptical. I don't blame her. My feet looked diseased.
After about two weeks, my feet stopped peeling. While not quite perfectly soft, I'd say there was a 75 percent improvement, particularly in my heels. I'm definitely trying another one to see if I can take care of that last 25 percent. My advice? If you're going to try this, do it now before sandal season because when your feet are in the throes of the deep peel, they are not fit to be seen by human eyes. Trust me.
HEEL NO PAIN ($14.95/1oz):
Nora wrote about this numbing foot product a few months ago, and I basically stalked the company until I could get my hands on some. Historically I do not choose shoes based on their comfort level, as evidenced by my recent purchase at the Bergdorf shoe sale. (Prada pumps with metallic detail, 45 percent off, see below right.) While not insanely high, this shoe is a foot squeezer, thanks to the extreme pointed toe. I've had problems with pain on the sides of my toes with shoes like this in the past. After one wearing, they proved to be uncomfortable enough to merit testing with Heel No Pain.
This foot spray, developed by a physician, contains lidocaine, which is the same numbing medicine dentists use. Because you apply it topically rather than as an injection, it doesn't cause that totally disconcerting numbing sensation; it just takes the edge off. Heel No Pain comes in two formulations, Style and Active. They're essentially the same, except the Active version also contains tea tree oil for athlete's foot and peppermint oil to cool. I used one type on each foot, donned my Pradas, and ran around NYC. I walked my kids five blocks to school in them, then took the subway to an event and back. I was skeptical of this product at first, but after using it, I'm a believer.
While the spray didn't do anything for the near frostbite condition of my bare ankles, my toes were noticeably more comfortable than in my first outing sans spray. They felt slightly numb and a bit tingly, but I could definitely still feel them. I didn't notice much of a difference between the Sport and the Style versions. I used the Style spray again about an hour into my travels on the back of my heels, where the shoes started to rub uncomfortably, and it took care of the pain instantly. After about two hours, I wanted those shoes off, because nothing can really "cure" squeezy shoes (or wide toes). But for a bit of running around and some spot pain, this spray was kind of a lifesaver.
STILL STANDING ($19.99/4 purse sprays)
This spray is essentially the "natural" equivalent of Heel No Pain. It contains menthol, arnica and aloe (both of which are known for their anti-inflammatory properties), and organic ilex, a rain forest plant. I assumed it wouldn't be quite as effective as a spray with lidocaine, so I planned to use it with shoes that cause less acute pain when I wear them.
I can usually wear my workhorse Vera Wang booties (here) for a full day of running around. But any shoe with a heel eventually becomes a little torturous, and these usually cause me pain on the ball of the foot if I've been standing for a long time and on the sides of my baby toes. I wore them for one full day and really wore my feet out, then put them on the next day for another long day of running around. I sprayed the Still Standing thoroughly all over my feet as per the instructions. And I was not expecting what came next.
It basically felt like I dunked my feet into a huge vat of mouthwash. So. Tingly. After I got over the initial minty shock, I decided I liked it. My beat up feet made it through a full day of appointments, and it didn't wear off for hours. It was like walking around on a refreshing bed of Mentos. In a good way.
I'd recommend this if you have tired feet or if you need to be standing or walking a lot. (I would have loved this product when I was a nurse.) It doesn't blunt areas of acute pain as well as the Heel No Pain did, though. Hooking the two sprays up would be an interesting experiment to see if you could achieve ultimate shoe tolerance.
NIGHTCARE HEEL TREATMENT KIT ($25.50 socks/lotion)
My mom would argue that nothing is better than Vaseline and an old pair of my dad's socks for moisturizing your feet. I think this modern version might trump it, though. These toeless nylon socks in a sassy leopard print hide a high-tech secret on the interior. The heel area is covered with a gel that softens the heel and infuses mineral oil into the area to moisturize. The technology is similar to the skin care patches that are getting more popular. You can use the socks alone or with an additional moisturizer.
I started using this product a few weeks after my feet stopped peeling post-Baby Foot. My heels were starting to get hard again, so I slept in these socks every night for a week after slathering on the included thick foot cream. The results were pretty incredible. After two nights they were noticeably softer, and after a week I felt like I could wear mules with pride.
After about four days, they started to get a little, um, less than fresh, so I hand washed them as per the instructions. If you use the socks three nights a week, they should last about three months. I plan to use them every night until it is warm enough for me to wear these.
FOOT GLIDE ($5.99):
Out of all the products I tried, this one is the most humble but arguably the most useful. I plan to use it and stash it in my bag the whole summer. Foot Glide is the foot-specific sibling of Body Glide, the anti-chafing product runners use.
It looks like a miniature deodorant stick, smells as powdery as one, and feels like one, too. Despite having the word "glide" in the name, this product isn't slippery. You apply it all over your feet wherever you anticipate rubbing or blisters, which I did when I attempted to wear the Prada pumps for a third day without any anti-pain spray. I didn't have any redness or blisters on the back of my heels or on my toes. The company recommends using it during humid weather, which is really when your feet are most prone to rubbing and blisters.