Feet put up with a lot. In fact, we kind of torture them. Heels, Zara's much more rigid version of a certain YSL boot, socks made of god-knows-what new microfiber that doesn't breathe—it's pretty awful when you think about it. And winter is the absolute worst time for feet. They're hidden in layers of socks, stuffed into our now too-tight boots, and ignored 'til April rolls around and we've become the stuff of pedicurists' nightmares. Which is why this year we're advocating you do something about the situation before it escalates from "Eh, my feet look kinda bad" to "Oh god, don'tlookdon'tlookdon'tlook." We've devised a five-step program for saving your soles, no matter how gnarly:
Step 1: Soften
A successfully-salvaged foot starts with a little tenderizing, because without some hydration it's way too difficult to remove calluses. (We should have said it earlier, but this story's not for the squeamish.) Our favorite one-stop softener is Lush Volcano Foot Mask. (We also sometimes dot it on our faces during zit-mergencies because it dries those fuckers right up.) The mask is mostly made of kaolin clay, but it's also full of pumice and natural anti-fungals (hey, you never know). Slather it on and put Ziploc bags over your feet so you can squish around the house like Swamp Thing, then wash it off a half-hour later and start your...
Step 2: Soak
Tubbing it is never not a great idea, but it's especially good for your poor lower extremities. They're getting little of your precious attention just standing in the shower, despite being the part of your body that comes into contact with hard surfaces and gross stuff the most. So, fill a basin with not-too-hot water, pour in your favorite essential oil—almond is highly emollient and smells like sweet candy—and then just sit for a while. Read a magazine, continuously refresh the Instagram "Explore" page, troll it up on Reddit—whatever. Then, when the water starts to get chilly, take 'em out, dry 'em off, and get ready to do some serious callous busting. You know it's kinda fun.
Step 3: Exfoliate
Peppermint-scented Bliss Foot Patrol has a ton of alpha hydroxy acids to break down tough skin, so massage it in for about five minutes before bringing in the heavy hitters, Diamancel Diamond Foot Buffers. These are the best foot buffers known to (wo)man, and did we mention they're made of DIAMONDS? Start working the toughest callouses (probably on your heels and the balls of your feet) with the Medium #11 Tough Buffer. You can basically file forever, but at a certain point you're going to want to switch over to something a little softer for the thin skin on your toes and heel, like the #10 Classic Big Buffer. Diamancel also makes something called #20 The Conqueror, but it's for advanced filers only.
Step 4: Hydrate
Do you have extra skin left anywhere? No? Good. Time to put on your L'Occitane Dry Skin Foot Cream. Don't let the consistency put you off, it's basically just a huge tube of super-thick shea butter that will make your feet look like a newborn's. Lay it on thick, then put some new Swamp Thing bags on and spend a little time just letting everything soak in. After a bit (aka until you think "I need to get these plastic bags off my feet"), remove your feet from their quart-sized prison cells, and then massage in the excess shea butter. Now your feet are amazing, you are amazing, and if you show up at a salon to get a mani-pedi everyone will sigh with delight when you take your shoes off. Which is why you should...
Step 5: Maintain!
You didn't think you'd put in all that work and then just go back to having troll toes, did you? Three (or more) nights a week, rub on some Lush Fair Trade Foot Lotion because it's made of cocoa butter and peppermint and is good for humanity, and throw on a pair of Bliss Softening Socks. And then it's off to bed, where you'll have weird dreams of platform sandals and sockless footsies with your brother's best friend from high school.
Photos by Mathea Millman.