Marcela Correa is a licensed medical pedicurist who has been filing, trimming, and buffing the tired feet of cement-stomping New Yorkers for almost a decade. From her perch at MediPedi NYC on Park Avenue, Correa has seen it all — from the spread of Fashion Week foot fungus to hedge-fund hangnails. She spills her biggest foot confessions, ahead.
I was always interested in feet. Hands gross me out. I hate hands, but I was always the person who fixed everybody’s feet — even my neighbor’s. I went to podiatry school until 1990, and then I moved from Uruguay to the States in 2001 to start my practice.
When I opened MediPedi in 2013, people couldn’t believe that I was opening something just for feet. They thought I was crazy. They’d say, ‘Why don’t you do facials?’ Everyone thinks of a spa when they think of nail care, but this has nothing to do with the spa. It’s like a teeth cleaning you get every few months. We clean the feet, file the calluses, and treat ingrown nails, fungus, and corns.
People started coming right away. They had a lot of pain and discomfort, and they were ashamed of their feet and didn’t want anyone to see them. With me, they had a private room and felt more comfortable getting help.
My clientele is 50/50 men and women. The men tend to come on Thursdays. It’s a lot of lawyers and men in finance or marketing. They’ll have to go to a meeting or a pool party that weekend, and they’ll stay in their suits because they don’t want to take off their shoes. I see men with a lot of power and a lot of money, and their feet are the only part of their body that they don’t like to show. They are ashamed of their feet, and they are so powerful that they don’t want to show their weakness to other people.
When these men come to me, they become a totally different person than when they walked in. They come in all macho and then they take off their shoes and they feel so exposed. We fix them up and they touch their feet and they’re in tears.
The women are a much different clientele — they come from all professions, including models. The models have a lot of calluses on the bottom of their feet because of uncomfortable shoes. There is a lot of athlete’s foot because they share shoes with different models and they don’t disinfect the shoes.
I see men with a lot of power and a lot of money, and their feet are the only part of their body that they don’t like to show.
It’s the same for hockey players — they have very bad feet because they wear boots with all that sweat and moisture. They get corns between their toes, which is common for people who play sports or run.
I’m not allowed to release names, but we do have celebrities that come. They like the private rooms; they can go in and out, and it’s like a medical office so no one knows what they are doing. The biggest issues are high heels on the girls, and on the guys it’s thick boots. They wear a lot of boots. I don’t know what is going on with the celebrity boots thing — they look like construction boots. I say, ‘Why you wearing those boots?’ ‘Fashion,’ they tell me.
The basketball players that come in are so tall that you don’t even need to ask them what they do for a living because it’s so obvious. My little hands have to go toe by toe on them because I can’t reach the whole thing. They have size 17, size 18 feet. I tell them, ‘You can park your shoes here.’
The most extreme case I ever saw was someone with two inches of nail and one inch of callus on the bottom of their feet. It was a combination of athlete’s foot and not caring for their feet in a while. The nail was so thick that it looked like a mushroom; it was graphic. We have machines that bring the nails down to make them soft and smooth again. If a case is really severe, I will FaceTime the podiatrist next door. I’ll ask him if I can touch it and clean it up, and then I’ll send that person to him for medical attention.
I always suggest people come in for a treatment every three to four months when the weather changes. When closed-shoes season comes, prepare your feet. When it’s summer and you’re wearing open shoes, prepare your feet. In the summer, it’s always cracked heels. Everyone has those lines and some get deeper because they’re dry and dehydrated. There’s also athlete’s foot and plantar warts from the pool. In the winter, the heels are usually OK because of socks, but the nails get thicker from tight boots and people get corns between the toes because of pointy shoes.
The biggest mistake I see is people cutting their nails too short. Even in the salon, the nail techs will try to cut the sides to make the nails more narrow which can lead to infection. Leave the size of your nail alone and remove any sharpness with a nail file.
Please wash your feet! When people shower they never brush their feet. They don’t even think about it. Did you really wash and brush them or did you just let the body wash rinse down your legs? If you don’t scrub them, they’re going to build up layers.
And please, please throw away your pumice stone. A lot of people get foot fungus and athlete’s foot from their pumice stone, which is full of holes that trap bacteria. If you sent a pumice stone to a lab to see what was inside, people would never use it again. The pumice stone is the worst thing that ever happened to feet. That, and high, high heels. People think they are sexy. To me, comfort is sexy.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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