You might not think you need to care for them, but she does. Here’s how to do it.
By: Meredith Bryan and Peter Rubin
1. Pay attention to your socks
Men have sweaty feet, which has a lot to do with the socks they’re wearing, says Pirooz Sarshar, cofounder of the men’s-only spa the Grooming Lounge in Washington, D.C. Avoid nylon and opt instead for high-quality cotton or even cashmere socks, which breathe better.
2. Creams alone won’t cut it
Don’t just rely on over-the-counter creams to kick athlete’s foot. While they do help suppress it, the key to eliminating fungus is better grooming. I see guys who use those creams forever, says Sarshar. If you’re not also taking care of your feet, the fungus may come back. During your morning shower, wash your feet with whatever nondrying soap you usually use. Pat them dry afterward with a towel and apply a thick lotion containing peppermint or eucalyptus (try Bodyshop.com). Both ingredients help kill fungus, which could be why your shoes smell like ripe Roquefort cheese. And on the day you exfoliate with a grainy body exfoliant (you do exfoliate, right?), use some muscle to slough off dead skin on heels and toes.
3. Get the right tools
Because toenails grow slower than fingernails, you need to cut them only every two or three weeks with a good pair of clippers. Also, get a cuticle pusher (buy one online at Drugstore.com). Pushing back the cuticles on your toes helps ward off fungus.
4. And if you don’t want to do it yourself…
Seek professional help—as in a pedicure. Once a month, hit up a man-friendly establishment like Truefitt&Hill (Truefittandhill.com), the Grooming Lounge (Thegroominglounge.com), John Allan’s (Johnallans.com), or even a local spa, where, for about $50, a strong-handed woman will do the dirty work and give you a foot massage. Not enough to convince you? How about this: Women notice feet. And scraping her legs with scaly heels ain’t going to get her in the mood.
Hand to Hand
Who looks at your hands? The woman who bought you that wedding ring. The woman looking for a wedding ring. Glove salesmen, cashiers, watch enthusiasts…They all notice your wares, not to mention your hangnails, your raw skin and your chewed cuticles. But rest easy: There are things you can do to maintain your meat hooks.
Cold air, wind and water all work to strip your skin of moisture, leaving your hide redder than a sunburned teamster’s. Prophylaxis is the key here: Wear gloves as often as you can and use lotion to restore lost nutrients. Anything with aloe, lanolin or glycerin will do. Secondary ingredients, like calendula, avocado and oatmeal, are also helpful.
You may be clean and you may smell nice, but if you have the crud-filled nails of a third grader, all your efforts are for naught. Buy a cheap drugstore nailbrush and use it. If you’re an inveterate nail-biter, stop it. (Purchase a foul-tasting ointment like No Bite, if you must.) And keep your nails trimmed; that cokehound pinky isn’t impressing anyone, Scarface.
This all seems like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people have trouble with basic maintenance. Manicurist Tamika Hardy founded Come To You, a mobile salon that caters to New York executives, in 1997. She’s still shocked at what she sees. Men spend so much on suits, cuff links and loafers, she says, and it’s like Look at your haaands! Let me get at those for a second! Come To You will send a licensed manicurist to your office to perform any of twelve services, including two created for men. The Mr. CEO is a forty-five-minute manicure that involves aromatherapy, exfoliation for callused hands, nail cleaning and shaping, plus a hand-and-arm massage. (In New York City call 888-590-5925.)
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By all accounts, you’re a good guy: You give up your seat for the infirm, you tip well, and you mean it when you say Have a nice day. Why, then, are you so damnably cruel to your feet? They’re such delicate creatures—twenty-six bones; thirty-three joints; more than one hundred ligaments, muscles and tendonsbut you treat them like burros, stuffing them into shoes, commanding them to cart your poundage. You’re a podiatrist’s dream. Which is why we’re staging this little intervention.
Men’s feet are more vulnerable to…communicable difficulties. And nothing helps feet pick up nasty little friends better than heat and moisture. Unless your name is Starshine Hackysack, you probably wear clammy shoes and socks on a regular basis. Bet you shower at the gym, too, which is like standing in a soup stock stirred by every guy who raised a sweat that day. So think of your feet as two petri dishes with VIP seating for athlete’s foot, plantar warts and nail fungus. To bar the door, New York podiatrist Stuart Mogul, D.P.M., recommends wearing slippers or thongs (we call them flip-flops, so as to not feel like bikini models) when using communal showers. If you still end up itchy, don’t fret; athlete’s foot can be treated with prescriptions or over-the-counter preparations. According to Dr. Mogul, though, the protein in your shoes often keeps athlete’s foot alive. So you should treat the shoes with an antifungal spray.
Plantar warts are trickier. Red, brown or black, they look like the average callus or corn and they’ve been known to escape detection by residing on the bottom of your foot. Your options range from freezing them to shrinking them with salicylic acid to surgical excision or laser treatment. According to Dr. Mogul, the acid has the lowest cure rate: Patients often give up on it because they can’t tell if the wart has dissolved; the acid distorts the surrounding tissue’s appearance, so they don’t know when to stop. Freezing, lasering or surgical excision can have the added benefit of preventing the formation of mosaic warts: über-warts made of many smaller ones. Lovely.
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If creepy crawlers aren’t your problem, you should still take precautions. Ingrown toenails are common, and they’re usually the result of a heavy hand. Don’t cut your toenails too short, says Dr. Mogul, and don’t angle into the sides to remove the corners; cut them straight across. Also, avoid picking at them; that can cause a tear, which usually leads to infection. The more active among you might be prone to overuse injuries, like Achilles tendinitis, as well. Just stretch, for God’s sake.
More superficial, but vitally important to your significant other, is the aesthetic state of your dogs. Who wants to share a bed with Lizardfoot? Fortunately, there’s no shortage of creams for your most overworked extremity (no snickers, please). Many soften by exfoliating, buffing away the hard outermost layers of skin. If you’re feeling adventurous, ask your girlfriend if you can borrow her pumice stone—when applied to soaked skin, it’s an impressive exfoliative. Just, uh, make sure she doesn’t have warts.
And finally, get over your pedicure hang-up; there are plenty of spas and salons that soak, exfoliate, massage, clip and moisturize. Come To You even has a seventy-five-minute treatment for the athletic man, which will be offered to NBA players at this month’s All-Star Game in Atlanta. Before you choose a spa, though, do a little scouting. At some of these places, the sanitary practices are questionable, says Dr. Mogul. If you’re going to go, make sure it’s clean. And if you need to, bring your own instruments. Because nothing’s cooler than a guy who carries nail-clippers.
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