NYTimes.com - Vain Glorious | The Happy Heel
In this article by Chelsea Zalopany, Dr. Levine shares some of the many things we can do at home or with procedures to improve our foot health and comfort with New York Times readers.
“These are not aristocratic feet. I’m here to tell you these are working feet,” says Park Avenue’s go-to podiatrist, Suzanne Levine, after a quick examination of my not-so-pretty pieds. In all fairness, my childhood and adolescence were spent studying ballet. Anyone who’s worn a pair of pointe shoes will confirm that dancing in them is a kind of quiet torture that ceases to bother only after you’ve grown numb to the pain. Your feet never really recover from the trauma. I sought out Levine and a few other foot gurus after determining spring’s must-have shoes: the bejeweled slip-ons from Oscar de la Renta, the velvet clogs from Miu Miu and the heel-less metallic numbers with super-pointy toes from Louis Vuitton, among others. The problem? All of these options are of the 18th-century mule variety. In other words, they leave your heels fully exposed, and mine, still callused and battered to a point seemingly beyond return, were in no position to be naked.
Think about it. Only when wearing flip-flops (which I was not in the business of doing) and sandals are one’s heels completely bare, and in those cases there are exposed toes painted with a pretty color to distract from the back of the foot. No doubt, Essie’s polish “Power Lunch” would be useless to me in a pair of backless Blahniks. So, I saw Michael Schumacher, the podiatrist recommended to me by my general practitioner. “Women often come in asking for surgery, but that’s a last resort,” said Schumacher, who pointed out that my calcaneal problems stem from Haglund’s deformity (part hereditary, part wear-and-tear). “When there’s pain, we can talk about surgical options.” His recommendation that I try orthopedic shoes was an interesting thought but completely out of the question. I was starting to wonder if those Blahniks would ever be an option for me.
That’s when I made an appointment to see Levine at her Upper East Side aerie Institute Beauté. There I received her signature foot facial, which includes everything from urea spray (a misty agent that immediately softens the skin leaving it porous and ready for treatment) and thermal exfoliate, to an ultrasonic brush. She also treated me to a nonsurgical anti-inflammatory shot. (A cheaper at-home alternative to the injection can be had by mixing kosher salt, a dab of mineral oil and one teaspoon of ground coffee. “Use that exfoliate judiciously and it will help alleviate the buildup,” Levine says.) Next, she advised me to increase my daily vitamin K intake –– “Most heel discoloration comes from bruising, which that can heal” –– and to start generously applying tea tree oil to the trouble spots. “If you take care of your feet, you can wear any type of shoe,” she reassured me, but warned that part of the problem is that women don’t anticipate problems: “When you’re in your 20s, your feet don’t hurt and you can wear huge stilettos. It’s when you’re in your 30s that the deformities begin to show.”
Karen Haviland, an aesthetician at Julien Farel Salon (famous for its New York Fifteen Minute foot treatment, $30), also stresses the important of prevention. “One way to keep your heels looking fresh is to soak them once a week in a detoxifying seaweed bath, followed by the application of your favorite moisturizer,” she says. “Try wearing socks after moisturizing; you really can’t moisturize too much.” Another option is reflexology, which “helps to relieve the stress and stimulate circulation to the foot, especially the heel area, as it holds a lot of tension, enduring everything from pavement-pounding to ill-fitting shoes.” And pounding the pavement is exactly what I’m doing, hitting uptown, downtown and every town in between in order to achieve soft, sandal-worthy feet. Needless to say, the idea of being well-heeled has a completely new meaning to me now.
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