Take your shoes and socks off. Reach down and touch your foot. Now ask yourself, if this was sandpaper, what grade would it be—fine or abrasive? If you’re like most guys, the back of your heel feels like the outside of an armadillo. How did we get here?
“The stratum corneum, or topmost layer of skin, is thickest on the palms and soles,” says Brendan Camp, MD, a board certified dermatologist based in northern Virginia. The palms and the soles get the most friction on a daily basis – and excess friction can make things worse.
In fact, your shoes might be part of the problem. Think about those sneakers you meant to replace by now. Or that pair of boots that looks great and fits not-so-great.
“If your shoes don’t fit properly, over time your skin reacts to the friction by getting thicker as a protective measure,” says Camp. “And if it gets too thick then it will crack and fissure.”
Your solution: Fight friction with friction.
You could go for weekly pedicures—or you could make minor foot care part of your shower routine. It takes less time than shaving, it’s an excuse to soak up the steam a little longer, and it feels good.
“Bathing your feet in warm water for a few minutes will help saturate that top layer of skin,” says Camp.
“These often have handles, which I find more ergonomically comfortable,” says Camp. “And they have two surfaces, coarse and fine.”
Start with coarse. The job is toughest when you first begin. After a few showers, or when attacking more sensitive areas like the side of a toe, use the fine side.
A good, hard buff of the heels will yield tangible results. Just don’t let them go to waste. When you get out of the shower, put moisturizer on your feet to lock in the smoothness.
Like all things skincare, perfectly smooth heels take time, and require some maintenance. Yes, that’s a commitment. So maybe you’re saying, “No one notices my feet.” Maybe you’re convinced that your girlfriend appreciates your “rugged” heels and the way it accidentally scratches her while you’re sleeping. Convenient and romantic, right? No. Exfoliate your heels before they exfoliate someone you love.
By Patrick Huguenin