Seven tips for taking care of traveling feet

Feet need love too. (Photo by JG.Hampton.)

Whether you’re leaving footprints in the sands of the Sahara, meandering through the market in Florence, or navigating the broken sidewalks of your own neighborhood, feet take a beating, especially in summer. Last week’s article provided tips on finding the perfect summer travel shoes and, although choosing the right shoe can help keep your feet energized and blister-free, we all need to take some time to thank our feet for their hard work with a routine of regular maintenance.

For this, I turned to the expertise of a hand and foot care specialist, Ms. Patsy Mulvihill of Patsy James Exclusive Nail Spa in Bellevue, Washington. With her bright blue eyes, her ready smile, and those hard-to-miss golden curls, she may look like she’s only 25, but Ms. Mulvihill has been taking care of the hands and feet of celebrities, dignitaries, and VIPs for the last 19 years.

Before starting her own exclusive nail spa, she was Head Trainer and Department Manager at Gene Juarez, a popular salon and day spa in the Seattle area. She also spent many years building up retail shops for butter LONDON before being endorsed by them as the flagship service provider for their famous butter LONDON Waterless Manicure and Pedicure. Knowing all this, and having experienced her renown TLC first-hand, I knew she would be the perfect person to give me advice on how to take care of hard-working, traveling feet.

1. Moisturize

Ms. Mulvihill says moisturizing is the key to keeping your feet healthy. “After a nice shower, dry your feet thoroughly. Don’t forget in-between your toes! Afterwards, massage on some yummy foot cream.”

She recommends the FC5 Cooling foot creme from Arbonne, which, as an Arbonne consultant, she carries in her spa. She says it is important to moisturize your feet everyday, especially at night, so the moisturizer has a chance to do its magic under the cover of cozy cotton socks. This also keeps it from rubbing off in your shoes before it has a chance to work.

Arbonne FC5 Cooling Foot Cream

2. Exfoliate

Every other day, or as skin gets dry and flaky, it’s a good idea to exfoliate your feet as well. You can do this after your shower, once the skin on your feet has had a chance to soften up. “My favorite tool that I have used since beauty school is called the Swedish Clover™ Fot Fil.” Use it to work away the flaky skin and hardened callouses, but not so much that your skin becomes raw and overworked. Between exfoliation and moisturizing, your feet will be ready for action whenever you are.

Swedish Clover™ Fot Fil. (Photo from

3. Get those toenails in shape

Skin isn’t the only concern when it comes to foot care. Toenails need to be kept trim and shaped so they don’t cut into your socks or dig into the skin around your toes when you walk. For this, Ms. Mulvihill recommends Mehaz Professional Slant Toenail Clipper. “It has a slanted edge so it makes it very easy to get under the nail without cutting the skin. It also makes life much easier when cutting thicker nails.”

Mehaz Professional Slant Toenail Clipper (Photo from

Washable files, such as the 100/180 grit Purifiles Disinfectable Files, work well to shape and shorten the nails, she says. For a healthy looking shine, without any nail polish, reach for her favorite nail buffer, the D-File™.

Purifiles Disinfectable Files. (Photo from
D-Files™ Buffer. (Photo from

4. Don’t forget the cuticles!

Cuticles are a vital part of healthy nails and feet, too. They protect the nails from dirt and bacteria, which can lead to infection. Keeping them healthy is just as vital as anything else you do to take care of your feet. To do this, gently push them back with wood manicure sticks and then trim off the dead skin with Ms. Mulvihill’s favorite cuticle tool, the stainless steel Tweezerman V-Cuticle Nipper. Don’t tug or pull at cuticles when they loosen up and pull away from your skin. This can damage the cuticle matrix and allow dirt and bacteria underneath the nail. Just trim the unsightly and agitating dead skin with the cuticle nipper.

Tweezerman V-Cuticle Nippers (Photo from

5. Spice up your routine with a seasonal treat

If you really want to knock your socks off (pun intended), Ms. Mulvihill recommends using any of the body sugar scrubs, shower gels, and massage oils or body lotions from the Skin Organics brand to create a multi-sensory, at-home pedicure. At her nail spa, she is currently offering an anti-aging pedicure using the Cherry Marzipan line. Skin Organics is the perfect brand with which to do this because of the different variety they offer. Each season brings a new idea to keep things interesting and fresh. In the fall, she does a Spicy Pumpkin pedicure and, in the winter, she indulges her clients with the Chocolat line.

Chocolate Sugar Scrub. (Photo from Skin Organics.)

She also speaks highly of Arbonne products as well. “I will be adding the Arbonne SeaSource Detox Spa line for my pedicure services very soon.”

Arbonne SeaSource Detox set. (Photo from

6. Splash on some color

Now that your feet are feeling soft and fresh, your toenails may be hankering for a little splash of color. While Ms. Mulvihill has seen a lot of people opting for natural fingernails these days (“Falsies are out”, she says), color is still very much in for both fingernails and toenails. According to our expert, you can’t go wrong with the many colors butter LONDON offers. Always start with a clear base coat, then do a couple of rounds using your chosen color, and finish with a top coat.

butter LONDON Girls Night Out Gift Set. (Photo from

For those who like a little color on their nails but hate the upkeep and drying time, Ms. Mulvihill suggests a “power nail polish” using Creative Nail Design’s Shellac™. “It looks like regular nail polish but what is so amazing about it is that, when your service is over, your nails are completely dry and they will last without chipping for ten days to three weeks!” She says her customers love it because they can immediately put on their closed toe shoes without worrying about smudges. She does recommend letting a professional do it, though, and warns that Shellac is a product name, not a service itself. “I see a lot of other nail salons that advertise that they do Shellac but, in fact, they are using a knock off brand.”

7. Leave it to the professionals

Of course, the best way to give your feet a real treat is to take them in for regular professional pedicures. Ms. Mulvihill suggests doing this every four weeks. “It is very relaxing, keeps the callouses at bay, is great for your circulation, and it keeps your nails healthy and nice looking.”

If you’re in the Seattle area, the only professional hands for your feet are, of course, those of Ms. Mulvihill herself. At the Patsy James Exclusive Nail Spa, pedicure services start at $40 with either a butter LONDON Signature Pedicure or a mini-pedicure. The Classic Pedicure is $65 and includes “a warm foot bath, skin exfoliation, nail shaping, cuticle care, mini reflexology massage, callous care, and lacquer application”. And, for an even greater indulgence, enjoy the Spa Pedicure, which is $75 and includes everything from the Classic Pedicure with the addition of a warm paraffin treatment.

Ms. Mulvihill provides peace of mind and one-of-a-kind, luxurious service when it comes to taking care of weary traveling toes and feet. Even though she has worked with a lot of celebrity and VIP clients, you don’t have to be Angelina Jolie to be treated like her. Ms. Mulvihill is a master at making every client feel like a VIP. To book an appointment, it is advised to do so as far in advance as possible. You can view all of her services and even book them online at her website.

Whether you keep your routine simple at home, or leave it in the hands of professionals, keeping your feet happy and healthy is an important step for any road warrior.

5 tips for finding the perfect summer travel shoes

Several weeks ago, I began a search for the perfect summer travel shoes. Good travelers know that shoes take up way too much packing space, so it was important in my endeavors to search for that one pair that could do it all, without leaving bleeding blisters to contend with. One challenge for the summer, however, is finding sturdy, comfortable shoes that are fashionable, can be worn without socks, and can transition from a walking tour to a sit-down dinner.

Many suggestions were made, lots of shoes were tried, and now I have the results of my often painstaking, blister-inducing research. Below are five tips for finding the perfect summer travel shoes with my final recommendation for the one.

1. Look for suede or soft leather uppers

Suede and soft leather mold to the foot rather than rub against it. Patent leather, hard leather, and stiffer, coarser fabrics located anywhere near the heels or ankles may start off feeling comfortable, but when heat, perspiration, and miles combine, blisters are sure to follow.

As an example, I wore the Merrells pictured below for a two-mile walk for coffee. At first they seemed fairly comfortable, but by the end of the first mile, I had blisters on the backs of both heels and the undersides of my ankles. The fabric on these shoes is very coarse. The stiffness and height of the ankle collar and heel support dug into my skin. By the time I finished the second mile, my feet were bleeding. I have not worn them since.

Merrell’s Mimosa Emme Mary Jane are cute, but they rubbed some of the worst blisters I’ve received all summer.

2. Avoid slingbacks and thin straps on sandals

Slingbacks and thin straps not only cause blisters, they can dig into toes and heels, leaving the skin with terrible gashes. Ouch!

I love these heels from Aquatalia, but I can’t wear them very far before the cut-outs start to dig in. The shoes themselves are comfortable, but the longer I walk in them, the more my skin rubs against the cut-outs in the leather. Within a half-mile walk to the theater, I had blisters the shape of some of the cut-outs in these cute shoes–but trust me when I tell you, my foot was far from cute when it was all over!

I love these shoes, but the cut-outs in the leather, which make them so unique, dig into toes and cause painful blisters.

3. Make sure the shoe is flexible

The stiffer the shoe, the more likely you are to develop blisters and callouses at the points where the shoe should naturally bend (near the joints of the toes and ball of the foot). If you cannot bend the toe toward the center of the shoe without a lot of effort, that shoe is stiff and inflexible. Put it down and walk away.

One example of this was a pair of TSUBO brand shoes I tried. The support and cushioning inside the shoe were good, but it was incredibly stiff and unbending. As I foolishly walked two miles to dinner in them, the plasticky top of the toe box creased over my big toe and created a nasty blister. Sadly, they were also stiff around the ankles and heels, so I got blisters there too.

I liked the sportiness of these TSUBO’s and envisioned wearing them all over town. Sadly, they are quite stiff in the toebox and rubbed blisters onto the tops of my toes, as well as on my heels and ankles.

4. Give your toes some wiggle room — but not too much!

Toes shouldn’t squeeze together into the shoe, nor should the shoe be so large that it dangles off your foot when you walk. A tight toe box can rub your toes and cause blisters and callouses, if not also other aches and pains, whereas a floppy, wobbly shoe (such as a flip flop or a shoe that is too large) is not stable enough for two-mile walks over uneven terrain. Make sure the shoe fits secure, but not tight. Don’t wear flip flops or other shoes that you have to hold on to with your toes.

Although the leather is super soft on the 1-inch pumps by Cole Haan shown below, they are just narrow enough to pinch my toes and cause discomfort over the course of an afternoon. If your foot is particularly narrow about the toes, this style of shoe might be just the thing for you this summer. My toes, on the other hand, had to cram themselves into a tight space. Although the leather has some stretch and give, I still ended up with a blister on my smallest toes because it was too tight.

Cute 1-inch sandals from Cole Haan pinch the toes.

The ECCO sandals below are some of my favorite shoes for wearing when I know I’m not going to be going very far–less than a mile. Beyond that, though, they require too much effort to keep them on. My toes start to ache and the strap that goes in between my toes starts to rub.

For flip flops, these are very comfortable and fairly stylish. Unfortunately, they aren’t secure on my foot such that, when I walk long distances, I have to hold them on with my toes.

5. Look for rubber soles with texture for traction

Textured rubber soles grab the earth and keep you steady, unlike smooth, inflexible wood or some other hard materials out there. Rubber soles are also the best for cushioning the hard earth beneath your hard-working feet.

The Ecco Yucatan sandals are the near-perfect specimen for summer travel shoes. If they weren’t so sporty I could wear them inside restaurants and other fancy establishments. Still, they come so close to perfect that I chose them as a summary example, before revealing to you my final choice for THE summer travel shoe.

First, notice that they are made of soft leather and fabric uppers. Their straps are thick and padded–no blisters. They are also adjustable at the heel, the top of the foot, and the toe areas, so I can tighten or loosen them depending on what my foot needs. The soles are made of lightweight rubber and the bottoms are textured so I never worry about losing my footing, whether I’m walking down a broken sidewalk to the Farmers Market or along a gravelly trail in the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. The only thing keeping them from being perfect summer travel shoes is that I wouldn’t wear them with a dress or skirt to a sit-down restaurant in downtown Toronto, St. Paul, or Austin.

Ecco’s Yucatan Sandal.

My top pick for the perfect summer travel shoes

It is without further ado that I introduce you to the most versatile summer travel shoe I could find: the Naot Kayla sandal. It’s not the most gorgeous shoe I’ve ever owned, but it is the one I pack when I am packing the lightest. They rank up there as the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn.

The leather straps are soft enough and thick enough that they do not dig into my skin. There is an adjustable strap that goes over the top of my foot, so I can secure it tighter or loosen it up. The leather gives way to my feet and hugs them gently. I have walked miles in these shoes and never gotten a blister. The footbed is made of cork, latex, and suede, so it molds to my foot, providing personalized support. The soles are textured EVA, so they are shock-absorbing, as well as stabilizing.

My feet have also never felt fatigued or achy after wearing these shoes. My biggest complaint about them is a complaint I make about any sandal: they are masters at collecting rocks when I walk over gravelly pathways. Still, they can truly go the distance when walking all day. Their style is as flexible as their soles. I can go anywhere in them and experience pretty much any activity under the summer sun. And that is what sets them apart: the Naot Kaylas are a pair of shoes I can wear in a variety of situations.

The Naot Kayla comes in a variety of colors. The ankle strap is adjustable, the footbed molds to my foot, and the sole is a textured EVA that allows for flexibility while providing stability.

Now it’s your turn

Have you found a perfect pair of summer shoes that can walk the miles and see you through lots of situations? Post the information here and help us compile a better list for travelers around the world.