Take Care Of Your Feet Like A Foot Model

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
If you're not indulging in a pedicure or cursing the pain of breaking in a new pair of shoes, the condition of your feet is quite likely the farthest thing from your mind. But chances are, your dogs could use a little more attention — we've all had a dry heel, or a callus or two — so we decided to see how someone who makes a living from hers takes care of her money-makers.

Foot model Ellen Sirot wanted to be a traditional model at first, but when an agent got a look at her hands and feet, she urged Sirot to change paths. “Finding parts models is much more difficult than finding regular models, so my agent was convinced I’d have more work,” she says. That was 20 years ago — her feet have since appeared in ads for Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, Sally Hansen, Avon, Reebok, and Foot Locker, and she is still booking jobs.

Before getting discovered, Sirot was a lot like us in the foot department. “I got my first pedicure the night before [my first audition, for a Dr. Scholl's ad],” she says. "[Now,] taking care of my feet is part of a beauty routine. They don’t need all the care that your face does, but just a couple minutes a day make an important difference on how good your feet look.”

Even if you aren’t trying to launch a foot-modeling career (or end up on WikiFeet), you’ll be able to confidently bare your feet with Sirot’s tips for staying photo-ready. Read up on them, ahead.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
When Sirot wants to wear something other than flats, she opts for wedges or platforms. They help distribute her weight and don’t force all of it onto her toes, which can cause calluses and worsen bunions. “In real life, I don’t wear the amazing shoes I model,” Sirot says. “I even got married in sneakers.”

But that doesn’t mean you have to restrict your footwear to Aerosoles and Birkenstocks all the time. Like anything else in life, Jimmy Choos are fine in moderation. “I can’t jam my feet into pointy toes,” Sirot says. “But if I’m going to wear some killer heels, I’ll wait until I’m at my event before putting them on and then take them off in the car.”
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
“You need to find a shoe that spreads out the weight, so you’re not balanced on your toes,” Sirot says. Shoes with open toes help relieve the pressure, and any built-in platform does the same.

To find a pair that won’t compromise your feet, Sirot says you have to get a feel for how a pair of shoes fits. “I love Zappos, because you can wear shoes around the house for several hours to see if they rub or bind, and return the ones that don’t work.” It may sound like a little thing, but Sirot says it makes a big difference in the long run.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
No matter how well you moisturize, you’ll still develop a layer of scaly, dead skin that needs to be exfoliated. Once or twice a week, Sirot uses a sugar scrub to polish her feet. “I like the texture, and it’s a gentle way to exfoliate,” she says. “I have to be careful not to irritate the tops of my feet, which are much more delicate than the soles.” She makes her own with olive oil and sugar, but she also recommends Burt’s Bees Cranberry & Pomegranate Sugar Scrub.

She focuses on calluses and trouble spots with a pumice stone, and applies a layer of Gormel Creme. “I got it from my podiatrist — it’s 20% urea and helps exfoliate thick skin.”

In the shower, Sirot uses a paddle with a sandpaper-like surface (try Sally Hansen Sole Control Foot File) to gently massage skin, concentrating on areas like the sides of the baby toes and the backs of the heels. “Those are real trouble spots for most people, because those areas inevitably rub against something,” she says. “[They] just need to be moisturized and sanded regularly.”
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“I moisturize a lot,” Sirot says. The skin on the feet is coarse and lacks oil glands, so you have to give it hydration on the regular. Sirot’s advice is to apply lotion after showering and before bed.

During the day, Sirot slathers on a light layer of her own Hand Perfection Rejuvenating Day Cream (yep, hand cream on your feet). She suggests picking a cream with SPF to prevent tan lines, and says anything containing vitamin E or shea butter is a good choice. At night, she likes a heavier product with cocoa butter, like Body Shop Cocoa Butter Body Butter, or even Aquaphor.

If she wants to step up her moisturizing game, Sirot slathers on thick lotion, pulls on a pair of cotton socks, and loosely wraps plastic bags around her feet before going to sleep. “That really helps the moisture sink in and keep the skin hydrated way below the surface.”
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
For Sirot, a bad pedicure could be a career-ending move, so she carefully checks out any nail salon before taking a seat. “You have to find a salon and manicurist you trust — I can’t risk a fungus or infection,” she says. She scopes out the cleanliness level: How are they cleaning the tubs and tools? Does the salon look clean and organized in general? “If I get a bad feeling, I’ll leave or just ask that they file my nails,” she says.

No matter where she goes, Sirot always brings her own pedicure kit, which includes everything from files to polish. She also limits the amount of times she uses dark shades. “I give my toes a break from polish [in-between pedicures], because the nails need to breathe,” she says. “Dark colors can stain if you leave them on too long, and the nails can get weak and flaky without some breathing room.”
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
In terms of toe aesthetics, Sirot says a foot model must have a “perfect rainbow arc of toes.” Meaning: toenails that are large enough to polish (even the pinky toe) and soft, groomed cuticles. Since they “frame” the toes, they need to be clean and moisturized.

“You have to care for the cuticles for your foot to look its best,” Sirot says. Rather than cut them away, she pushes them back with a stone tool like YCC's Stone Eraser Cuticle Remover. “Cutting has too much risk of injury, and they grow back thicker.”

At least once a day, she applies cuticle oil to keep the skin soft. Try Sally Hansen Vitamin E Nail & Cuticle Oil.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
While a nail salon can be great for a quick polish, Sirot leaves any serious work to a podiatrist. “If I have an ingrown or callus, I prefer to treat it medically rather than have someone untrained use sharp tools on my feet,” she says. “It’s too easy to get an infection at a salon.”
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Sirot wears insoles to support her feet and keep them in alignment and camera-ready. Her podiatrist fitted her for a pair that keeps her arch high and visually appealing. Bonus: Inserts support her back and keep her body aligned, which also eases the strain on her feet.

She recommends visiting a podiatrist if you find that you have pain in your back or feet, or if your shoes always rub in the same place. “Having the problem addressed from a medical angle can make a big difference in how your feet feel,” she says.

If you’re not ready to see a podiatrist, try insoles you can find at your drugstore, like Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotic Inserts.
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Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
Flip-flops are fine in a beach town, Sirot says, but not in a city where walking around in those flimsy, plastic shoes will expose your feet to germs and grime. “Your bare feet are practically on the ground, so they’re getting filthy — it’s pretty scary.”

The lack of support is another issue: All that weight on your feet makes you more prone to injuries and joint pain (which could end a foot model’s career, by the way). If you must wear flip-flops in an urban setting, choose a pair like Okabashi's with heel and arch support — you can even put them in the dishwasher to clean them.
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