- Stand barefoot on a wooden or tile floor. Place a small towel in front of you, with its edge underneath your toes.
- Scrunch up your toes to grip the towel, pulling it toward you, then release. Repeat until most of the towel is bunched up under your toes.
- Reverse the motion to push the towel away from you.
- Repeat the entire exercise.
As your feet get stronger, you should be able to complete the sequence three or four times. Rolling a golf or tennis ball under your bare foot can also stretch and strengthen foot muscles while relieving tension.
Pampering Your Feet
- Bring down any swelling with a soak. Soak feet in a mixture of water, a dozen ice cubes, six drops of tea-tree oil, and rosemary leaves (or use a store-bought tea tree–oil soak). Submerge one foot for 30 seconds, remove from water, then rub vigorously with a towel. Repeat with the other foot, and keep soaking until the swelling subsides. While all soaks help soften skin, certain ones also exfoliate dead skin cells, making feet smoother. Look for products with ingredients such as milk and fruit juices, which contain natural acids that gently dissolve dry, rough patches.
- Soften your feet with a scrub. Frequent exfoliating is not just about looking good: Thickly callused skin can crack, leading to pain and infections. Pumice-based pastes can swiftly eliminate scaly skin, keeping feet soft for longer. If you prefer scrubs, go for a salt scrub with added oils to help hydrate. Avoid razors and callus scrapers, which can break the skin and cause infection. And be sure to slough gently. Calluses actually protect the feet, so you don’t want to strip them away entirely.
- Hydrate the skin with a cream. Foot creams are generally thicker and more viscous than body formulas because they’re supposed to deliver more moisture. The best ones’ hydrate and soften with glycerin, hyaluronic acid, aloes and shea butter. If thick, scaly calluses are a persistent problem, use a foot cream that contains exfoliating lactic acid, which dissolves dry patches while it hydrates. Lotions containing urea can also break down calluses and smooth hardened heels.