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The truth is, pedicures are foot care for people who spend time on their feet (yes, that means everyone), and in essence, they are quite practical. Soaking, massaging and smoothing all keep your feet looking healthy and feeling good — a fancy coat of paint is only the crowning (and optional) touch.

Sweet Relief

If you think about what you put your feet through in a normal day, and then add to that the extra stress of a pounding workout (or a slow-moving grocery store line), a little foot-oriented TLC makes good sense. Don’t your feet deserve to be buffed back into shape?

Top Minneapolis nail technician Genevieve Hansen notices a common bond among her regular pedicure clients. “Whether it’s men or women, they understand the practical benefits of a good pedicure,” Hansen says. “They also know it’s very pampering.”

Once you’ve decided to do right by your feet, you have two choices: do it yourself or pay a professional. Of course, each has its benefits.

Touch Your Toes

If you choose to hold on to your cash and have some alone time with your tootsies, gather the necessities beforehand: a basin filled with warm water (add bath salts if desired), a towel, a foot file or pumice stone, an orangewood stick, a nail clippers, a nail file and foot cream. If you’re going to paint your nails, you’ll want a foam toe separator, base coat, color, top coat, Q-tips and polish remover.

First, soak your feet for about five minutes to sanitize and soften them. Then pat dry with the towel. Use the foot file on any hard skin — probably your heels and your pinky and big toes — and try to slough in as many different directions as possible. Next, push back your cuticles with the orange stick. Use the clippers to cut your toenails straight across, and round the edges with the nail file. Rinse and dry, then massage foot cream into your feet and calves.

If you’re into polish, maneuver your toes into the foam separator and apply your base coat. Be sure to apply two coats of polish and a top coat for true and long-lasting color. Use a Q-tip dipped in polish remover to erase mistakes. Voila!

Seek Professional Help

If you go for the option of a professional pedicure, plan to sit back, relax and walk away an hour later feeling like royalty. Word of mouth is the best way to find a top-notch nail tech, so start by asking around. Some things to look for include cleanliness, quality products and a pedicurist who pays extra-special attention to each foot and each nail.

Nail pro Hansen warns that once you realize the benefits of taking care of your feet, it’s addictive. “My regular clients view pedicures as a necessity,” she says. “There’s also the psychological thing,” she adds. “There’s just something about a pedicure.”

Quick Toe Tricks

Genevieve Hanson of LifeSpa in Minneapolis, Minn., is among the top pedicurists in the Twin Cities. Her clients include CEOs, professional athletes, celebrities and “a lot of very nice local people.” Here are Hansen’s top five home foot-care tips:

LOTION UP: Use a heavy cream that contains fruit acids to keep your feet soft. Hansen recommends keeping the jar on your nightstand — she knows you’ll forget otherwise!

PARE DOWN: Buy a quality foot file and use it a couple times a week after your shower or bath. Five minutes a pop should keep your feet nice and smooth.

GET WET: Invest in a foot bath, preferably one with whirlpool action, to increase your circulation. This is especially important if your feet are sore from standing all day or from a particularly grueling workout. Throw in some bath salts for maximum benefit.

ROLL AROUND: Keep a tennis ball somewhere handy, like under your desk at work. Take your shoes off and roll the ball with the soles of your feet to knead out any soreness or kinks.

SLIP IN:  To good shoes, that is. Go for good footwear that fits well (no squeezing into too-small sizes, please!). This rule goes double for running, aerobics and other high-impact athletic shoes.

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