Vampire bats and hair-raising deep-sea fish have something in common with New Englanders’ feet: They haven’t seen the light of day for eons, or so it seems, and they all may be just as attractive at this time of year. After a winter smothered in wool, it’s time for your toes to bask in the sun once again. Don’t worry. With a little sugar and spice, they’ll be ready for the beach in no time.
Rose petals floating around your ankles while you relax at a local spa is certainly a treat, but if you rummage through the kitchen cupboards, you’ll discover plenty of ingredients for an all-natural at-home pedicure.
If you have yet in your life to acquire a footbath, your first challenge is finding a bin or Tupperware container with enough volume to fit your feet with water up to your ankles. Soaking your feet in warm water with an added handful of salts and other edible ingredients — such as olive oil, honey, cinnamon and milk — softens skin and cuticles.
A number of herbs and oils also are good for foot soaks. Witch hazel is for cleansing, according to Shirley Dourgault, owner of End of the Rainbow Alternatives in Farmington, which supplies healthful supplements, juices, teas, skin care products, house cleaning products and more. She also said that peppermint heals and is good for the circulation; sugar and salt exfoliate skin; oatmeal helps soften skin; and California poppy and juniper berries soothe aching feet.
Many ingredients come in moisturizing oils. Lavender oil, peppermint oil, jojoba oil and almond oil are aromatic, but olive oil works the same. Arnica oil and rosemary oil relieve pain, said Dourgault.
After a good 10-minute soak in your healing concoction, pat your feet dry and slough off dead skin with a dry foot file or emery board. With a buffing block, smooth each nail surface and remove stains and soften skin at the tips of your toes.
Next, massage an oil-based scrub into the skin to exfoliate dead, dry cells. Simple oil-based scrubs can be made of just a few household ingredients such as salt, granulated sugar, lemon juice, honey and coconut oil.
“We have lavender flowers here you can take and blend in with some of our carrier oils, either almond, apricot or grape seed,” Farmer said. “We carry the straight vegetable glycerin that people can use as a base to make their product.”
Vegetable glycerin is often used with coconut oil and essential oils to make a rich, moisturizing foot cream, which should especially be massaged into heels and cuticles.
“For the people who are gluten intolerant, we have some Desert Essence Organics Pistachio Foot Repair Cream ($8.19) that’s amazing,” said Laura Farmer, personal care department head at the Natural Living Center in Bangor. “When you’re applying creams to your body, you’re actually absorbing 60 percent.”
Always do your nails last. Trim them straight across using a straight-edge clipper and file nails straight across to even out their shape. Wipe off excess oil on the nails with polish remover and apply a base coat, two coats of nail color and a topcoat.
“This is the time of year where you do want to take really good care of your feet,” said Farmer. “We have become a country of proverbial flip-flops.”
There are lots of recipes for homemade foot soak concoctions on the Internet. These are a few we found that can be made with things you likely already have in your home.
2 bags black tea
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon lemon
1 bucket hot-warm water
Instructions: Let feet soak 10 minutes and scrape dead skin off with a pumice stone.
Honey Foot Scrub
1 cup sea salt
1 teaspoon honey
3 teaspoons coconut oil
Instructions: Mix all ingredients and rub on feet. Rinse with warm water.
½ cup of sea salt or Epsom salt
Hot-warm water in a foot bath
2 drops of lavender essential oil (optional)
Instructions: Let salt dissolve in water and soak your feet.
Peppermint Foot Soak
3 drops of peppermint essential oil
1 drop of eucalyptus essential oil (optional)
1 drop of lemon essential oil (optional)
foot bath of hot/warm water
½ cup of brown sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons apricot oil
Instructions: Combine and massage into hands. Rinse well. Scrub into the nail bed. The lemon juice helps remove nail stains.
Overnight Foot Mask
4 teaspoons of almond oil or olive oil
2 teaspoons of cocoa butter
2 tablespoons honey
4 vitamin E capsules
Instructions: Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl and work the mask into your feet. Put on cotton socks and leave on overnight. The next morning, remove the socks and rinse feet in lukewarm water.
Deodorizing Foot Powder
1 cup of baking soda
2 drops tea tree oil
7 drops peppermint essential oil
3 drops lavender essential oil
Instructions: Store in a shaker container. Break up and clumps. Dust feet regularly with the powder and add a teaspoon in your shoes overnight.
Maine-made foot care items
If you aren’t keen on mixing your own concoctions, there are plenty of Maine-made products for pampering your feet:
- Burt’s Bees (originated in Maine) Peppermint Foot Lotion, $9: Perfect for tired, dry feet.
- Burt’s Bees Coconut Foot Creme, $9: Rejuvenates dry feet and refreshes tired soles. www.burtsbees.com/natural-products/body-hands-feet/.
- Maine Coast Herbals (Milbridge) Foot Balm, $7.50: Antifungal balm that soothes and heals dry feet. www.maineherbs.com.
- Avena Botanicals (Rockport) Heal-All Salve, $8: Heals dry feet.
- Avena Botanicals Elderflower Creme, lavender, $14.25: Provides relief from itching, scaling and flaky skin, and it smells great. www.avenabotanicals.com.
Hot, new summer shoes
In Maine, footwear dealers have found a way to combine the trends of the fashion world with the need for comfortable, durable shoes.
• Chaco Yampa Z/1 and Z/2 sport sandal for men and women: $95 at Epic Sports in Bangor. New this season, the Yampa sandal is low profile, lighter-weight and slip resistant. The midsole provides lasting arch support and body alignment and the custom-fit polyester webbing is quick drying.
• L.L. Bean Explorer Sandal: $59 for men and women and $34.50 for children at L.L.Bean. The Explorer is a webbed sandal that offers toe protection and comes in a variety of colors and patterns. They’re perfect for paddling or walking on Maine’s rocky beaches.
• Vibram FiveFingers: $79-$119 at Lamey Wellehan Shoes located in six locations throughout Maine. As one of the best-selling spring shoes at Lamey Wellehan in Bangor, FiveFingers are an example of the minimalist trend.
• Reef sandals: $20-$32 at the Grasshopper Shop in Ellsworth. Reefs (which have both leather and colorful cloth straps) offer more support and comfort than the average flip-flop.
• Spring Step sandals: $51-$70 at the Grasshopper Shop in Ellsworth. These casual leather sandals, stamped with floral designs, come in a variety of colors and styles.
• Juniper Comfort Sandal: $59 at L.L.Bean. A cushioned leather casual sandal that comes in two styles (criss-cross flip-flops and a single band across), four colors each.
• Piper Wedge: $79, some styles on sale for $29.99 at L.L.Bean, a cork wedge that is lower profile and has a broader sole, offering more support and stability. It comes in two styles and many colors.
• Danskos: $145 for the high-heeled Ripley sandal and $115 for the lower Suzy sandal at Lamey Wellehan. Both styles are open toed shoes that offer maximum comfort and support.