You’ve probably heard it all before — we walk on our feet all day but never take care of them apart from some cosmetic tidying up and nail polish. It’s no surprise then, that going to a podiatrist is probably the least sexy thing you can imagine doing — after going to the dentist.
British podiatrist Margaret Dabbs has taken footcare out of the doctor’s office, into a spa environment — and slap bang in the middle of a store selling some of the sexiest high heels you can image, with not a granny lace-up in sight.
Dabbs’ spa, located inside Level Shoe District in The Dubai Mall, is footcare for people who are serious about their health as well as their high heels. “If I were to say to you, wear those lace-up shoes, you don’t want to do it,” Dabbs says, sitting in the glamorous all-white surrounds of her spa, looking the picture of chic in a purple sheath dress. She’s not about to tell anyone they can’t wear heels — she’s all about damage control.
“The same with nail polish. People ask me, ‘do you believe in nail polish?’ What I say is, let’s minimise the damage and do what we can. We allow you to have the feet that you want and to wear the shoes that you want to wear.” (Although she categorically will not do gel varnishes. “When you see how vicious the removal is, you realise how much damage it’s doing,” Dabbs says.)
Dabbs is unique in that she is serious about feet — with just a look at mine, she tells starts talking about metatarsals and arches — but understands we want footcare to be chic, not embarrassing. “So many people hide their feet away. This is very much a fusion of health and beauty. There’s quite a bit of synergy between us and dentists. People used to only go to the dentist when there was a problem, but of course people don’t now, and I think the feet have become similar.”
So what makes a Dabbs session different from your average pedicure? Well, the price for one — I was sceptical when I heard about a luxury treatment for Dh785, and in true Dubai style I expected someone would rub in some cream with gold or bird’s poo in it and be done. Not the case. Dabbs staffer Simone, who did my treatment, is a podiatrist, not a beautician, and is qualified to assess the health and shape of feet and sort that out, long before any swanky products or nail polish comes in. You might only need to do it every three months. “All the beauty products in the world — if your feet hurt, your face will show it,” Dabbs, a chirpy Londoner, remarks as Simone pulls out a (completely painless) drill to do some damage control on my stiletto-ravaged heels. Immediately the two of them zero in on my arches. “You’ve been wearing a lot of ballet flats,” says Dabbs, without a hint of censure. “There are so many more things that we can diagnose and fix on a younger foot,” she says, as Simone reels off a list: “stress fractures in the metatarsals, and people don’t know why they are getting pain, ankle sprains are a big one, people being treated for verrucas when actually they are corns and vice versa...”
The treatment is done dry, meaning the areas that need most attention are obvious to the therapist and her range of files, buffers and occasionally, a delicate scalpel for the toughest its (again, I didn’t feel a thing), while customers sit in a massive, comfy massage chair, which is later switched on when Simone starts her foot massage.
I skipped nail polish (Dabb’s brand is Rococco, free of damaging formaldehyde, toluene and DBP) — my nails were so smooth and shiny and my feet glowing.
Margaret Dabbs Sole Lounge, Level Shoe District, The Dubai Mall; call 04-5016688. We tried the Ultimate Luxury Foot Therapy, Dh785, which is the Defining Foot Therapy (Dh465) with an additional foot soak, exfoliation, massage and 15 minutes of oxygen therapy.
If you think wearing tottering heels is the worst thing you’re doing to your feet, you’re flat wrong. Podiatrist Margaret Dabbs reveals you can still wear your favourite platforms as long as you treat your feet with a bit of respect.
“I’d never say don’t wear high heels. Heels are not all terrible. They do help to maintain the arches of the feet. Pain is the biggest indicator — yes, you are going to get tired and pain through the day, so don’t actually wear anything that is excruciatingly painful. We can wear platforms, wedges, pointy, round toes. We are allowing you to wear high heels because we are making tiny gait-related orthotics which fit inside the heel.”
The bunion issue: “People always ask me about Victoria Beckham and her high heels, and I say I am sure she’s got access to physiotherapists that will do nice calf stretches that will allow that. We do bunion prevention here, and foot mobilisation. You have wear and tear anyway, and if the bunion joint becomes calcified and furred up you lose the range of movement. If we can increase the range of movement, it’s going to slow the wear and tear changes.”
1 Flats: “They are as bad [as heels]. We make orthotics to go in ballet pumps. People are becoming more aware of it now, but women that have been wearing them during pregnancies, their arches are completely dropping out and they have massive issues, pain in the feet because of the weight gain and the lack of support, and it’s really difficult. That’s why people like Fit Flops, especially in later stages of pregnancy, because they are supportive and the swelling won’t affect you too much. You should wear support inside the heels too.”
2 Wet filing: “One of the most major [sins] is the foot file on a wet foot. I’ve pioneered treatments dry. If you have a foot and you wet it, it masks the area to be treated, so you can no longer see the white, dehydrated callous. It’s not going to adhere as well if it’s wet. If you’re prone to cracks and you wet the skin, you’ve weakened the skin by bathing, so it’s more likely for the cracks to open. If you’re using a file on dry skin, the results last so much longer.”
3 Greasy foot balm: “I’m very against things such as balms for the skin of the feet. The reason why people don’t use foot products is they don’t work and people don’t like the stickiness. Emu oil is my key ingredient, it’s non pore clogging but there’s nothing sticky about it. If you are using a soggy product on callouses, yes, it does have an outward effect but it weakens the tissues. People that are heavier build callouses, but if you weaken the skin it’s more likely to crack, and that the reason medically why you shouldn’t be using balms. They are sitting on the skin but they are not doing anything extra.”
4 Cuticle cutting: “I’ve been weaning the nail technicians off the clippers, they’ve been taught to use probes instead, which take away dead tissue. Once you cut, you can’t get away from cutting — you can’t go from all of it to nothing, you need to be weaned off. Your skin doesn’t grow all in one go, it grows in layers, so when they are cutting, they are causing tufts of skin.”
5 Razoring: “Razoring is really dangerous, it’s not sterile, stay away from it. A foot file will remove dead skin thinly and finely and importantly, evenly. If you razor skin or use things such as Pedegg, you’ll notice the skin will grow back in scales. Instead, use a file once a week on dry skin. The podiatrist will use blades where it’s indicated.”