Updated: Feb 3
I used to hate my feet and tended to keep them hidden away. Until just over a year ago, when I took up yoga, I was able to avoid looking at my feet most of the time. You see, my feet are very wide and, until recently, I thought they were ugly. How I wished they could be more graceful and elegant.
I’d hide them away in socks and tights, shoes that made them look narrower, high heels which made my ankles and calves look slimmer. Boots were my favourite in winter for obvious reasons. Summer was always more difficult, trying to find sandals that covered my feet as much as possible.
Of course I couldn’t avoid my feet completely but it didn’t stop me trying. When it came to washing them, I’d do it with my eyes closed! My poor feet never got moisturised or pampered because I got no pleasure from looking after them myself and was too embarrassed to take them to a beautician or chiropodist.
Not only didn’t I look after my feet, but I also mistreated them horribly. Paradoxically for someone who hated her feet, I loved being barefoot. Sand, grass and mountains were the best.
I found ways to enjoy them barefoot without the fear of my feet being seen.
On the beach I buried my feet in sand and kept them wet enough to form a ‘sand shoe’ the rest of the time. I drew patterns in the sand with my toes half-buried. I walked along the shore with my feet safely underwater as the waves washed over them. In the sea they could explore to their hearts’ content with only fish to see them.
In gardens and fields I always searched for the longer grass which would cover my feet. I love the feeling of early morning dew on grass that is just waking up. Rolling down a grassy hill, my feet lost in a spin.
In the mountains I chose the quietest spots to walk barefoot on their paths. I even climbed barefoot and loved the feeling of rock against the soles of my feet. In winter I would sometimes stop while skiing off-piste to take off my boots and socks and bathe my feet in the sun. When they got too warm I’d dip them in the snow. Bliss!
I was horror-struck at my first yoga session when told to take my socks off. What? In public!? My years of neglect and ill treatment had taken their toll.
Years of high heels meant I couldn’t walk comfortably in low ones. My calf muscles were too tight. Luckily yoga has really helped with this and I can now wear both. Narrow shoes had left me with squashed little toes and slightly protruding bones under my big ones. Sand, pebbles and rock had left the soles of my feet rough and dry. Grass and nail polish had stained them. I didn’t want anyone seeing my poor, uncared-for feet.
Worse still, I had to hold Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) time after time with my feet pointing straight at my face. I was so relieved when I learned I was supposed to be looking at my navel not my feet.
Even one of my favourite poses, Uttanasana (standing forward fold), had me looking straight at them. This was easier to deal with as I could do it with my eyes closed.
Worst of all was Urdhva Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog) which meant anyone behind me could see my rough, dry soles. Still, I could always hide at the back of the class, couldn’t I?
Eventually I got tired of making these constant compromises just because I was ashamed of my feet. Over the weeks and months I became more and more conscious of my feet. Really looking at them for the first time in years. I started to feel sorry for them and so began to look after them better.
I’d been taking care of the rest of my body but not my feet. I wanted my wide, unideal feet to at least look healthy. They did, after all, have some things going for them. Apart from the soles, the skin on my feet is surprisingly soft and smooth. I’m not naturally hairy so I don’t have a problem with hairy toes. They’re quite a nice colour, light olive like sand.
To be honest, I didn’t have much of a beauty routine until I hit my late forties and saw what time and neglect were doing to my skin and hair. From then on, I developed a routine that was quick and easy. It was a head-to-toe routine except that the toes rarely got done. I started with my hair and head and worked down through neck and shoulders, body, arms and hands, legs but never quite reached my poor feet.
I quickly saw the benefits of regular cleansing and moisturising and continued with it, albeit somewhat sporadically. I’m much better at making time to look after myself now. My children are older and now that they can look after themselves, I have more time for me.
I’m not trying to look younger or more beautiful. I’m happy with who I am now. I just want to bring out my best self, the one I find in the mountains, one I can smile back at in the mirror. And that includes my feet. What if I turned my routine upside down to make sure my feet got the attention they deserved?
My new toe-to-head beauty routine has just four steps and one additional step when needed:
In the shower or bath I wash, scrub and massage my feet, then work up through the legs, torso, arms and hands, neck and finally my face. Twice a week, I finish by shampooing and conditioning my hair.
After drying, I massage moisturising cream over my whole body and face, starting with my feet and working up to my face. By really feeling my skin with my fingers it’s easy to determine how much cream I need to use where. I add more cream until my skin feels soft all over. I don’t use expensive or hyped up creams, just regular ones which I experiment with to see what works best for my skin.
I like a natural look, so apply only light make up to accentuate my positive features and minimise those I don’t like. My feet are not left out. I either buff my toe nails or paint them to ensure they are yoga-ready. The same goes for my hands. On my face, I use concealer to lighten the dark circles under my eyes and even up the skin tone on the lids; blusher to add a bit of colour; a touch of eye liner, eye shadow or mascara to bring out my eyes; lipstick or gloss and I’m done. I finish at the very top by brushing and styling my hair.
I stand in front of a full length mirror and stay there until I can smile back at my reflection, ready for the day ahead. This is an important step as it’s about bringing my best self out.
No smile? Then I add one more step:
If I don’t like what I see, I make adjustments until I do.
My feet come first now. No longer forgotten or hidden. After all, they are my foundation and carry me wherever I wish to go.
They are not perfect but they are now much closer to being the best they can be. I might not love the look of them but I do love how they feel and I appreciate them. I certainly don’t hate them anymore. I can finally walk barefoot without worrying about it.
And no, in spite of having come to terms with my feet, I won’t be posting a picture of them any time soon ;)