While athletes work hard to keep their bodies in tip-top shape, sadly, the same cannot be said for their hands and feet. While their bodies benefit from all of the exercise, their hands and feet are usually left to suffer. As a result, it’s not unusual to see an athlete with calluses, blisters, chipped or broken nails, dry cuticles, or chapped hands-among other problems.

A few years ago, it wouldn’t have been as common to see a pedicure tailor made for and athlete on a service menu. But with today’s health kick, it’s a whole different scenario. More than ever, women and men are hitting the pavement (and the slopes and the rapids). As a result, many enterprising saloon owners and nail techs are realizing the importance of offering specialized pedicures and manicures that help alleviate athletes’ most common ailments.

But before you start conjuring up a new service, make sure you understand what your athletic clients want and need from you. And, since athletes are that much harder on their hands and feet, it’s also important to know when to refer someone to a specialist who can deal with more serious foot or hand problems you may not be able to service.

A Healthy Perspective

Unlike you regular clients, athletic clients may not be as concerned about beauty. Runners, kayakers, and rock climbers are more worried about having their calluses reduced, keeping their nails short and neat, and relieving any soreness or muscle tension.

So while the manicure or pedicure technique you offer them may not differ from the regular services on your menu, you should definitely keep athletic clients’ needs in mind. In general, it’s important to keep their nails trimmed short to avoid injury, and skin should be well moisturized to lesson the likelihood of calluses and cracking.

While calluses should be tended to, they should never be removed completely since the provide a certain amount of natural protection, says podiatrist Johanna Youner.

Athletes are more likely to develop injuries or infections-especially on the feet, which tend to take a lot of abuse from pounding on the pavement and from shoe gear. It’s not uncommon for athletes to develop allergic contact dermatitis on their feet, for example. It can be brought on by the glues and dyes in athletic footwear and is compounded by sweating and friction.

It’s also not uncommon for athletes to suffer from white spots, pigmented bands, or splits and ridges on their toe-nails that don’t grow out.

Different types of sports mean different types of problems. People who participate in aquatic sports may suffer from brittle nails and dry cuticles brought on from all the time spent in the water. They may also suffer from plantar warts, which are transmitted by water and can be contagious, says Youner.

Rock climbers and athletes who use their hands may suffer from broken, chipped nails and dry, chapped hands. And basketball and tennis players may suffer from a different type of problem. “Basketball and tennis place higher stresses on the Achilles and the medial and lateral aspects of the foot, respectively,” says Youner.

Basketball players may also develop black heel, which looks just like it sounds. The skin on the heel turns black because of internal bleeding caused by a pinching stress from abrupt contact between the foot and a hard surface.

And a jogger with a longer second toe may experience a black toenail, which is a consolidation of blood under the nail from trauma. “A nail technician can help identify this problem and after the client had seen a doctor, the nail technician can keep the nail very thin so as to retard the development of fungus,” Youner says. “Fungus develops very easily in a traumatized nail, so extra care and possibly prophylactic treatment with a topical ingredient may help.”

You should be aware of the general health of your client’s hands or feet before each service. A podiatrist or dermatologist should examine open wounds or lacerations, unexplained bruises, popped blisters, athlete’s foot, or separated nails before you begin any service.

If you do decide to offer a service tailor-made for athletes, make sure the name and description make it sound like you mean business. Blairstown, N.J. based The Brass Rose Salon & Spa attracts clients suffering from abused hands with its Reconstruction Manicure. The description reads: “Hardworking hands deserve this very special service. This is an intensive treatment for parched, rough, callused hands. You are treated with our specially formulated French paste, containing mallow to soften and condition, grape-seed oil to moisturize, and calendula and chamomile to sooth.”

And Audrey Maxwell, spa supervisor and reflexologist at Vista Clara Ranch Resort and Spa in Galisteo, N.M., conjured up the Hiker’s Foot Therapy after noticing that hikers in the area would often visit the spa for a pedicure. The service features eucalyptus oil and reflexology, along with a soothing foot scrub and peppermint foot massage. The nails are trimmed short and are left polish free.

Train and Make Yourself Visible

Beside offering athletic clients a soothing massage or exfoliating treatment, you should also make an effort to educate yourself. “Subscribe to sports magazines so you can be up to date on information-and so your clients can have some appropriate reading material to enjoy,” says Patti Glick, a Cupertino, Calif.-based registered nurse also known as The Foot Nurse.

Of course, if you’re an athlete yourself, then you have a natural advantage. You already know the problems your clients are going through, so you can then to them with more care.

But if you’re not an athlete, then it’s important to read up on the subject matter-particularly nail conditions suffered by athletes Glick suggests nail techs attend athletic events such as marathons or 5K walks and talk to participants. “Ask them what their needs are,” she says. “Pass out flyers with a discount on their first manicure or pedicure to get them to try your services. Offer to make a presentation to their group.”


Find out where they shop for their gear and equipment and what podiatrists or sports medicine doctors they see. Then, go to those places and offer to start a referral system. “You’ll find athletic communities are a tight-knit bunch and if someone perceives that you offer a service that meets or exceeds what the average nail technician offers, then word-of-mouth referrals will happen naturally,” Glick says.

Spa Paradise in Spokane, Wash., takes advantage of a yearly race held in the area. According to spa manager Tracy Steeves, the spa sets up a booth where it offers mini-pedicures and massages. The spa’s Runner’s Pedicure is similar to its standard pedicure, but nails are cut shorter, a little more callus work is done, and the massage is more extensive. Reeves recommends a once-a-month regimen for runners.

Extra Pampering for Hands and Feet

Since athletes are that much harder on their hands and feet, they’re also much more likely to develop injuries and infections. It’s not uncommon to see athletes with dry, parched skin and cuticles, and thickened calluses. Understanding their needs will make it easier to offer them services.

If you have a lot of runners coming to your salon, then make sure your pedicure features extras they’ll appreciate such as lengthy soaks, rich moisturizing treatments, and callus reduction. If you have athletes who come in with ravaged hands from climbing rocks, tend to them with a paraffin dip and a rich moisturizing treatment.

Colleen Mode, owner of Purrfect Nails by Colleen in Reno, Nev., says she suggests her clients wear sunblock on their hands when they’re outdoors. “I notice that clients who are active outdoors tend to have hands that look more aged,” she says. “I tell them I apply sunblock on my face-and my hands-and they should do the same.”

Sanon Brackin, owner of Sanom’s Free Edge Salon in Brentwood, Tenn., is an avid athlete herself, so she knows what sports-minded clients like best. She frequently goes rock climbing and hiking, so she keeps her fingernails short. And since she’s an avid runner, she’s experienced a common problem associated with the sport: having her toenails fall off.

When she has an athlete in for a service, Brackin makes sure to give them extra special attention. Her Sport Pedicure is designed just for athletes, and it includes massage, paraffin treatment, exfoliation, and callus removal. “When I’m giving athletes a pedicure or manicure, I give them a lengthier reflexology massage. I know they appreciate it,” she says.

It’s also important to ask a client what types of sports they’re involved in before the service begins. Melodie Cole-Hall, a nail technician at Nailz Hand & Foot Spa in Cashiers, N.C., says that since the salon is located in a mountainous region, lots of experienced and novice likers, rock climbers, and bicyclists frequent the salon. “When I do my initial consultation, I ask if clients are athletes because I know they’ll need special attention,” she says.

Besides pampering athletic clients, make sure to stress the importance of at-home maintenance. “We recommend exfoliants and overnight treatments to relieve stress and muscle tension,” Says Bonnie Canvino, nail department manager at Maxine in Chicago. Make sure clients tend to their nails and skin properly to prevent any further damage. Cole-Hall says she educates clients on proper nail shaping and proper fitting of shoes and socks so they can avoid ingrown toenails and other problems.

Simply making a few adjustments to your standard manicure and pedicure technique and a working knowledge of what your athletic clients suffer from and need will make you a valuable entity. If you know what athletes are looking for and provide it for them-and send them to a professional who will be able to treat any medical condition they may have-you’re guaranteeing yourself a whole new set of satisfied clients who can be active and show off their healthy-looking hands and feet.

Sporty Services

Nail salons across the country are incorporating services that help beautify and keep hard-working hands and feet looking healthy. Here’s a look at the services some salons are offering for their sports-minded, active clients.



What: Sport Pedicure

What: Reconstruction Manicure

Where: Free Edge Salon, Brentwood, Tenn.

Where: The Brass Rose Salon & Spa. Blairstown, N.J.

How much: $55

How much: $50

Description: Rough spots and calluses are gently removed with the help of an alpha-hydroxy foot scrub. The service includes a mask to moisturize the feet, followed by a foot and leg massage and paraffin wax treatment. The toenails are trimmed short and buffed to a high gloss.

Description: The salon bills the service as an intensive treatment for parched, rough, callused hands. Clients are treated with a specially formulated moisturizing paste, grapeseed oil to moisturize and help fight against the signs of aging, and calendula and chamomile to soothe abused hands.

What: Hiker’s Foot Therapy

What: Multi-Vitamin Manicure

Where: Vista Clara Ranch Resort and Spa, Galisteo, N.M.

Where: Spa Roma, Milwaukee, Wis.

How much: $50

How much: $25

Description: The service includes eucalyptus oil and reflexology to soothe and relax sore, aching feet and legs. A foot scrub and peppermint foot massage help refresh. Toenails are trimmed short and left polish free.

Description: Hands are treated to a therapeutic hand and arm massage. The manicure is especially targeted to clients who spend lots of time outdoors in the summer and comes compete with an application of SPF hand cream.


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