Defenders of the Feet

Ask a nail student what she thinks about touching strangers’ feet and you’re likely to get a grimace. But somehow, as their careers progress, most nail techs learn to love feet. We asked a group of techs who specialize in pedicures to tell us how their love affair with feet began and what they do that’s so special.

Nancy Donatone McCoy, McCoy Nail Salon, Walnut, Miss.

How it began: I didn’t start out liking pedicures. At school, I refused to do them. I’d miss class on the days of my pedicure appointments and had to go for two extra weeks to finish my hours. When I opened my own nail salon, I had a manicure client who hadn’t worn open-toed shoes in 30 years. She was embarrassed by the nail on her big toes due to a childhood injury and refused to show me her feet. I had a pedicure area in the back room with its own door. I told her we could go back there and she could show me in private. Three months later, she did show me and I told her I could sculpt a new toenail for her out of acrylic. The client let me give her a pedicure and new acrylic toenail. She came back the next day to show me her brand new pair of sandals. Ever since that day I have loved doing pedicures. I saw how something so simple made someone so happy.

What makes your pedicures special? My clients make my pedicures special. Most of my clients have heath issues that don’t allow them to maintain their feet themselves, such as clipping toenails and applying lotion — tasks we take for granted. I customize each pedicure to each of my clients’ needs.


Courtney Mendoza, Fuchsia, Mesa, Ariz.

How it began: I never liked touching other people’s feet. It wasn’t until beauty school that I found a passion for them thanks to a loving teacher and a few wonderful clients. Where I live, most women will get a little more funky with their polish and nail art on the toes since this is the one way they can express themselves in the corporate world. That’s what I love the most — the ideas that some clients come up with. This will sound crazy but when someone has nasty feet and you transform them into the beautiful feet they were meant to be, your clients will love you forever.

What makes your pedicures special? I think it’s the attention to detail. I take my time cleaning up the cuticles and all other dead skin so the client’s feet look and feel healthy and beautiful. Also special is the amount of time we massage a client’s foot. Some salons in the area only massage for two to three minutes. We make sure we massage for a full five to six minutes per foot.


Natalie Williams, Natty Nails, Barataria, Trinidad, West Indies

How it began: As a new nail technician most of my clients are middle-aged women — many of whom are office workers and housewives who are always on their feet. Every day I encounter dry skin, poorly kept cuticles, and cracked heels while applying nail designs on my clients’ toes. They often complained that though they had been given foot spa basins as gifts, it was difficult to actually do the pedicure on their own feet. The tilting forward often led to dizziness or difficulty breathing. Fortunately for them I also offered the service within my practice. After doing a pedicure, my clients’ feet feel soft and moist and look radiant. They often say they don’t feel like their feet should ever touch the floor again! This made me love feet as much as I do.

What makes your pedicures special? My pedicure procedure, as with all my other procedures, usually starts with sanitation: my hands, my implements, my equipment, and my clients’ feet. Clients are always impressed at how much I sanitize and so they feel relaxed and know their feet are in safe hands. Before becoming a nail technician I specialized in homemade spa products. I guess what really makes my pedicures so special is that I now use some of them in my pedicure service, such as the scented bath salts for soaking the feet and body scrubs for exfoliating the heels. One of my favorites is my Almond Wheat Germ Scrub, which smells like such a treat.


Petra Vonder Newton, Nu Nails Plus, Basseterre, St. Kitts, West Indies, and Soul 2 Sole, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

How it began: I learned to love feet when I first started to take care of my own every Saturday evening, scrubbing and polishing for church the next day. I love sandals and appreciate toes and heels in good condition. I decided to become a manicurist not just to “do feet,” but to help others appreciate and take care of their feet. I have even taken it a step further and became an educator specializing in manicuring to teach others the proper way to care for their clients’ feet. I usually say “It’s not about beauty, it’s about healthy.” Many people do not realize how important our feet are. Our feet carry the entire body and we do not take enough time out to rub them or pamper them or even thank them. 

What makes your pedicures special? I have a vast selection of pedicures on my menu and we encourage our clients to try a different pedicure each time they are scheduled. They are encouraged to try our Deluxe Pedicure or Basic Pedicure, then move to our Paraffin Pedicure or Reflexology Pedicure, then our Hot Stone Pedicure. And every year we introduce a new pedicure to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month so they have something to look forward to. Our services are by appointment only and we encourage the client to relax and unwind while we pamper, massage, and care for her feet. Clients are also educated on at-home care between appointments.


Alana Gibbs, Hair 2 Sole Beauty Studio, Bridgeville, Pa.

How it began: For years, I hated feet. Then one day, my mom taught me how to give a basic pedi using an old dish pan and Palmolive soap. She said if I got all the calluses off by the end of the summer, she would give me $50. Being 13, that was big money. I now know she was totally ripping me off. But once I knew how to do it and could make money from it, I took my little dish pan and started giving pedicures to my family. It made me feel good to be able to do something to make them feel good. I always thought I would be a psychologist, because I wanted to help people and make them feel better. I took some psychology classes and found it just wasn’t for me. Giving pedicures, however, definitely gives me the feeling of helping people. So that feeling outweighed my hate of feet. To me, pedicures are like comfort food, they just make everything better. If your feet hurt, everything hurts. There is nothing better than slipping your feet into warm water after a long day, a break up with your boyfriend, or your kids driving you nuts, and dishing to your favorite manicurist. I have bonded with so many people while I am giving them a pedicure.

What makes your pedicures special? I really care about what I am doing and the people I am doing it on. Even though we have a basic pedicure protocol we start out with, each and every pedicure I perform is different. A client may come in with dry heels and tell me she has an aunt who was just diagnosed with cancer. That client is leaving with a grapeseed treatment, paraffin dip, oncology info (my mom works for the Oncology Nursing Society), and a hug. Another clients may want a new funky color to go with her recent breakup. She gets not only her new color, but nail art and a high five.


Ruth Windsor, Angelic Nails, Dearborn Heights, Mich.

How it began: When I was in nail school the last thing I was going to do was touch someone’s feet. No way! Then six months after getting my license I got a job in a salon and the owner booked me for two pedicures. She asked me if I did pedicures and I said I had not but would be willing to give it a try. She gave me a video and when I got home, I watched it and practiced on my husband. I went to work the next morning and explained to my client that this would be my first pedicure and if there was something she did or didn’t like to please let me know. She stayed with me for nine years until she moved out of the area. After that I took classes, read, practiced, and did whatever I could to make my service better. In one of the classes I took, the instructor made a statement that stuck with me: “Feet are the cleanest part of the body. We shower in the morning and they are put into socks and shoes. They don’t touch door knobs, money, or anything else.” The more pedicures I did, the more I grew to love what I did. I became certified in reflexology and that added to my service.

What makes your pedicures special? Once I got into doing pedis, I wanted to do more than just a manicure on the feet. I truly enjoy what I do and my guests say it shows. It doesn’t matter where I am or what equipment I use, I always made it an oasis for my guest. We are always rushed and on the run and this is one time when we can get our guests to sit still and help relax their minds. I get all our talking out before the massage begins. Once I start I am quiet, lower the lights, and just let them lie back and enjoy. I also use chilled eye pillows, heated neck wraps, and blankets to add to their comfort. That is also the reason I wrote my book[Answering the Questions to Your Sole: Pedicure Treatments That Will Have Your Clients Begging For More, available at NAILS’ online store] — to share what I have learned over the years and to help those who want to take their pedicures to the next level.



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