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First time for everything: A medical pedicure


Beyond the optical illusion of great legs and a perky posterior, the reality of high heels is a distressingly yellow toe-nailed affair. Underneath shiny patent and luscious suede, I hide greying devil's feet that seem to wince whenever I slip them into even the flattest of ballet shoes and ache all day in strange and hard-to-reach places.

That's why there was nothing for it but to invest in one of Margaret Dabbs's acclaimed medical pedicures at her London clinic. If there was a Pulitzer prize for podiatry, she would win it. And she has been rescuing modishly exhausted feet for more than 10 years.

My problem, I learn, is "urban feet". My fears of fungal infections and scurvy recede as my podiatrist, Alaa, casts her expert eye over the yellowing cadavers at the end of my legs and diagnoses a bad case of tarmac toes. Pounding pavements and teetering are to blame, as impact (from the ground) and pressure (from the shoes) have caused a build-up of fibrous tissue underneath the toenail, which has thickened in response and practically suffocated under a palimpsest of old nail varnish. Sorry if you're eating.

Alaa starts the £80 treatment by cutting my nails straight across the top and smoothing them off with a crystal nail file, which is less abrasive than traditional emery. Then she goes to work with a tiny but terrifying drill, eroding ridges and the horny layers which my toes have grown in order to protect themselves. Because of the pressure, they're also slightly involuted, she explains, which leads to painful in-growth.

The offending spikes are removed from the fleshy corners of my toes. Alaa then presses down on each nail to work out where the dead skin build-ups have occurred. The pressure is gone: I will no longer cry when small children step on my toes. And my feet are even willing to go back into my shoes without a fuss.