I know I’m not alone when I say that I’m not great when it comes to feet. I mean, you really do see some awful ones, don’t you? And it’s understandable in a way - they’re a pretty hard working part of the body, not only bearing the whole of our weight but also crammed, for much of the year, into weather-appropriate shoes, and heels that you can’t wait to kick off the minute you get home. And then there’s our ever-growing quest for health and fitness, which sees us training for events, peeling off sweaty socks and sharing communal showers, where conditions are ripe for the spreading of viral and fungal infections.
Nope, not a fan of feet.
So it’s not without some trepidation that I walk into the Margaret Dabbs clinic in West London's SpaceNK. I’m not entirely sure what I’m expecting to see, but I’m almost instantly soothed by the main area, which is glossily clean and features exuberant floral arrangements that complement the elegant aubergine and gold packaging of the Margaret Dabbs products lining the shelves.
Foot health, not just short-term aesthetics for the purposes of a holiday or open shoe, is the ethos behind Margaret Dabbs. It’s a million miles away from the standard high-street nail bar, where it seems that a cheese grater is publicly, shamefully taken to your hard skin before you’ve even sat down. Here, I’m plied with fresh, cool water as I fill out a form providing details of my build and medical history and then led away to a private treatment room, where podiatrist Niamh effortlessly puts me at ease with her cheerful candour about some of the foot-health issues she regularly deals with, plus her reassurances that my battered runner’s feet are not nearly as neglected as some she sees.
There’s no skin-softening footbath to lull you into the treatment, and for a very good reason, it seems: treating a dry foot ensures longer lasting results. The range of of instruments Niamh uses, some manual and others with an electronic pulse - not to mention the spankingly clean room and the chair in which I’m sitting - puts me in the mind of the dentist - but it’s so much nicer, because you can actually have conversation, rather than trying to answer vaguely accusatory questions about flossing habits with a metallic implement in your mouth.
The treatment is simultaneously delicate and targeted, with just a few grimace-inducing moments brought on by the sensation of the mechanical instruments. By the end of it, all hard and dead skin has been removed, cuticles have been groomed, nails have been checked and my feet are soothed, buffed, polished and - wait for it - really rather pretty! All this while, my hands have been getting some love from a nail tech, with a moisture treatment, massage and polish. Afterwards, I’m led back out to a comfortable reclining chair with a stack of magazines to flick through while my pedicure is completed with colour - and I’m heartened to see an older gentleman filling out his forms in the reception area. A well-groomed man foot: should be more of ‘em.
Ideally, says Niamh, we should be giving our feet this sort of targeted care every 6 to 8 weeks, as well as moisturising them daily. The clinic’s product range, available both online and in the salon, is produced entirely in the UK but uses Australian Emu Oil, which is easily absorbed and boasts fantastic antibacterial and emollient properties, as its primary ingredient. Cheat’s tip? Buy a cheaper emu oil product from the chemist to use on your feet daily and splurge on regular treatments at the salons in London, Cheltenham and Dubai: prices for a medical pedicure range from £80.