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Okay. We get that feet aren’t a sexy topic. But nobody wants to shudder in fear when open-toe sandal season comes around now, do they? That’s why we’re big on a little DIY foot maintenance, namely by way of a foot file.
Yes, they can be a little scary for the uninitiated, but despite the cheese grater appearance, a foot file (when used properly) is actually a really useful beauty tool. They can work to nix dry skin, smooth out cracked heels, and even chip away at hardened calluses. Not only can this save you a lengthy professional pedicure session, but sometimes can even work to prevent issues in the long run. So take it from us and spend a few minutes giving your hard-working feet a little love. Your life (and sandal collection) will be all the better for it.
With that being said, keep scrolling to shop our edit of the best foot files for every issue and concern.
Best Overall: Rikans Foot File and Callus Remover
It’s not fancy, but this top-rated file from Rikans is no joke. It almost functions as a grater, shaving off thick skin and revealing your baby-soft soles beneath. It’s made from surgical-grade stainless steel and can be used both wet and dry, as well.
Best for Dry Feet: Probelle Nickel Foot File
The gritty nickel surface of this file really works to smooth out the entire foot—toes, heels, and bunions included. Try using the rougher side on heels and flipping the file over when it comes to the toes, soles, and pads of the feet.
Best for Toes: Flowery Swedish Clover Original Red Foot File 530
This long, narrow file works a treat in between toes, making it a necessary beauty tool come summertime or whenever you’re rocking a bright pedicure. It’s less abrasive than other files, too, so it won’t break or damage more sensitive skin.
Best for Travel: Emjoi Micro-Pedi Callus Remover
This Emjoi file is great for so many reasons, but the most notable is the size. It’s super compact, so it is great if you’re heading away somewhere but don’t want to let your foot care routine fall to the wayside. It’s battery-operated and comes with two bonus rollers as well.
Best Drugstore: Spongeables Citron Eucalyptus Pedi-Scrub in a Sponge
If the name “Spongeables” doesn’t draw you in, the fact this $3 tool is filled with a zingy liquid soap will. You simply wet the sponge and squeeze it until you work up a foamy lather. Then go in and scrub your feet, paying extra attention to the heels. Genius, right?
Best for Calluses: Tweezerman Sole Smoother Antibacterial Callus Stone
If calluses are a particular concern, Tweezerman is here to make your life a whole foot easier (and your feet smoother). Made using waterproof ceramic stone, this file is dual-sided and firm enough to scrub off hardened skin without causing injury to the skin. It’s antibacterial as well, so you can rest easy storing it in the shower.
Best Electronic File: Amope Pedi Perfect Wet & Dry Rechargeable Foot File
With almost 6,000 rave reviews on Amazon, this motorized file is seriously impressive. Designed to be used wet or dry, the file rotates around to gently shave off rough skin. It also comes with two attachment heads—including a bristle brush—for post-pedicure softness at home.
Best Pumice: Mr. Pumice Extra-Coarse Pumi Bar
Cheap and effective, this pumice stone bar is excellent when it comes to sloughing off flakes, hardened skin, and crusty bits (gross but true). It’s compact and hand-held, so you can really get into all the tight spots. It’s very coarse, as well, so you won’t need to apply too much pressure to see results.
Best for Daily Use: Michael Todd Beauty Pedimax Expert Pedicure Smoothing Device
Prefer your beauty tools to be high-tech and simple to use? Give this fancy Pedimax rotating foot file a whirl. Complete with three different interchangeable heads, it can do just about anything, from smoothing out a dry heel to gently polishing the sole. The comfortable handle and LED charging options are nice as well.
For us, it’s a tie between Rikans and Tweezerman. The Rikans Foot File and Callus Remover is no-frills but super effective when it comes to eliminating thick, built-up skin. And then there’s Tweezerman Sole Smoother Antibacterial Callus Stone (view at Ulta)—a simple file that grinds away calluses and dry skin like nobody's business.
What to Look for When Buying a Foot File
According to a fact sheet released by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), it’s best to use a foot file or pumice stone as opposed to a razor because they’re less likely to cause injury or promote infection. When it comes to choosing a foot file specifically, go for something that suits your lifestyle. If you’re consistently on your feet or wear open shoes often, a coarser file is ideal. If you wear enclosed shoes and socks and spend a lot of time sitting down (i.e. not on your feet), you may be less likely to develop thick, hard skin, so a softer file is adequate. If you’re confused or want the best of both worlds, seek out one with two different sides.
Stainless steel, nickel, and other hardy, non-porous materials are great to look out for because they’re less likely to retain moisture and encourage bacteria growth (which can lead to infections). According to APMA, traditional emery board-style files can trap water and germs, so if you must use one, be sure to bin it afterward.
How do you use a foot file?
The APMA suggests soaking the feet in warm water first to soften the skin. Then simply take your file and work it across the bottom half of your foot, being sure to file in one direction. Pay special attention to areas where the skin might be thicker, such as the heels and around the large toe. If it starts to hurt or bleed at all during the filing process, stop immediately. Top it off with a slather or rich, nourishing moisturizer and a pair of socks.
What benefits do foot files have?
Aside from the aesthetic element of having silky soft skin, foot files can have numerous health benefits. According to Probelle, regular use can work to stimulate blood flow, prevent calluses and improve the skin’s own repair processes.
Are foot files safe?
When used correctly, foot files are definitely safe. Just be sure to not rub so hard that you break the skin. Also, never use a dirty, rusty, or blunt foot file or share your file with others.
How do you clean a foot file?
The best way to clean your foot file is by wiping or soaking it in rubbing alcohol. Once clean, let it dry out thoroughly.
Why Trust Byrdie?
Emily Algar has educated herself on all areas of beauty (from lipstick down to foot files). For this round-up, she has read over countless reviews online, plus tried a few products herself to ensure you’re getting the best edit possible. Not to mention, she has borrowed some intel from the American Podiatric Medical Association to round things out.
According to our Diversity Pledge, 15% of products in our newly-published market roundups will feature Black-owned and/or Black-founded brands. At the time of publishing, we were not able to find any foot files from a Black-owned and/or Black-founded business. If you know of one we should consider, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will evaluate the product ASAP.