Arguably one of the most beloved beauty treatments, a pedicure is where everyone from the most seasoned beauty aficionado to the most casual sandal season drop-in can reach common ground. Whether you do it for the steamy bubble bath at the beginning, the well-groomed nails, or the lotion and massage at the end, a pedicure is a relaxing and effective way to dissolve calluses and get your toes beach-ready.
But sometimes, even regular pedicures aren’t enough to fix larger foot issues. Let’s face it: We put our feet through a lot. Everyday activities like walking, jogging, and taking the stairs can add up to tough calluses, cracked heels, and ingrown toenails. When your foot issues get too severe, a regular pedicure won’t cut it.
Enter the medical pedicure, a more clinical version of your favorite treatment. Certified foot care specialist Jeanne Jennings of Lotus Foot Care notes that the phrase “medical pedicure” is a relatively recent addition to the foot care lexicon. However, it's a helpful one for those who need services that regular pedicures don't offer and want to combine the needed treatment with an overall maintenance session.
We spoke to Jennings, as well as licensed medical pedicurist Marcela Correa, for more insight on the podiatric treatment option. Keep reading to learn all about medical pedicures, including what services are available, and decide if you should schedule an appointment.
Meet the Expert
- Jeanne Jennings is a registered nurse and certified foot care specialist based in the Bay Area. She is the founder of Lotus Foot Care, a mobile service for seniors and medical pedicures.
- Marcela Correa is a New York City-based licensed medical pedicurist and the owner of Medi Pedi, a foot care service at the intersection of aesthetics and therapeutics.
What Is a Medical Pedicure?
A typical salon visit for a pedicure usually involves a massage chair, bubbling hot water, and a polish wall as far as the eye can see, but a trip to Medi Pedi in New York City feels more sterile than spa-like. Though some of the experience is similar, a medical pedicure is distinctively different from a traditional one.
According to Medi Pedi owner Correa, a medical pedicure lives at the intersection between podiatry and nail care. While a traditional pedicure is fairly prescriptive (soak, exfoliate, trim, file, paint—you know the drill), a medical pedicure is more impromptu. An exact run of show is tougher to nail down, as the treatment varies depending on what services the client needs.
“A medical pedicure is a one-of-a-kind foot care experience,” Correa explains. “This sterile and completely waterless procedure is tailored to target the needs of each individual. This includes dead skin removal with professional equipment, professional nail nipping, filing, shaping, and buffing your nails til they shine.”
Instead of operating a brick-and-mortar space, Jennings travels to see clients in their homes, and she describes the assessment as a major part of the process. She evaluates foot hygiene, circulation, nerves, and more. “I usually speak to my client on the phone beforehand to get a better understanding of what is bothering them,” she says. “When I arrive at their home, the treatment usually takes about 60-90 minutes, but I will stay longer if I feel like they need more attention.”
Depending on where you receive treatment, different perks are available. Medi Pedi offers a shoe sterilization service while you're getting your pedicure, while Jennings finishes her process with a massage.
Benefits of Medical Pedicures
Whether you have certain foot conditions that need treatment or are simply looking for a different experience, there are a few main reasons you might choose a medical pedicure over traditional services:
- Decreased risk of cross-contamination
- Years of training and experience
- Pain relief
- Diminished calluses and/or elimination of foot fungus
- Preventative care
For Jennings, the major benefit of a medical pedicure is the assurance that you're being treated by someone who knows what they're looking at. “I started studying under podiatrists in 2008 before certification was even possible,” she says. “When you're receiving a medical pedicure, you have the benefit of someone with a lifetime of experience assessing feet. This person knows what they are looking for. They know the difference between a corn and a wart.”
Correa echoes this sentiment. “There are many benefits to receiving a medical pedicure. The main one is peace of mind,” she says. “Our sterilization and hygiene protocols guarantee a safe and cross-contamination-free experience. Beyond that, medical pedicures are customized to what your feet need as opposed to just simple aesthetics.”
Correa wants to make sure her clients know how to keep their toes healthy in between treatments, so she sends them home with a detailed plan on how to treat any conditions found as well as education on how to prevent any new developing ailments.
While a medical pedicure is powerful enough to treat hardcore foot issues like bunions and ingrown toenails, it is also useful for those who are interested in preventative care. “By simply incorporating these treatments into your routine, you can prevent problems that can lead to invasive correction such as hammertoes, recurring ingrown nails, and more,” Correa says.
How to Prepare for a Medical Pedicure
The most important part of preparation for your medical pedicure is doing your research. In order to get the best possible results, it's important to find a specialist who's highly qualified in this area.
To start, look up your local podiatry office to see if they offer the service. If not, look for individuals with adequate certification, training under a podiatrist, and multiple favorable reviews before making an appointment.
Medical Pedicure vs. Traditional Pedicure
While medical pedicures and their traditional counterparts are fundamentally different, there are some similarities. For example, nails are cleaned, filed, and exfoliated during both. However, a medical pedicure aims to treat underlying foot issues rather than focusing on improving aesthetics.
A medical pedicure is a waterless treatment—that means no pre-polish soak. “If there is an individual who has cracked skin or a wound on their foot, soaking their feet in water could cause bacteria from the feet to enter into the wound,” Jennings explains.
Because of their training, medical pedicure practitioners are also better equipped to tackle severe foot issues like corns, cracked heels, and thick nails. And because of the focus on treating and healing your feet and nails, a medical pedicure usually skips out on polish. “Many polishes bond directly to the nail, which can damage it further,” Jennings says.
Potential Side Effects
The potential side effects for a medical pedicure are similar to those of a traditional pedicure—mainly infection and fungus. However, the chances of this happening considerably decrease when you see a certified practitioner.
Because the treatment is customized to each person, the cost can vary—someone with significant fungus or calluses will need a more involved medical pedicure than someone who's focused on maintenance or preventative care. It typically ranges from $175-$250, depending on various factors including the services you need and the time it takes.
Due to the custom nature of medical pedicures, you're likely to get individualized advice from the specialist doing your treatment. However, Correa lays out some good general guidelines to follow.
- Avoid running or strenuous activities: Post pedicure, it's best to avoid doing hard activities with your feet for 48 hours to avoid blisters or extra sensitivity. Instead, keep the self-care going for a couple days if you can before returning to workouts and other strenuous activity.
- Moisturize: A medical pedicure is more invasive than your normal foot care service, and it requires you to replenish hydration regularly at home to maintain results. Make sure you have a good moisturizing product at home, ideally a fragrance-free option that's suitable for sensitive skin. If you're not sure what's best for you, ask your pedicurist as they could have a good foot cream or similar product to recommend.
- Get a plan: Having a foot care routine recommended by your technician is important in order to extend the results of the treatment. Make sure to get their best tips before you leave.
For those struggling with calluses, corns, ingrown toenails, and more, a medical pedicure is a great option to get your feet back on the mend. But even if you don't currently have one of these conditions, a medical pedicure can help prevent them from showing up. If it's within your budget, we recommend making an appointment with a trusted practitioner in your area.