Poetic as the first annual sighting of swallows and heady wafts of honeysuckle undoubtedly are, for many of us, the baring of the nation’s feet and ankles has become the official marker of British Summer Time. What with a recent run of sunny days (well, three) and mighty amounts of toe cleavage at the Baftas, by most reckonings, summer started last weekend.
You know what that means: time, once more, to raise your sandal game. Fastidious-feet pros will already have booked their pedicures. (After 2021’s run on white nail polish, this year’s popular colours are lilac, pale pink and true red.) Actually, true pros have pedicures all year round, even in the depths of winter, to maintain neat cuticles and callous-free toes. The rest of us will now be ringing around trying to find a salon with spare appointments. It’s a good idea to start the season with a proper medi-pedi to get rid of any corns, which even when they’re barely visible to the naked eye, can be surprisingly painful. Chiropodists don’t generally include nail polish at the end of their treatments. The exception is Margaret Dabbs, whose medi-pedis are the gold standard, but hard to book as there are only a handful of salons in the whole country.
I’d rather have a good medical pedi at an unglam chiropodist at the start of foot-baring season, even without the finishing touch of polish, than an average high street pedi that offers a wide range of nail colours, but doesn’t give feet a thorough overhaul.
If you can’t get an appointment for a week or so, there’s still a lot you can do to make your feet presentable in the interval. The main issues in the short term are cutting nails – short, neat nails look infinitely better than toe talons – and hard skin.
You don’t need a set of scary- looking implements, to deal with the latter, although a foot file is a must for anyone prone to hard skin. For those who find the graters slightly alarming, I’d recommend Margaret Dabbs files (£26, margaretdabbs.co.uk) which are gentle but effective and Basix foot balm (£12.99, victoriahealth.com) which is so good at nourishing feet once you’ve finished sloughing. You can also use it to give nails a gleam – better than badly applied DIY varnish. For an overnight footmask, slather it on before you go to bed and pop some cotton or hemp socks on.
If pasty expanses of bare skin are making you a shy sandal wearer or at least reluctant to go the Full Yasmin Le Bon, more help is at foot. Tan Luxe’s Gradual Illuminating Tanning Lotion is a user-friendly formula to promises natural looking, subtle results (£16.66, lookfantastic.com). Just be sure to invest in a tanning mitt (£3.99 on amazon.co.uk) and to wipe any excess off cuticles. If you suffer from water retention and swollen legs and feet, apart from keeping them elevated and cool whenever possible and daily skin brushing, magnesium can help and will definitely easy any cramping tendencies. Some medications such as oral contraceptives and anti-inflammatory drugs can exacerbate water retention – it’s worth checking.
Now for the fun part ie choosing your sandals. If you’re the type who has to have the latest limited edition Birkenstock collaboration then, hooray, there’s a grand total of three Azure blue silk pairs of the Manolo Hangisi Birkies left on farfetch.com. Alternatively, you’ll find pretty jewelled raffia birkies for £155 on camillaelphick.com – perfect for gliding glamorously around the place. A versatile neutral, they work for day and are also probably the most comfortable evening shoes you’ll ever try. M&S has its own version in mocha, black or yellow, minus the jewels, for £22.50. Lovely with floppy trousers and floaty skirts.
Cotton canvas espadrilles, £81, castaner.com; Leather two-strap sandals, £22.50, marksandspencer.com; Suede platforms, £225, russellandbromley.com; Strappy sandals, £300, atpatelier.com; The PeepLeather peep toe slingbacks, £245, aeyde.com; Leather heeled sandals, £248, thereformation.com
The good news is that while there are some stylish new additions to the sandal repertoire – see left – what was fashionable last year (and the year before), still is. A far bigger consideration is which styles look best with which outfits. The Duchess of Cambridge’s beloved wedge espadrilles for instance, are much better with midi dresses, shorts and flares (including 7/8th flares) than they are with ankle length hemlines or skinny jeans. Don’t even think about wearing them with socks though.
Russell & Bromley’s platform sandals (very Prada) are a kind-to-feet solution for those who want extra height. The foot bed is quite generous and wide and they provide a stable base – ideal for wearing with long, leg lengthening, high-waisted flares, or cropped ones, and with longer, fluid or bias cut skirts. And yes, you can wear them with ankle socks and even seamless tights when the weather turns, so they’re a bona fide year rounder.
The Gradual Illuminating Tanning Lotion, £16.66, Tan-Luxe (lookfantastic.com); Prebiotic Foot Cream, £14, Green People (greenpeople.co.uk); Bubble Bath nail polish, £9.04, OPI (nailpolishdirect.co.uk); Skin Defence Cream Foot Food, £12.99, Basix (victoriahealth.com); Magnesium Oil Original Spray, £12.95, Better You (victoriahealth.com); Foot File, £26, Margaret Dabbs (margaretdabbs.co.uk)
The downside? They don’t look as good with pencil skirts – for those you really want something elegant and delicate looking with a heel, a block heel or very fine wedge. This year, there are plenty of metallic options around. Find the tone that best compliments your skin and treat them as a hard working neutral. They’re far too versatile to save for evenings and they’ll make denim, cheesecloth, linen and all those other summer favourites, look much dressier, and they’ll work with just about any item of clothing, although socks might be pushing them into kooky territory.
Purely on aesthetics, my favourite metallics this year are Reformation’s 75 mm Elsies, made using leather from audited tanneries. Mind you, 75 mm is quite a height if you’re going to be walking a lot. For fast walking it has to be a springy flatform with a strap at the back. Whistles’ caged shoe has the added benefit of not baring too much skin. So if you’re worried about bunions or scars, these are flattering as well as comfortable. For even more coverage – not everyone likes baring their toes on grubby city streets – hereu.com has sporty hybrid sandal loafers that are great with trousers and also add some chunky attitude to dresses These will take you well into autumn and beyond when you can easily add some socks without getting a single side eye from anyone, not even your kids.