How to do the perfect DIY pedicure

The weather’s heating up and it’s nearly time to release your feet to the world. Here’s how to prepare them...

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It’s nearly time to unleash your feet on the world
анастасия войтко
Madeleine Spencer10 April 2024

When deciding whether to conduct an at-home pedicure or to take my sad feet to a podiatrist, I always use the skincare model. Maintenance and general care = an at-home job. Anything weird, red, painful = professionals need to enter the fray. 

That said, in the case of both skin and feet, the chances of needing that professional to sort things out are always reduced if you do the home care — and yes I am well aware of how dull and ‘eat your greens’ that advice is, but we all know it’s true, so it’s worth putting in the graft.

Now, if your feet need that general care, a bit of a pep, something to make them look smooth and lovely once more, I have compiled everything you need to know, including some rules you must absolutely stick to courtesy of podiatrist Margaret Dabbs OBE (who presides over the podiatrist-led clinics I go to in London and couldn’t recommend more highly).

Never file a wet foot

This rule counts for at home and in the salon. If wet, you won’t be able to determine how much skin needs to come off (you only want the really dead, desiccated stuff to be removed), and you run the risk of introducing bacteria to the feet and increasing the chance of infection. 

Pay attention to nail length

Margaret is emphatic on this one, saying too short or too long both cause problems (this I know from experience, having assiduously cut mine too short only to now need help to stop them from becoming ingrown). Essentially, you want them to protrude off your toes slightly but not so much that they catch on anything.

Don’t touch your cuticles

Push them gently away from your nail when hydrated, sure. But cut/remove/otherwise tamper? No. Equally, no professional should go at your cuticles, fully ridding your nail of them; they’re there for a reason, protecting the nail from bacteria. 

Use foot-specific products

It’s a niche area, doing a lot of work, and accordingly the products need to work pretty hard to make a difference. Margaret uses the example of foot lotion being essential because the skin on your feet is twelve times thicker than on the rest of the body, therefore requiring something a little more intense.

The order of play

In terms of order, you want to start with your dry foot, assessing whether skin needs to be removed. If it does, file away, and do the same to toenails while you’re at it. I do this sitting on the edge of the bath so my dead skin can easily be washed down the drain after and I don’t need to crack out the hoover and mop and all that. 

Next, file nails. Same technique here: over the bath, dry nails. Finally, add a scrub to the proceedings — this will just take off any extra dry bits and get to areas you wouldn’t file (tops of the feet, for example). After this, you can soak your feet if you enjoy the process, before adding a cuticle oil/serum and pushing cuticles back (gently and moderately). If you’re painting your nails or buffing them, you might want to do that before adding moisturiser, but that moisturiser is non-negotiable. And you’re done! Anything more complex and requiring more tools isn’t an at-home job.

Margaret Dabbs Professional Foot File

Margaret Dabbs

This is the best foot file I’ve used by quite some margin, because: 1) it removes all dead skin with such ease, never scraping or doing any damage; 2) it is easy to hold so you can get to all the angles you need to hit, and 3) the replaceable pads mean you only need to buy it once, which is good for the finances and environment.

Buy now£30, Margaret Dabbs

Viridian Nail & Cuticle Oil


A blend of six oils to hydrate and soften, this is one you want to use way more often than during your at-home pedicure sessions; I keep mine on my bedside table and massage a little on every night before going to sleep.

Buy now£16.05, Viridian

The Body Shop Peppermint Reviving Pumice Foot Scrub

The Body Shop

There is no scrub quite like this cult hero (which launched in the 1980s when Anita Roddick made the Peppermint range for those running the London Marathon) — it does the job really well, wakes feet up, and smells heavenly.

Buy now£10, The Body Shop

Aveda Foot Relief Moisturizing Creme


Pleasing every day, sure — but this really comes into its own if you’ve been walking a lot or it’s sweltering out and your feet feel hot and tired. Expect it to soften over time, if you use it regularly (once a day should do the job).

Buy now£20, Aveda

Margaret Dabbs Hydrating Foot Soak

Margaret Dabbs

If for you heaven is putting your feet in some warm, fragrant water and letting them release the tension of the day, you’d better lace that water with this. It smells uplifting thanks to the antibacterial lemon myrtle, and the emu oil softens feet considerably.

Buy now£24, Margaret Dabbs