(Nails)

I Visited The “Toe Whisper” For The Industry’s Most In-Demand Pedicure

What happened is nothing less than life changing.

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Woman in towel massaging feet

“Your feet are telling me you walk barefoot a lot,” says Marcela Correa, a licensed medical pedicurist and owner of medical-grade pedicure business, Medi Pedi, as I remove my shoes in one of her treatment rooms. As a marathon runner and someone who hasn’t had a pedicure in 18 months, my feet have definitely seen better days. Which is why I jumped at the chance to visit Correa — known in the beauty industry as the “toe whisperer” — and her midtown Manhattan studio for a medical pedicure.

Correa, originally from Uruguay, studied podiatry for three years before moving to New York and opening up her own practice. “When I first opened, people couldn’t believe I was focusing just on feet,” she says. “They kept urging me to add facials or massages, thinking that this wouldn’t be a success.”

Now over 30 years later, Correa’s ground floor location works with the soles of famous people, executives, celebrities, models, politicians, and the average concrete-pounding New Yorker, sculpting and buffing their feet to perfection. But what exactly is a medical pedicure? How does it differ from a regular pedicure? And is it really worth dropping $200 for the service over your run-of-the-mill neighborhood shop? I visited for myself (and my toes) to find out.

What Is A Medical Pedicure?

First things first: This is not the type of service that you might imagine at your local salon or spa. There is no relaxing music or accompanying massage chair. But that in no way means that your feet will not look (and feel) incredible after you walk out.

Put simply, a medical pedicure — also known as a medi-pedi — is a non-invasive, dry pedicure performed by a specialist who combines podiatry with nail care. The main issues that a medi-pedi tackles are athlete’s foot, nail fungus, dry, cracked heels, nail discoloration, ingrown toenails, corns, and calluses. You name it, you can ask the fine folks at MediPedi to help fix it.

Courtesy of Medi Pedi

What Happens At An Appointment?

The day of my 45 minute appointment, I enter the midtown Manhattan destination and sit back in a raised chair in a space that resembles a sterile doctor’s office. Irina Usanova, a certified medical nail technician, starts by assessing the condition of my feet — mainly checking for calluses and any red flags (like Athlete’s foot and ingrown toenails).

My feet are then sprayed with a moisturizer to soften them up for the actual procedure, which involves the removal of dead skin, corns, and calluses. After my feet are moisturized and my toes are cleaned (meaning a tool is used under the nails and any NYC debris is washed away), Correa comes in with a scapula to remove all the dead skin. Unlike regular salons, Medi Pedi specializes in removing only what is necessary. "Many nail spas remove too many layers of the skin, making the skin prone to blisters,” Correa says. “But by softening the skin first I am able to see only what I need to.”

Next, a hand-held drill is used to smooth my nail’s surface (which is more precise and thorough than an average nail file), followed by an oil to restore and nourish the nail bed. Lastly, a buffing file is used to work over the cracks on my heels and Melach 33 butter is smoothed over my skin for a softer-than-soft finish. No soaking in a rose essential oil bath and absolutely no polish.

The result: callus-free, baby-skin-soft feet, with supple texture. Not a dry spot or callus in sight. And despite the lack of nail lacquer, your nails are left buffed and ultra shiny, almost like you’re wearing a top coat.

What Are The Added Benefits?

"I always tell people this is like going to the dentist — you get an evaluation (we don’t do X-rays) and we tell you what's wrong so you can adjust it,” says Correa. Within the first visit, Correa and her team can correct 90% of the major foot and nail issues. “Athlete’s foot and nail fungus are the same thing and the biggest reason people see me,” she says. During a visit, Correa will remove all fungus with her medical-grade tools and offer tips like not sharing shoes or making sure to clean your shoes often to prevent fungus from coming back. “You can spend hundreds on a pedicure but if your shoes are dirty, it’s not going to go away.”

Correa can also give tips for overall foot health and correct the way a patient walks. "Stretching the calf is the key to the health of your feet," she tells me in between scrapping the dead skin off my feet. According to Correa, my toe was slightly bending because my calves were tight — which I attribute to a lack of post-workout stretching. "If you don't stretch your calf the toe gets pulled and comes up. Overtime it shifts because it has no room to go anywhere and your walking starts to change."

In between appointments, Correa recommends three main things as foot maintenance: moisturize often, invest in and use a foot file, and cover your toes in the shower. “Apply cream every night and sleep with heel protectors if you have to [in order] to prevent little cracks,” she says. And when thinking about what type of cream, Correa suggests staying away from body lotion and opting for a foot lotion. “Body lotion is made for the skin on the body, [which] has follicles for the lotion to penetrate,” she explains. Therefore, if you use body lotion it will stay on the surface and not absorb into the skin because you don’t have hair follicles on the bottom of you feet.

Both Correa and Usanova recommend getting a medical pedicure every three to six months, depending on your condition. "Someone who has athlete's foot or nail fungus often has pain when walking,” says Correa. “For them, I would say once a month till we get them in a better condition.” My personal recommendation was to come for a follow-up in six weeks to see if the maintenance steps — weekly foot filing and nightly moisturizing — worked.

My feet post-pedicureNatasha Marsh

Why Switch Up Your Pedicure Routine?

In a traditional nail salon, you receive a pedicure in a room full of strangers, but at Medi Pedi, you get specialized attention in a room alone with a trained technician. This personalized treatment made me feel like accurate work was being done with the health of my feet at the center. Likewise, the downside is that it feels and smells like a doctor’s office. As much as I enjoyed my time at the studio, I did miss the complimentary champagne or coffee upon entrance and the tranquil smells of essential oils that you find at traditional salons.

But even though I love bright colors on my nails, I appreciated the no-polish policy at Medi Pedi. "Lacquer can dry out the nail beds and is the main cause of discoloration," Correa tells me. Medi Pedi also operates without water. In other words, there were no whirlpool baths specifically to protect patients from the hidden transfer of fungus and bacteria that can be found in those tubs.

Priced at $200 a pedicure, it was definitely an indulgence but one that I felt good about — especially being a New Yorker that walks more than average (on particularly dirty streets). More than a week later, I’ve kept up with my moisturizing and foot filing and my toes have never glistened this well without polish, and my heels have never felt so smooth in my entire life. Safe to say, I’ll definitely be going back for a follow-up appointment.