Sweep Your Customers Off Their Feet

There's no need to have cold feet about natural foot care.

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WholeFoods Staff
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If you’ve got both feet on the ground with respect to your HBC offerings, then you’ve stocked your personal care section with plenty of soothing products to calm your shoppers’ barking dogs. Everyday, our feet are subject to much wear and tear from tight, impractical shoes and carelessly trimmed toenails. And, shoppers with poor circulation and diseases like diabetes are especially prone to foot problems. Luckily, natural products can be a step in the right direction for keeping feet healthy.

Healing Afoot

Having soft, subtle feet is something many women crave—and many want to be pampered in the process. While professional pedicures can be time-consuming and expensive, at-home treatments can be just as effective and relaxing…and free of the harsh chemicals that most salons use. Think of your foot care offerings as being able to address the following important areas:

Cleansing. A good footbath can be purifying and refreshing. If you haven’t already, add some eucalyptus, tea tree and peppermint oils to your foot care offerings. When a tablespoon or so is added to a footbath, these oils can help cleanse, disinfect and add some invigorating, fresh scents to the foot-cleaning process (1). Other great essential oils that make for a relaxing soak include lavender, vanilla and chamomile oils. There are also a number of good foot cleansing soaps on the market that incorporate these and other ingredients. And, many foot masks (such as those with clay) help purify and get feet squeaky clean.

Exfoliating. The soles of the feet don’t have oil glands, so they are especially prone to accumulating dry, dead skin and calluses. Ridding the heels and toes of rough patches can be a breeze with the proper exfoliating products. Some companies offer pumice stones to help sloth off dead skin after the feet have soaked in warm water. Those that offer exfoliating scrubs often formulate products with brown sugar, sea salts or sand to gently whisk away dead skin cells. Scrubs that incorporate oatmeal also may help gently loosen dead skin.

Happy Feet for Every Athlete

A common concern for sports enthusiasts is athlete’s foot. This fungal infection is often caused by spending time in swimming pools, locker rooms or even in wet socks. These places are breeding grounds for fungi, which can easily thrive in the warm, moist places between toes, causing itching, flaking and inflammation. Luckily, natural remedies can help clear up athlete’s foot.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial (1) testing tea tree oil, 158 people with athlete’s foot were treated with placebo, 25% tea tree oil solution or 50% tea tree oil solution, applied twice daily for four weeks. In the 50% tea tree oil group, 64% were cured; in the 25% tea tree oil group, 55% were cured; in the placebo group 31% were cured.

To ensure that feet stay dry, fungus and odor free, blend the following ingredients into a powder mix (2) and sprinkle on feet:
• 1 cup cornstarch
• 2 cups bentonite clay
• 2 tablespoons each of powdered goldenseal root and powdered myrrh gum
• 3 tablespoons each of powdered chaparral leaves and powdered thyme leaves
• 4 tablespoons powdered black walnut hulls
• 1 teaspoon peppermint essential oil.

References

1. A.C. Satchell, et al., “Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: a randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study,” Australasian J. Dermatol. 43 (3), 175-178 (2002).
2. S. Tourles, Natural Food Care: Herbal Treatments, Massage and Exercises for Healthy Feet (Storey Books, 1998).

Remember, exfoliation isn’t just about aesthetics. Cracks can become infected if not cared for. This is an important point for the diabetics in your clientele. Poor blood flow and nerve damage can cause foot problems in this population; blisters can turn into a serious foot wound if left unchecked. Advise diabetics who shop in your store to wash (and carefully dry) their feet daily, especially between the toes. They also should gently exfoliate calluses and corns, and use lotion as needed (2). The natural products industry has several lines of foot products specifically intended for diabetics.

Healing/Moisturizing. Give your shoppers the option to pamper their feet with luxurious creams and lotions made with fine, natural ingredients. Expect manufacturers to offer ultra-moisturizing formulas infused with milk, honey, essential oils, olive oil, vitamin E, shea butter and other ingredients. Some companies also use Dead Sea mineral water, which is said to help heal dry, cracked skin.

Keep in mind that severely dry skin may also be caused by diet. Adding flaxseed oil to the diet may help banish dry feet and brittle toenails (3). Other nutrients that can help on this front include vitamin E, vitamin C, biotin and silica. Topically, one can use olive oil and vitamin E oil daily for nail strength (3).

Massaging. There’s no need to tiptoe around the issue: everyone loves a good foot massage. So, don’t hesitate to make oils and eco-friendly foot-massage rollers available to your shoppers. Look for massage products with coconut, olive and avocado oils to offer extra nourishment and softness. Adding organic cotton socks to your offerings may be worthwhile, too. They will lock in moisture when worn over oiled skin and help kick dryness to the curb. WF

References
1. S. Tourles, Natural Food Care: Herbal Treatments, Massage and Exercises for Healthy Feet (Storey Books, 1998).
2. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, “Prevent Diabetes Problems: Keep Your Feet and Skin Healthy,” http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/DM/pubs/complications

_feet/#hurtfeet, accessed Aug. 31, 2009.
3. V. Latona, “Tip-Top Toes,” Vegetarian Times, July 2000.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2009