athletes

Athletic dudes' girly little secret: the pedi

April 8, 2012 at 2:50 PM ET

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Earlier this week, New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow was photographed at an L.A. salon, where he indulged in a mani-pedi.

Pedicures have a reputation for being a girls-only activity -- but recently, a few high-profile male athletes are helping to bust that stereotype. 

For those who play sports and have an active lifestyle, a pedicure is less a luxury and more about keeping their feet in great shape. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Dwyane Wade, the Miami Heat shooting guard, gets "sports pedicures," which is what some salons call a no-frills foot treatment designed for the pedi-hesitant man or woman. And this week, photos surfaced online suggesting that quarterback Tim Tebow occasionally indulges, too.

According to Dr. Howard Osterman, the team podiatrist for the Washington Wizards basketball team, a handful of his team's players get pedicures every six weeks during the season.

Players consider it necessary in terms of foot health and reducing their risk of injury, he suggests. "They're not the least bit embarrassed, and they see it as part of their training program," Osterman says. "It's as much medical as it is cosmetic."

He says foot massage helps improves blood flow and reduce inflammation and pain, while removing areas of hardened skin reduces pressure points. Cutting nails correctly can prevent ingrown toenails.

Osterman, who has a podiatry practice in Washington DC,  thinks pedicures can be helpful to athletes, like tennis and basketball players, because they do a lot of stopping and starting in their sports, which causes friction and irritation of the feet.

He also considers it beneficial for endurance events, such as marathons and triathlons, which can lead to hardened skin, foot irritations, and pressure points.

As a professional soccer player, Benny Feilhaber's feet are his livelihood. "It's always nice to have healthy feet," admits the 27-year-old midfielder for the New England Revolution, who's tried a pedicure.

"A pedicure feels really nice, but it doesn't help much with nasty soccer feet," says Feilhaber, who played on the U.S. World Cup Team in 2010.

"For me and for most soccer players, our feet get beat up so much. We have bruises on our feet and nails, and even a pedicure can't fix how our feet look," he explains.

"I could definitely see myself getting one in the future, though," Feilhaber adds. "But more for relaxation as opposed to making my feet look pretty."

It might take hours of regular foot care to transform some athletes' Franken-feet into feats of beauty. 

Of course, it's not just high-profile jocks who seek out sports pedicures, sometimes it's for guys who never imagined they'd be getting these foot care services. Charlie Muldoon grew up on a farm and has been around horses his whole life. But until eight years ago, grooming was something he mainly associated with his horses and not necessarily with his own feet.

That changed when the 43-year-old professional polo player from Toolesville, Md., tried a "foot treatment" at the Grooming Lounge. He saw some other guys getting them done at the Washington, DC-based store, which offers an upscale barbershop and men's spa services. So he asked about the "foot treatment" and decided to give it a shot.

"I'm on my feet all the time," admits Muldoon either caring for his horses, or stuffing them into riding boots and standing in the stirrups while playing polo and coaching the sport.

"[The pedicure] was something I would have never done before," he admits. "I would have said, 'That's not for me, that's for women.' "

But in the store's masculine surroundings, Muldoon's feet took the plunge. First, into a warm foot soaking bath, followed by a scrub to remove dead skin, and then smoothing callus-prone areas on his heels, sides, and soles.

During the 45 minute-process, Muldoon's toenails are clipped and buffed, and his feet are also moisturized and massaged. (At some spas and nail salons, guys can even ask for clear nail polish or "male" polish in dude-oriented shades.)

He now gets the foot treatment four times a year. "It feels wonderful and it makes my muscles feel good," he says.

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