Suzanne M. Levine, D.P.M, P.C., attributes this to the number of baby-boomers now in their 50s and 60s who want to remain sexy and stylish. And they want their feet to fit that image without the burden of pain, corns, calluses, bunions, hammertoes or other foot problems.
Dr. Levine and her partner, Everett Marc Lautin, M.D., F.A.C.R., are partners in the Institute Beauté in New York and founding members of the International Aesthetic Foot Society (IAFS). Both are authors of various works about proper foot care, including preventing and curing foot problems, and preserving and restoring the beauty of the feet. Through their organization, they share information on procedures in foot care they have developed that are aimed at achieving the best therapeutic outcomes for their patients and, at the same time, maximizing the cosmetic results. Members of the IAFS include not only podiatrists, but also dermatologists and plastic surgeons.New styles in footwear, care
The New York State Podiatric Association is not able to provide numbers, but they confirm that the trend for this relatively new type of minimally invasive foot care is growing steadily among both patients and physicians.
The popular styles in stiletto heels, low-cut footwear and sandals may be responsible for some of this interest from both women and men.
Some of the procedures performed by Drs. Levine and Lautin are familiar ones — removal of bunions, corns and heel spurs, correction of hammertoes and syndactyly and treatment of ingrown toenails, nail discoloration and fungal infections. But even these procedures have a twist. Lasers and intense pulsed light are used to reduce scarring and discoloration. Painful hammertoes are shortened, not only to reduce pain, but enable the patient to wear fashionable shoes.
Other treatments are less common, having been inspired by procedures routinely performed on the face. Microdermabrasion, chemical peels and volume replacement are all part of a new round of applications being developed for the podiatric arena.
Face to feet
"We've been doing microdermabrasion (on the feet) for about 10 years, combined with an acid peel," Dr. Lautin relates.
This combination of procedures, which they call the "Foot Facial Treatment," is popular for the reduction of calluses and heel fissures. It is also used to improve the appearance of the "aging foot."
Another problem with the aging foot is lipoatrophy, particularly in the ball of the foot. Patients with this condition find it difficult to wear heels or to perform any activity — such as dancing — which places undue pressure on the balls of the feet. For this condition Dr. Levine uses Sculptra (poly-L-lactic acid, Dermik) to rebuild the area.
"Sculptra consists of microscopic particles in sterile water which are injected into the area. The particles stimulate collagen development," Dr. Lautin explains.
As in the face, the development of collagen results in thickening of the dermis, which restores some of the original tissue volume.
"The padding lasts for nine months to one year, and will have to be redone, similar to the face," Dr. Levine says. "It's really no different."
"And (patients) walk out of the office," Dr. Lautin continues. "They may be sore for a few hours. And, theoretically, rarely there may be a foreign-body reaction, but on the foot we haven't seen it."
Dr. Levine is keenly aware that the results of some of the surgical procedures she performs might make them desirable by some patients seeking them purely as cosmetic procedures.