The Water’s Warm

My mother insisted I wore Clarks shoes; well made, fitted shoes. I have slim feet and the styles in my size were never very flattering.  My childhood was littered with at least twice yearly tantrums and traumas in my local shoe shop. What was available in my width fitting did not fit with my youthful fashion fantasies.

I hated my shoes. I have very distinct memory as an early teen finally gaining a pair of, in retrospect, weird mesh lace up shoes that Freeman Hardy and Willis or Barratts were selling by the bucket load at the time. Not only did I secure a pair of ‘in’ shoes, I also managed to wear them to school. I suspect by hiding my actual school shoes behind a wall for the day. The highlight of my then small world being when one of the ‘cool’ girls commented that finally I was wearing ‘good’ shoes.

This childhood trauma did manifest itself inevitably into a shoe obsession in my early 20’s. I had an impressive collection of flats. I am 5.10” tall and if I wear heals I take on the appearance of the Empire State building, towering over everything and everybody and thus I have spent a lifetime in flats. Flats are less inspiring when it comes to shoe fetish and the cash and the fixation wore thin. Replaced instead with a need to pamper my feet. I’ve tried reflexology, spa foot treatments, home and saloon based pedicures, foot massage and of course; I always have painted toes nails. I once re-painted my toes nails in the high Himalayas, because you might be at a distance from civilisation but nice toe nails still matter. No one likes chipped varnish. My home based treatments involve siting with my feet in warm water whilst I watch tv, followed by avidly scrubbing my feet with a metal file for the perfect heel in sandals.

A while ago I read about fish pedicures. To many people the concept of a collection of fish nibbling or sucking at your feet is not everyone’s equivalent of ‘pampering’ but me, I loved the sound of this new fad. Fish pedicures sprung up all over the place and yet time, parenting, working and then money contrived to stop me dipping my feet into the fish.

Alas, this fad seems to be on it’s way out and once where there was fish pedicures in every shopping centre. Now they seem less common. (What I wonder happens to the fish?)

Recently, I was on the coast with friends and we stumbled upon a fish pedicure parlour. I had some time, I had other adults for childcare and it was available at the special knock down price of a mere £5 for 15 minutes. Everything was in my favour.

On a hot afternoon when possibly I should have been paddling in the sea on golden sands, I fulfilled an ambition and sat under strip lighting and paddled my toes into a tank full of little Turkish garra rufa fish all eager to nibble away my dry and hard skin. Oh the joy. Well, not exactly, I must admit I shrieked at the initial sensation, thus putting my friend off completely. I put my feet gently into the tank and the fish all rushed forward each eager for a first nibble. It was a very strange feeling, not unpleasant, not ticklish. I hardly felt the nibbling. They don’t have teeth so I guess it’s more sucking. It was the flipping of their tiny tails against my skin. I think it was the shock of the unexpected. But I’m not sure what I had expected. The shop didn’t seem too busy, I imagine they were hungry and so the fish and I persevered. Over the course of my 15 minutes allotted nibble time it actually become very pleasant, relaxing even.  The fish got lunch, I got soft feet and fulfilled a pampering ambition.   They could have made more effort with my heels but I guess there is only so much a fish can do.


Could you? Would you? Dip your feet in the fish?


  1. Crumbs

    i too had shoe trauma as a kid. I was a C fitting and had enormous flat feet (they are now a size 8.5), it’s like trying to walk on pencils. I eventually got a £5 pair of slip ons (oh! slip ons, even that phrase has disappeared!) and wore them everywhere, except the journey to school, when I wore a pair of brown lace up Clarks to wave goodbye to my mum in. I’m looking down now at chipped nail varnish and horrible heels, wishing my childhood shoe trauma had also manifested itself into some sort of foot fetish!

  2. Older Mum (@Older_Mum)

    Lovely post! I never had ‘trendy’ shoes at school – thanks mum – and I remember Barratts very, very well – it was where I bought my first pair of ‘cool’ shoes too – a pair of very pointy things. Anyway, I think I would go for a fish pedicure – I’m a believer in trying most things once :o).

  3. Rebecca Bradley

    I would have initially gone for this. I think after some squeals of fear of the unknown, I’d have settled into it.

    The reason the places are closing down though, are because it has been decided that the fish can spread diseases and some quite nasty, easily transmitable diseases by nibbling on one person and then another. Just think about it, we can’t sterilise the fish! It is this revelation that has slowed down business and forced so many shops to close. I have to admit. It did stop me going before our local one closed its doors for the last time. It’s a great idea though.

  4. ghostwritermummy

    There is absolutely no way I could do this! Luka and I went paddling in the sea this weekend and every time seaweed came near us we squealed like babies! Hate the idea of fish on my feet. That aside, I too had ‘proper’ shoes and with the widest feet ever they were not pretty. Eva starts the new school year with them too but by summer we relax a little! she is far too scruffy to warrant the prices!

  5. Emma

    Your childhood shoe trauma did make me laugh. I remember once convincing my Mum to get me a pair of shoes that she approved of. Little did she know that you could slide the t-bar over the back of the shoe and convert them to (illegal) slip-ons!! I am not sure I could do the fish thing, my feet are far too ticklish! :O

  6. suzanne whitton

    FHW – now there’s a blast from the past! I am now having the exact same conversation with my soon-to-be teenage daughter. Her feet are exceptionally small for her age so the shoes at clarkes all have a strap across – so not cool! I’m loathe to start on non-sensible shoes yet but feel a bit mean!

  7. notmyyearoff

    Ooooh I don’t know. I have eczema on one sole.. A small patch but I guess they wouldn’tet me plunge that foot in! But I would like to try it at least once I think

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