How do I Choose the Best Pedicure File?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In order to choose the best pedicure file, you must first assess your needs. These kinds of files come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are battery operated or even electric while others are completely manual. Furthermore, different files have different levels of abrasion.

Toenails with a French pedicure.
Toenails with a French pedicure.

The first step is to consider the level of smoothness that you would like to achieve for the skin on your feet. If you have thick calluses on your feet or if the skin is very rough, you will need a pedicure file that has the capacity to slough away the many layers of dead skin on your feet. If, on the other hand, you have rather smooth feet that just require a bit of buffing, you'll need a gentler tool. For those that fall somewhere between these two categories, a double-sided pedicure file might be best. These files are designed with a head that has one side to take care of rough skin and another side for gentler buffing.

Consider the level of smoothness desired when choosing a pedicure file.
Consider the level of smoothness desired when choosing a pedicure file.

Price is also a factor. Salon-quality files can sometimes be a bit expensive. These kinds of files, however, are often made of metal and are built to last. If you are planning on giving yourself a pedicure at home on a regular basis, this kind of pedicure file might be the right choice for you. Other files, such as the disposable variety, are less expensive.

Some people, especially diabetics, should visit the podiatrist for routine toe nail trimmings, pedicures and other foot maintenance.
Some people, especially diabetics, should visit the podiatrist for routine toe nail trimmings, pedicures and other foot maintenance.

For those with very thick calluses, electrical or battery-operated pedicure tools might be helpful. Sloughing off layers and layers of dead skin can be tiresome and can put strain on one's back and shoulders. An electric device, when held over the calloused area, moves the abrasive surface back and forth at a rapid speed. This means that most of the work is done for you. It is important to note that these kinds of files are usually the most expensive.

Those with thin callouses will likely need smoother files.
Those with thin callouses will likely need smoother files.

One of the best ways to choose the best pedicure file for your needs is to go to a large beauty supply store and browse through all of the options. This way you can find a file that has the exact level of abrasion that you need. Furthermore, this will allow you to hold each file in your hand and find one that fits comfortably. You can also use this opportunity to browse the more high-tech files and callus removers and speak with the sales clerks about whether or not one of these options might be the best choice for you.

Filing may help treat toenail thickness.
Filing may help treat toenail thickness.
Immersing a foot in warm water containing salt may help treat ingrown toenails caused by improper use of a toenail file.
Immersing a foot in warm water containing salt may help treat ingrown toenails caused by improper use of a toenail file.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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Discussion Comments


I live in the Midwest where the cold winters are really rough on my feet. In the summer I love to wear sandals, but don't like to have rough feet all the time.

I went online and bought an OPI pedicure foot file that I really love. I know some spas and salons use this same brand, so I knew it would work good.

The best thing I have found is to do this when my feet are soft right after a shower. When I am done with the file, I follow up with a nice lotion and my feet feel so soft.


I never used a pedicure file on my feet until I had a pedicure at a salon. When I realized how much softer and smoother my feet felt, I decided to buy one for myself.

Being a thrifty person, the first one I bought was from a dollar store. Even though it is only a dollar, I wouldn't waste your money on one. It did absolutely nothing and I ended up throwing it away.

Since my feet don't have many callouses on them, I bought a hand held one at a beauty supply store for about $13. This works great as long as I use it on a regular basis.

I don't have worry about replacing batteries or being next to a plug in, and can use it anywhere.


@seag47 – They are made of pure glass, but the glass is etched. This creates a rough surface that can scale away layers of rough skin.

I bought my glass pedicure file online, and the company stated that it was made of extra durable glass that had been tempered to reduce the likelihood that it would break. They also guaranteed that the surface would never wear away.

These kind of files are a little more expensive than drugstore pedicure files, but I think they are worth the money. To me, they are much more decorative and beautiful than an ordinary file.


Has anyone here ever used a glass pedicure file? I admit that I don't understand how this could work.

Glass is so smooth, and unless you glue a rough surface onto it, I don't see how it could buff anything off your feet. Every pedicure file I have ever used has been made of metal or some other rough surface, and they work great.

I am just curious about glass files. Is the glass just for the handle, and is there some other material attached to do the actual pedicure work?


I have diabetes, so I have to be careful with my feet. I can only do gentle pedicures, and I always do them myself, because I know that even well-meaning salon workers can get rough.

I bought a callus stone that is safe for people with diabetes to use. It has a long handle that is easy to grip, and it has two sides. One is coarse and the other is smooth.

I have to soak my feet before I use it. This loosens up the dead skin and makes it easier for me to remove it. After I buff them with the coarse side, I smooth them out with the smooth side, and my feet feel so much better than before.


Some pedicure files look like dangerous tools. They remind me of cheese graters, and they essentially do the same thing.

I have used one of these before, but I did it ever so gently. I only buffed in one direction, and I did it slowly until I had removed the majority of the rough skin.

Then, I took another pedicure file that look like it was covered in sandpaper and smoothed the rough surfaces. I think that by not removing every ounce of roughness, I preserved enough skin to keep from bleeding or being overly sensitive.


@turquoise-- That's why I like electric pedicure files a lot better. You don't have to tire out your arm trying to remove dead skin. I even had chronic heel pain at one point because of the forward-backward action I was doing with my pedicure file on my heels. The pain went away when I stopped using it.

I've not had this problem with an electric pedicure file at all. I actually think it's the most gentle of all pedicure files. The one I have also comes with different type file attachments. Some are more gentle and soft, some rougher for hard to remove calluses.

Of course, it costs considerably more than regular pedicure files, but it's worth it. Plus it will last me forever!


@ddljohn-- I like soft pedicure files too.

I do a home pedicure all the time and I've spent a lot of money on many different kind of pedicure files. But my favorite pedicure file is a really cheap one from the pharmacy. It has a soft file on one side (it looks like a paper like file) and a pumice stone on the other. It's gentle but removes dead skin really well.

The other great part about it is the handle. It's plastic but sturdy and it fits into my hand really well. If the handle is not easy to use, it can be hard to file heels. It takes a lot more energy that way.

I suggest that everyone who doesn't have much experience with metal pedicure files to be really careful when using them. In fact, if you have only minor calluses or thin skin on your feet, avoid the metal files completely. Or have it done at a professional pedicure salon.

The reason I say this is because I had a bad experience with a metal pedicure file before. Metal files slough off a lot more skin than other files do and it can be easy to overdo it. That's what I did and I ended up removing so much skin that my feet actually bled.

If this were to happen at a salon or if I shared the pedicure file with someone else, it could have easily gotten infected. I had it treated at the hospital because I was really worried about infection.

Only the dead skin is supposed to be removed during a pedicure. Professional pedicurists know how to use these files properly. And I think metal pedicure files are more suitable for those with really thick skin and rough calluses to get rid of.

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