Last winter, I made a vow to keep my feet perfect. The goal was to slide into summer with toes painted in the season's hot pinks and coral shades and show off smooth ankles.

So I made a personal promise to get winter pedicures every three weeks - sometimes every two.

At first I treated just my feet, but then my hands started to feel left out. They work hard, too, typing day in and day out. And maybe, just maybe, if I kept the polish on my nails, they'd eventually grow out even. I so wanted that perfect shape between square and oval that manicurists call squoval.

While on my quest, I visited a handful of salons across the city, and during the roughly hour-long soakings, cuticle-cuttings and buffings, I realized there were two kinds of services: the spa pedicure and the everyday push-the-cuticles-back, touch-up-the-pretty-coral-colors pedi.

Most salons use Essie or Opi polish, so the difference is not in the color, but in other pedi parts: the quality of the exfoliating scrub, how long a toe and calf massage you may get, the number of hot towels used, and if you get to sit in a high-powered massage chair. That makes your spa pedicure more expensive. Usually, they run between $50 and $70.

But for non-spa pedicures, you can get a manicure/pedicure special for $25 to $40 on a weekday. (That said, always ask if the salon offers specials.)

For a quick down-and- dirty, keep the feet sparkly so they look good in red-and-white polka-dot espadrilles. My own neighborhood favorite is Sandy's Nail Salon in East Falls, at the corner of Midvale Avenue and Kelly Drive, conveniently close to my house, which greatly aids my commitment to c,oddling my feet.

But when it comes to spa-pedicure services, I like the eco-friendly Verde Salon (www.verdesalon.com) in Collingswood.

The polish is free of carcinogens commonly found in nail polishes, including formaldehyde and petroleum-based toulene. And while you may not get a chance to dry your nails under fans or halogen lamps (they are an energy drain on the environment), you'll be so relaxed after the pedicure, you'll be happy to lounge and let them air dry.

Nonetheless, wherever you choose to get your feet done, follow these maintenance tips from licensed cosmetologist Myya Pavone:

Use an alpha hydroxy foot lotion. That helps exfoliate and keep the feet soft in between pedicures. It also helps with dry, cracked heels, the bane of an otherwise radiant summertime outfit.

Don't let your pedicurist use a razor to remove calluses on

the bottom of your feet. You may have smoother feet, but it puts you at greater risk for infection and foot fungus. Not to mention that it's illegal in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Most salons have callus-softening lotion on hand, and along with a good soaking and foot file, that works just as well.

To avoid or treat foot fungus, soak your feet in white vinegar.

Don't overuse

the foot file. Instead, use it in the shower with a body scrub two to three times a week. Overuse stimulates the growth of calluses. Pavone recommends a salt scrub because it's more abrasive and will leave heels smoother.

Contact staff writer
Elizabeth Wellington at 215-854-2704 or