Having said that, though, there are some things you need to be aware of before getting your pedicure to ensure that your experience is as enjoyable and risk-free as possible.
1. The Foot Spa
Every pedicure will begin with a foot soak. This is an important step that not only cleans your feet but softens your callouses and cuticles and makes them easier for your manicurist to work with.
Personally, I advise against ever using a foot spa. Ever.
Even if the spa follows proper cleaning and maintenance procedures, there are too many places for fungus and bacteria to hide in a foot spa. Between the drain and the jets, even a "clean" foot spa is like a safe harbor for gross.
I know someone who works with people who inspect these things, and she's seen lab reports on foot spas. The ones that follow proper procedures are still covered in The Nasty, and the ones that don't follow proper procedures are exponentially worse.
The best foot soaks are going to be in solid, seamless basins. The manicurist will bring in the warm water to fill the basin, and will later remove the basin to empty it and clean it.
A foot spa or soaking basin should be cleaned after each client. Your manicurist should keep a log of the cleaning and maintenance done, and you have every right to ask to see this log. What you're looking for is that cleaning has been done often enough to reflect the frequency of their clientele.*
The manicurist will add something to the water before putting your feet in. What they use, specifically, will vary by personal preference of the manicurist, but it should be something that will clean your feet (and help remove any fungus), and it will also help soften your callouses and dry skin.
2. Do not shave or wax your legs for at least 24 hours prior to your pedicure.
I've known butch women who shave daily and I've known butch women who haven't purchased a razor in, well, ever. For those of you who are in the second camp, this step should be pretty easy. For the rest of you, don't shave. Don't wax. Doing either opens your pores and creates the possibility of even the tiniest of fissures in your skin which can then allow in bacteria or fungus that may be present during your pedicure. Even spas that follow the best procedures are still putting your feet in that water, and it's best to be safe.
3. Your manicurist should wash her hands before starting your pedicure. My manicurist goes a step farther and wears surgical gloves during the first ("cleaning") half of the pedicure. I'm not sure that's necessary, but I usually don't object to people in medical gloves.
4. All of the tools that the manicurist uses should have been disinfected prior to use on your feet. Depending on their set up, they may remove the tools from the disinfecting solution while you're there, or they may have already removed them. You can ask to see their disinfection set up. The disinfection container should have a lid (which should be closed), and there should be enough liquid in the container to cover all of the tools being disinfected. They should also have separate and labelled storage for their clean tools and their soiled tools. Again, you have to right to ask to see all of these things.
Some tools cannot be disinfected (such as an emery board or the foam toe spreaders). These items should be discarded after each client. My spa makes a point of offering them to the client for their personal use. Best practice would be for the manicurist to discard the items in view of the client.
5. If you are ticklish, please tell your manicurist! It may sound amusing when I tell you that it is not uncommon for manicurists to get kicked in the face by ticklish clients, but it is not much fun to be on the receiving end of. This is not the time to be afraid of sounding "unbutch". Your manicurist will appreciate your honesty, and you will enjoy the experience more because she will be more likely to use touch carefully and in a way that is less likely to tickle.
6. Your manicurist will trim and file your nails. She may even ask you what "shape" you prefer. Don't scoff. If you are prone to ingrown or otherwise problem nails (some of my toenails are prone to growing into the flesh of my toe as the nails get longer), the shape of your toenails can help you avoid future problems. If you're not sure, you can always ask your manicurist for advice.
7. Your manicurist will push back your cuticles, trim any excess and file your callouses. This is the important part. Everything she's doing is important for foot and nail health. She is making your piggies healthier and happier. Enjoy it!
8. Things my spa does that may or may not happen everywhere else: Lotion, lotion, and, wait, is that more lotion?, sugar scrub of lower legs & feet, hot towel wrap, paraffin wax dip, foot massage. Spoiled? Me? Nooooo....
Personally, I get pedicures in part for all those things in part 7 that are just too hard for me to get to, but, also, because all of those things in part 8 just make my feet feel so happy. What can I say? I'm a Pisces. The way to a Pisces heart is through her feet and you'd better believe that.
The hot towels and the paraffin wax dip may be a little too hot for your comfort. If so, speak up! Your feet are sensitive, especially if they spend all their time wrapped in socks and shoes or boots. Unlike our hands, they're not exposed to all the harshness of life (unless you live in northern California and flip flops are a year-round uniform), and they don't build up the same resistance that your hands do. It doesn't make you a sissy to tell your manicurist that something is too hot.
9. On that note, if something hurts tell her! Pedicures are not supposed to hurt. If something hurts, there's a problem. This is especially true if your manicurist is using a nail drill to file or buff your nails. Drills can make your manicurist's job much easier (and maybe up her "badass" quotient), but it's really easy for them to file or buff too far. Personally, I prefer they use a good, old fashioned emery board. But that's just me.
Bonus Round: Fish Pedicures
These are still relatively new here in the States, so I don't think there's a lot of solid information on how sanitary this is. You're sticking your feet in the same water that who knows how many clients have stuck their feet in, though, and that can't be good. Even if you get your very own foot tub, and they fill it with clean, fresh water and then add the fish... Well, what have those fish been in before getting to you? Is it possible that fungus and bacteria are on the fish? I mean, they are chewing on your feet! Did someone brush their teeth? Or are they just ripping your skin and rubbing their bacteria and fungus in the holes?
I wouldn't do it, but that's me and my issues. What do I advise you to do? Use your good common sense and your better judgement to determine if the particular situation is right for you.
For those of you worried about this: you do not have to get your toenails painted. Really. You can ask for a buff or for a clear coat. They may try to coax you, but, as long as you're not rude about it, they won't think less of you if you don't paint your piggies Passion Pink.
Especially if you tip them well. ;)
PS: While you're there, get a manicure, too. No, not the kind with the fake fingernails. A manicure will do amazing things to your hands and make them softer and snag free. Because you know that there are times (and places!) when a snag is a drag.
*And if you think all of this foot spa & disinfection business is nonsense, go ahead and click here. But don't say I didn't warn you.