Well, I won't pretend I wasn't just a little nervous. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the opening of Appy Feet in the Manchester Arndale, a treatment centre offering pedicures with a difference, where hundreds of tiny Garra Rufa Fish nibble away at your dry skin as if it's the most delicious thing they have ever tasted. The blog post prompted much debate - lots of people said they were keen to try it, whilst others visibly paled at the thought of basically offering themselves up as a tasty snack for our marine friends. Clearly, I had to try it for myself.
The new branch of Appy Feet is on the ground floor of the Arndale, and is a large open space containing three fish tanks with seats arranged round the edge. Each tank is divided into four, so your feet have their own separate compartment, although do bear in mind that the people sitting with you will be casting glances your way the entire time, checking out who exactly has the most fish clustered round their feet and therefore - presumably - the driest skin. There is no standing on ceremony here - you basically roll up your trousers, rinse your feet under a shower, and pop your feet straight into the lion's den/fishy tank.
So what does it feel like? It tickles, and words cannot quite describe the initial sensation as you plonk your hooves in the warm water and are immediately charged down by hoards of hungry fish; indeed, another woman let out an almighty scream as the onslaught began that I tried not to let put me off. Once you get used to it though, it's actually very pleasant - the fish have no teeth and therefore cannot possibly hurt you as they nibble away gently at your extremities; in fact, it's almost soothing.
No greater recommendation can come from the people who actually work there - staff member Angela seems to genuinely enjoy her job, introducing sceptical Mancunians to the delights of the fishy pedicure, and admits that she uses the tanks whenever she can: we can only presume that she may have the softest feet in the North West. She says she's really noticed a difference since she started using it, and I can see why - when I resentfully put my shoes and socks back on at the end of the treatment my feet felt renewed and refreshed; no mean feat (*pause for clever wordplay to register*) considering I have walked about a hundred million miles over the last week in the no-doubt mistaken belief that it will negate the many calories I have consumed recently.
The treatment costs £10 for 15 minutes, or £20 for 35 minutes (presumably for those with plenty of fish fodder on their winter feet) and is well worth trying at least once - my guess though is that many of those who try it will return on a regular basis. The only downside? It's a bit like being in a fish tank yourself, as loads of people came into the shop while I was sitting looking foolish with fish all over my feet (difficult to maintain dignity in such circumstances) and asked me what it was like - perhaps this whole craze is simply an elaborate ruse by the fish to show us how they feel...
- Appy Feet (and surprisingly happy fish) can be found in the Manchester Arndale, M4 3AQ, and is open until 8pm Monday - Saturday and 6pm on Sundays; I promise you will emerge with ALL your limbs intact.