Getting a pedicure is a great way to enjoy a little downtime—not to mention a dose of beauty—during a busy week. But with hundreds of nail salons around the area, it’s tough to know which are the good ones to keep on file. We’ve come up with a list of pedicure places—recommended by beauty aficionados who get frequent pedis—for a reliable, fast (but not too fast), pampering experience.
Leesburg Nails Spa
108 South St., SE, Leesburg; 703-777-3777
Owned by a husband-and-wife team, Leesburg Nails Spa gets praise for customer service and its dedication to detail and comfort during treatments. The Express Pedicure ($25) is the entry-level option, but if you feel like a splurge, we suggest the $65 Green Tea Spa Pedi.
Bonus: Pay just $5 more and get an indulgent paraffin wax treatment with your pedi.
Nails by the Falls
9912 Georgetown Pike, Great Falls; 703-438-3900
The basic pedicure ($36) at this Great Falls nail salon is a popular choice. Owner Jennie Le gets raves for her friendly demeanor and, although it costs extra, her nail-art skill.
Present Nail Spa
1112-B W. Broad St., Falls Church; 703-237-6245
A spa-like tranquility encourages relaxation at this Falls Church favorite, where the pedicure menu is extensive but the 30-minute Present Pedicure ($32) is a solid choice. After a soak and an invigorating peppermint scrub, the service includes a foot massage with warm lotion.
Sugar House Day Spa & Salon
111 N. Alfred St., Alexandria; 703-549-9940
You can often grab a walk-in appointment at this quaint day spa, which has just three pedicure stations (reservations recommended). With complimentary beverages and a spa atmosphere, the 45-minute basic pedicure provides more serenity than your average walk-in nail salon—making it worth the $45.
Bonus: Sugar House just launched its own line of nail polish.
21 Nail Lounge
2209-C N. Pershing Dr., Arlington; 703-465-4707
Although big, this new salon manages to avoid an assembly-line vibe, with relaxing service—it offers clients a beverage upon arrival—and a large selection of colors, including those from Vinylux, which boasts chip-free polish for a week. The Classic Pedicure ($33) covers the basics and includes a hot-towel treatment, but we’d suggest an upgrade to the citrus-infused Sun Kissed Pedicure ($50).
4701 Sangamore Rd., Suite M7, Bethesda; 301-320-6245
Locals love this easy strip-mall spot for its vast array of polishes and friendly nail techs. If you’re looking for a long foot massage, this isn’t necessarily the place—turnover is quick thanks to a steady clientele. Still, a basic pedicure is just $30.
Bonus: Pay in cash and knock $2 off the price.
Blue Zen Nails & Spa
4926 Elm St., Bethesda; 301-907-6868
This funky little nail salon in the heart of Bethesda Row is a nice respite. The nail techs are up on the latest trends, so don’t be shy about asking for unconventional shades or designs; for a few dollars more than the basic pedi ($30), they’ll happily paint tiny flowers or other simple flourishes atop your toes.
The Emerald Door
8311 Grubb Rd., Silver Spring, 301-587-5800
If you want an eco-friendly pedicure, head to the Emerald Door, which uses only organic and natural products. The Emerald Essential pedicure is pricey at $50, but this chic spot offers hospital-grade sterilization, toxin-free Zoya nail polish, and a spa-like atmosphere.
Bonus: Upgrade to the $60 Jelly Pedicure and submerge your feet in a jelly soak designed to stimulate circulation and banish toxins.
16246 Frederick Rd., Gaithersburg; 844-299-0121
You’ll get plenty of attention at this small salon, where the services are clean and quick and the staff is friendly. While the basic pedicure is a steal at $25, it’s more common to find clients opting for a longer massage and exfoliating scrub with the Deluxe ($35) or going full-relaxation mode with the Signature ($45).
7815 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda; 301-652-1362
The neon sign in the window doesn’t exactly scream high-end, but step inside this Bethesda favorite and you’ll understand why the young professional and mom crowds kick off their shoes for a pedicure ($26). With a whopping 21 massaging pedi chairs, even if you bring a couple of friends along, you’ll likely land a seat.
201 Massachusetts Ave., NE; 202-543-0989
This is a favorite of Capitol Hill denizens, who say the salon is convenient and clean. Opt for one of the pretty shades of Vinylux polish for just $2 extra on top of the regular pedi ($32) to ensure longer-lasting color.
Color Nails & Spa
1517 17th St., NW; 202-299-9777
Get the basic pedicure ($25) at this reliable little salon and you’ll be done in no time—it takes just 25 minutes. Clients praise the great service, which includes free bottles of water. You can even print out a $3-off coupon from the website before your visit.
Georgetown Nail Salon
1800 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Second Floor; 202-965-2715
There’s a reason this highly trafficked salon ranks tops with some local women. The decor is relatively bare-bones, and the basic pedicure comes with a slightly high price ($36), but our toes were perfectly polished, the bottoms of our feet were baby-soft, and we haven’t had a chip in more than three weeks.
1706 Connecticut Ave., NW; 202-232-6900
This hip Dupont Circle salon is the in place for pedicures if you like complimentary glasses of Champagne and a buzzy vibe with plenty of girly chitchat. Try the nail “happy hour” all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, when the $28 basic Spa Pedicure drops to $25.
1519 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Second Floor; 202-333-8033
Tucked above David Rios Salon & Spa in Georgetown, Nails Chic is on the small side, but it’s very clean and usually quiet, making it easy to unwind. Owner Linn Ntuyen, the consummate hostess, ensures that the six massage chairs are comfortable (they are) and that your pedicure experience ($30) is top-notch.
Bonus: Splurge on an extra-long foot massage, at $1 a minute.
Want to recommend a good, reliable nail salon for affordable pedicures? Send an e-mail to Kate Bennett at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article appears in the August 2014 issue of Washingtonian.