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Zipper's Guide to Foot Fetishes:

A comprehensive guide to the media’s favorite fetish, from heel to toe

By Mark Hay

A-Guide-To-Foot-Fetishe

Year Introduced: 2003

Sales Rank: 9

Total Clips: 227500

Top Search Term:  Foot worship

Related Fetishes:

Tickling, Femdom, High Heels, Pedal Pumping, Food and Object Crush

In 2006, several academics teamed up to analyze chatter on hundreds of sexual forums across the internet to identify the most common kinks. The crown went to foot fetish—by a wide margin.

 

The study was hardly definitive. But it was also hardly unique. A decade later, psychologist Justin Lehmiller conducted a comprehensive survey of Americans’ sexual desires. He found that one in seven people had foot-focused fantasies, a high prevalence for an unconventional interest. And analyses of internet searchers repeatedly put feet near the top of the fetish pack. The fetish is so common, widely known, and freely referenced that some folks argue it’s gone mainstream. As the writer Jenny Singer put it last year in a story for Glamour, “The concept of a foot fetish [is what] introduces so many of us to the world of fetish, the same way certain Disney Channel actors introduced us to the idea of having a crush.”

 

But even this level of ubiquity hasn’t dispelled the shroud of misinformation and stigma that’s long surrounded foot fetishes—even some scholarly literature characterized foot lovers as isolated and socially maladapted right up into the early ’90s. Tabloids still love to run stories about creepy guys tricking folks on the street into foot photo shoots and to cite the fetish in stories on sex criminals as proof of warped psyches. In film and TV, music and memes too, feet fetishes are either used as shorthand to show someone is skeevy (think: House of the Dragon) or played for gross-out jokes (think: Love Island). Even people who don’t buy these distorted depictions often develop inaccurate ideas about the fetish for lack of familiarity. As the anonymous moderator of a sizable foot fetish forum told Zipper, “People … have the idea that we all love feet in the same way. That we all need them to get off. That we are all submissive.”

 

Misconceptions about this common kink are so widespread and extreme that folks like Archer Legend, a foot fetishist and content creator, say they often hear from guys asking “how to get rid of their foot fetish,” because they think their desires are deeply shameful or unnatural. 

 

In the interest of pushing back on these surprisingly common misunderstandings and stigmas, Zipper dug into the history of foot fetishes and spoke to a dozen prominent feet lovers, including forum moderators and content creators, to build this brief guide to the basics. 

 

One Size Does Not Fit All

 

Generally, the term foot fetish refers to any type or level of erotic interest in feet. But people often assume this interest extends to all feet or the sheer idea of a foot. In reality, foot fetishes are as diverse as any other kink. Foot lovers may only like feet with some specific combination of one or more of the following characteristics, for example: 

  • Foot size. Some people only like big feet, while others only like small ones.  
  • Specific contours, like particular foot shapes, arch heights, and/or toe lengths or shapes. 
  • Texture, like wrinkly versus smooth or soft versus rough. 
  • Adornments, like shoes, socks, leggings, nylons, nail polish, or jewelry. 
  • Cleanliness. Some people only like perfectly pedicured and/or freshly showered feet, while others only like sweaty, smelly, and/or grimy feet.  

Some foot lovers solely focus on one of these features, while others like combinations of them. Many fetishists are exclusively into the gestalt characteristics of a stereotypically feminine (small, slim, curved, with a high arch) or masculine (bigger, straighter, flatter) foot, for example. 

 

Foot lovers also differ on exactly how they like to interact with feet, with some only looking at pics online, others enjoying an up-close-and-personal viewing experience, and others still preferring to directly engage with feet rather than observe them from afar. Even within these camps, people often want to interact with feet in one or more specific scenario(s), such as:

  • Sensual contact or worship, in the form of massaging, licking, kissing, and/or sucking.   
  • Sexual contact, such as footjobs or the use of toes for penetration. 
  • Torture play, like foot binding or whipping/caning (a.k.a. bastinado). 
  • Getting stepped on, watching feet step on, rest upon, or crush things. 

 

Foot Play is Infinite

 

Foot fetishes often overlap with other kinks as well. Someone who’s also into D/s dynamics (one of the most common overlapping kinks, according to everyone Zipper spoke to for this article) might especially enjoy the sight of a submissive partner forced to worship their feet or get something special out of a dominant partner stepping on them, for example. 

 

But feet can also play an utterly ancillary role in other kinks. Some shoe fetishists are just turned on by footwear, not the feet propping in them. So not everyone who spends a lot of time looking at feet pics or who interacts with feet during sex or other forms of intimate play necessarily has a foot fetish. And some self-avowed foot lovers aren’t particularly interested in ogling or playing with others’ feet at all. Instead, they love their own feet and seeing or feeling people worshiping, torturing, or otherwise enjoying them. (This form of the fetish can be controversial, as some folks don’t think it counts. But such exclusionism isn’t common.) 

 

The same foot facet or scenario may hold wildly different meanings from one fetishist to another. Tickling can be sensual in one context, torture in another, for example. Toe licking might be all about smell and taste or all about humiliation for others. Getting stepped on might be all about pressure or all about submission to others. 

 

Feet can be the focal point of a foot lover’s intimate life, a casual interest they bring into sexual play when circumstances are right to heighten their wider erotic experience or anything in between. “Sweet petite feet must be a part of my life,” says Legend. “But believe it or not, they are not my entire life.”

 

What people look for in and get out of feet may also change over time, the anonymous foot fetish forum moderator told Zipper. “It’s still evolving for me,” they explained by way of a personal example. “I used to only love female feet. Now, I’m noticing male feet more as well.” 

 

To search the vast sea of foot content spread over the infinite internet, foot lovers have created rough fetish typologies. But these categories rarely reflect people’s individualized relationships with feet. As Richard Lennox, a foot fetishist and content creator, put it, the potential permutations of all the aspects of feet folks may find attractive, all the ways they might want to engage with them, and all the levels on which they might connect with feet “are endless.” So in real-life practice, many foot lovers prefer to treat each person’s fetish as its own unique thing. 

 

In fact, Joclyn Stone, the president of operations for Footnight International, a leading foot fetish party organizer—events at which foot lovers pay to interact with foot models—explained that rather than cater to specific subsets of fetishists at any of the events she runs, she invites as diverse an array of foot models as she can. If she spots an attendee who doesn’t seem to know what they want, she’ll approach them, ask a long series of questions to get a feel for the exact nature of their unique fetish, then try to send them to the foot model who best fits their needs.

 

 

All Foot Fetishists Walk a Different Path

 

“The internet, scientific journals, and dinner parties are full of speculation about why some people have a foot fetish,” noted Adam Zmith, a writer who covers sex and sexuality—who’s penned a few thousand words about his own foot fetish. As early as 1905, Sigmund Freud notably suggested that people fixate on feet because toes are phallic—a notion some sexologists (but few fetishists) still echo. Other early 20th-century writers argued the fetish is a manifestation of our innate attraction to gross things. These views don’t hold up to scrutiny. Few fetishists play with feet as if they’re a phallus, after all, and many individuals—as well as entire cultures—think feet are beautiful, not base. 

 

More recent arguments, grounded in science rather than speculation, instead suggest that: 

  • People sexualize feet because they’re packed full of sensitive nerve endings and are thus a pleasure center that we gravitate towards just like any other.  
  • The part of our brain that processes genital sensations is right next to the part that processes foot sensations, so sometimes our sensory wires get crossed. 
  • Many folks form chance associations between feet and eroticism during formative sexual experiences and reinforce those links through further exploration and experimentation. 
  • In many modern cultures, we don’t see feet on display often and learn to view them as dirty and borderline shameful, which makes them taboo and, thus, good kink fodder.  

Conversely, some of us see a lot of feet in everyday life, and if we live in (comparatively) sexually permissive cultures, this invites almost casual sexual foot experimentation.

“Does knowing the origins … help us to soothe our shame?” Zmith asked. “Maybe. Does searching for an answer take up time that we could spend just enjoying our gorgeous kinks and bodies instead? Almost certainly!”

Why Do People Develop Foot Fetishes?

 

While Zmith and other fetishists acknowledge that some of these explanations are intriguing or even compelling to them on a personal level, none explain all the diverse things people like about or like to do with feet. Nor is there any consensus among foot lovers on which is most correct. In fact, several individuals Zipper spoke to argued that, as one foot fetish activist and content creator who posts online under the moniker Foot Fetish Pride put it, “most people are born with it.” And they’re not too interested in why. “Does knowing the origins … help us to soothe our shame?” Zmith asked. “Maybe. Does searching for an answer take up time that we could spend just enjoying our gorgeous kinks and bodies instead? Almost certainly!” 

 

Lennox likened questioning why people are into feet to questioning why people are into breasts or butts. “It’s like asking why some people like red and others like blue,” he said. “They just do.” 

 

There probably is no single explanation for why people develop a foot fetish. Instead, as Legend argued, everyone probably “finds their way to feet in different ways.” For some people, it may indeed be an inborn inclination, but others can clearly recall inciting incidents early in their lives that led them to associate feet with pleasure or eroticism. A few fetishists told Zipper that they actually had zero interest in feet for most of their lives and only developed a fetish for them later in life. This may occur after people engage in a kink that involves feet as an ancillary or foot play with a foot-loving partner for the first time, explained Ennie and Top Toes in Hose, the co-hosts of Oh Those Toes, a comprehensive podcast dedicated solely to foot fetish discussions. 

 

“I started my career by doing cam shows and making amateur vanilla videos,” says Lennox. “My regular cam/video partner at the time was getting bored and suggested we start making fetish videos. I wasn’t familiar with many kinks. I had a little bit of an aversion because I had never explored foot fetish before. Luckily, he had really cute feet, so we started there. My fan base skyrocketed. I was a full-time performer-producer within a year. That experience normalized and demystified feet for me.”

 

However someone develops or finds their way to a foot fetish, their cultural context will likely also add a little flavor to their desires. Someone who grows up learning that feet are gross and ought to be hidden will likely reflect that view, either openly rejecting or subtly subverting it, in their foot fantasies and play, Lennox pointed out. Stone similarly told a story about an older man who used to attend some of the parties she hosted who liked to free women’s feet from fancy but particularly tight shoes and watch them flex and spread their toes. She suspects that he was reacting to the sort of footwear and experiences he saw the women of his era deal with regularly. 

 

From Aphrodite’s Feet to AIDS

 

The existence of diverse and flexible paths to and forms of foot fetishes does explain their long, convoluted history. People have probably been playing with feet since deep prehistory. But the first clear history of trotter eroticism comes from ancient Greece, through legends that linger on Aphrodite’s shapely soles, comedies and pottery that use feet as stand-ins for phalluses, and a collection of incredibly raunchy poetry. The poet Philostraus praises the shape of his beloved’s feet and expresses a desire to kiss their footprints and get trampled by them, for example—all familiar tropes to modern fetishists. There’s no hint of shame, disgust, or submissive play in this ancient eroticism—it’s all relatively open, commonplace, and reflective of horny Greek culture. 

 

However, Roman and Christian culture viewed feet as dirty, and engagement with them as a form of degrading servant’s work—hence foot washing and kissing were, for them, acts of humility or servility rather than ecstatic adoration. Unsurprisingly, ancient Greek foot love fell out of fashion in this cultural milieu, and clear accounts of foot fetishism fell out of the historical record in the West until at least the 13th century. At that point, troubadours started singing the praises of female feet with slender soles, long toes, and high arches. The prevalence of foot love in Western history waxes and wanes from that point on, taking on slightly new inflections every time it kicks up. (We don’t have enough sexually explicit historical data from other parts of the world to say anything firm or meaningful about the evolution of foot-focused eroticism beyond this context.)

 

Most analyses suggest these fluctuations in form and prevalence reflect changes in cultural views of feet, foot-and-ankle fashion and visibility, and sexuality, which all played a role in shaping inborn or acculturated fetishes alike. However, one team of academics has also demonstrated (quite convincingly) that accounts of people sexualizing feet in the West get far more common every time a region experiences a major STI crisis. Troubadours’ odes to lovely feet correspond to an outbreak of gonorrhea carried by crusaders on the move. Brothels promoted foot play every time a syphilis epidemic hit England from the 16th century onward. And foot porn grew far more prevalent during the AIDS crisis, with some magazines explicitly framing it as a safe and sexy alternative to conventional penetrative sex. So attitudes on other forms of sexual play and on safety seem to affect if and how people view the erotic potential of feet as well, if only slightly.

 

This winding, malleable history suggests that foot fetishes and the communities that grow around them will continue to evolve along with cultures. For example, psychologist Lehmiller’s research found sexual fantasies about feet are most common among queer men, followed by straight men, followed by queer women, and least common among straight women. Outside commentators and fetish insiders alike often fall back on iffy gender and sexuality essentialist arguments to explain away these demographic differences. But Foot Fetish Pride points out that these figures may also reflect gendered cultural norms about foot care and display. If we suddenly placed a cultural premium on straight men getting pedicures, wearing revealing shoes, and showing them off on dates and dance floors, then perhaps the demographics of foot fantasies would change with time. 

 

Change may already be afoot for the fetish, thanks to folks like Quentin Tarantino, who famously slips long, sultry foot shots into all of his mainstream films. Several people Zipper spoke to for this article actually cited Tarantino as the pop cultural force breaking down walls for foot lovers. Stone pointed out that, rather than play into narratives of shame or seediness by hiding his love of feet, whenever people try to call him out or tease him, Tarantino simply shrugs them off and asserts that a deep love of feet has a long and nonchalant history in cinema. (He’s not wrong.) His blasé attitude helps to normalize a foot focus, she said. In recent years, a growing wave of celebrities have opened up about their own fetishes with a similar level of nonchalance, which is slowly stripping away at lingering stigmas and skepticism, opening more folks up to exploration. 

 

The explosion of cam, clip, and fan sites over the last decade has also led to a major boom in foot-focused content, added LTL Giantess, who herself makes femdom, foot, and giantess content. (These fetishes often go hand-in-hand, she pointed out.) The vast majority of the performers who now make foot fetish clips are not themselves foot fetishists, the insiders Zipper spoke to argued. (Conversely, most full-fledged foot-centric studio owners and producers are fetishists.) Some of these performers are clearly just making content because someone told them it’s easy to make bank off of foot “pervs”—and their distaste for fetishist shows, a foot fetishist and content creator who goes by Soles Scream told Zipper. But the majority clearly do their homework on the foot fetish community and create solid content. “The community is wonderful and has been very inviting,” LTL Giantess, who is not herself a foot fetishist, explained. “If you show that you’re genuinely interested in engaging with them, they’re more than happy to welcome anyone.”

 

This content boom has made it far easier for people to find and explore diverse forms of foot fetishes—as foot play may pop up in other kink content they’re looking for or just float their way through the erotic ether. That exposure adds to the nonchalant celebrity disclosure-driven normalization of the fetish. A few insiders worry that this drift away from stigmatization will rob feet of the sense of seedy taboo that they like to play with. But most believe it’ll just make it easier for people to embrace, discover, or explore their own foot love and that it’ll encourage the development of ever more unique expressions of the fetish. And that it’ll make it much easier for people to broach the subject with foot play with potential partners without fear of rejection. 

 

“People used to get teased and ridiculed about their foot fetishes incessantly,” Soles Scream recalled. “Now, we’re reaching a point where, while it may not be something you lead with in conversations if you bring up your foot fetish, most people respond with more curiosity than derision. And people now go out in public wearing shirts that say things like, ‘I’ve got a foot fetish,’ which aren’t meant as a joke. These are things I wouldn’t have believed 10 years ago.”

 

Thanks to the foot fetish content creator Isabella for contributing her insights to this article.

Mark-Hay-Headshot

Mark Hay is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer who covers sex and sexuality, among other beats. You can also find his work in The Daily Beast, Mel Magazine, VICE, and many, many other outlets.

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