The Safe and Sexy Guide to Foot Stuff
Ah, feet. The part of the body that isn't thought of too often except maybe in the shower or on a nice day when you can let our toes wiggle in the sunshine. Turns out, there are a lot of people who have a thing for feet. And that's when foot fetishes come out to play.
Put simply, a foot fetish is a sexual attraction to feet. It goes by many names: foot sex, foot play, foot stuff, podophilia, and exists on a spectrum from people who plain old enjoy a good foot to foot worshipers.
Below, a little insight into what makes a fetish a fetish and how foot sex could be incorporated into your life, fetish or not.
First, a Bit About Foot Fetishes
As with most sexual preferences, erotic interest in feet exists on a spectrum. A foot fetish can be both a fetish and a type of partialism — partialism means being sexually attracted to a particular part of the body that isn't usually considered sexual.
That said, it helps to know what the word "fetish" actually means. "It's only a true 'fetish' if it's a requirement to complete the phases of sexual response," says Kimberly Resnick Anderson, a certified sex therapist and assistant professor of psychiatry at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine. Meaning, if you don't need to practice foot play to enjoy pleasure, then you don't technically have a foot fetish. You simply enjoy foot play.
"Many people with an erotic interest in feet can still have (and enjoy) conventional sexual relations," says Resnick Anderson.
And, for the record, if you fancy feet, you aren't alone. A 2007 study of over 5,000 people found that a third of participants had a sexual preference for a particular body part, with half of them digging feet in some way. Feet and feet-related things were the most common of all preferences reported.
"It's one of the most widely recognized and common fetishes," says Anderson, "which explains the many references to foot fetishes in pop culture."
What Is It About Feet?
The thing is, there's no concrete reasoning behind the question "why feet." And there are theories all over the place that try to explain it.
"There are several theories as to why people develop foot fetishes," says clinical sexologist and psychotherapist Kristie Overstreet, Ph.D. "For example, from experiences with non-sexual objects in childhood through young adulthood. Those experiences may be directly or indirectly related to feet, shoes, pantyhose, or other foot-associated items."
Some other theories as to why people become interested in foot sex include:
- The foot has a plethora of nerve-endings (roughly 7,000!) sending sensations through the body, which can make that extra attention feel quite nice.
- The filth associated with feet makes enjoying them all the more taboo, which can add a hint of humiliation to a scenario. Doing a sexual activity that we, as a culture, deem as "bad," "weird," or "wrong," plays on the complicated connection between arousal and disgust, or what our brain says is sexually interesting and what it says is absolutely gross.
- Humiliation is a close relative of dominant and submissive power-play scenes. It can accompany role-play and other fetishes, creating a safe environment where the submissive hangs on the dominant's every word and may turn both parties on. Feet can certainly play a role in using humiliation in this way.
- The toes and genitalia are right next to each other in the brain's somatosensory cortex, which is the part of the brain responsible for processing sensations. (That adds a little backing to the idea of toe-curling sex.)
Knowing even a few of the reasons why people may be into feet, the truth of it is, kinks are personal. "There isn't one theory of development that relates to every person with a foot fetish," says Overstreet. Sometimes there isn't a clear, definitive reason why you like what you like; you just do.
Is Foot Play Risky?
Foot sex may be one of the safest activities you can incorporate into your sex life in terms of preventing pregnancy. That doesn't mean, however, that things can't take a turn if you aren't safe about it.
STIs, like syphilis, herpes, or HPV, and bacterial infections can spread if you're doing any kind of naughty business with open wounds. Skin infections including athlete's foot (fungal) and molluscum contagiosum (viral) can spread via skin-to-skin contact. Be wary of any cuts you or your partner may have before engaging in foot play. And if you see any warts, abrasions, or something iffy happening on your feet (or theirs), hold off altogether. (To be fair, a lot of these risks exist with hand sex as well — which is why you should always wash your hands before engaging in it.)
Keep in mind that wherever you choose to play is susceptible to these risks. Whether that be near your face, vulva, penis, or mouth. An open wound is an open wound. Feet are feet. Dirt is dirt. Certain parts of your body (genitals and face) are sensitive, with thinner skin and more nerve endings.
A good rule of thumb is to treat foot play like any other sexual activity and practice good hygiene and use protection (whether's that's a condom, dental dam, etc.). In this case, washing your feet before play and making sure nobody has an open-wound.
If Your Partner Is Into Feet...
You may not be into feet, but your partner may be. There's no guaranteed way of knowing until they tell you. "If your partner is into foot stuff they'll probably want to incorporate it into your sex life," says Overstreet.
Here's what that can look like, according to Overstreet and Anderson.
- Asking if they can kiss, lick, suck on, or massage your feet leading up to or during sex.
- Asking if you can cover their face with your feet.
- Asking if you can use your feet to get them off, known as a foot-job.
- They prefer when you're barefoot around the house.
- They prefer for you to include your feet in photos you send during the day.
- They enjoy it when you get a pedicure.
- They enjoy smelling your feet, your socks, or your shoes.
- They enjoy painting your toenails or washing your feet.
- They buy you sandals or other foot adornments.
How to Talk to Your Partner About Foot Sex
Foot sex is common but still pretty stigmatized. Whether you're the one who's into it or your partner, having that conversation can be tricky.
If you're the one into it, ease into the conversation. Say as much or as little as you feel comfortable. Try to be open to answering any questions your partner may have about your specific interest, and whichever direction the conversation goes, be proud of your desires. (Related: How to Tell Your Partner What You Want In Bed)
If your partner is telling you they are into foot play, be gentle. They trust you enough to share this, so being there and listening is a great way to show you support their courage. If their interest in foot play doesn't sound like your jam, then let them know; it's okay.
"There's nothing wrong with people who have fetishes or kinks," says Overstreet. "We need less judgment and more understanding of people, even if they are different than us."
How to Bring Foot Play Into Your Sex Life
So, you want to include foot play into your life! That's great. You can start by considering what it is about feet that get you or your partner going.
"For example, is it touching, smelling, massaging, being stepped on, having your mouth covered with your partner's feet?" asks Overstreet. "Try different things and communicate with your partner about what you like or don't like about it. Be sure to continue to check-in with your partner about their experience as well."
A handful of ways to add some foot play or foot sex to your life include:
- Foot massages or tickling
- Pedicures (professional or by your partner)
- Foot selfies
- Foot kissing or toe sucking
- Foot jobs, aka including genitalia into the mix
- Foot worshiping, where feet are pampered and shown heightened attention (ex: washing feet, adorning them with jewelry or henna, painting toenails, bowing down to feet, etc.)
If you aren't sure if you have a foot fetish or you aren't comfortable saying so yet, you can still explore foot play or foot sex via online forums, dating sites like Foot Fetish Match, and kink-friendly community apps like Whiplr and Kinkoo.
If you decide to give foot sex a try, remember that consent is always required from all parties involved, and the option to withdraw consent exists at any time. You can always ease into it to see if it's something you enjoy — who knows, you might even get a nice foot massage or pedicure out of your exploration.