Sex and the feet: are your feet your wingman or a blocker in your relationship?
It is necessary to begin that this anonymous guest blog is written from an obviously non-clinical perspective. It’s intention is to have fun and provoke interesting thought about an oft-neglected body part; our feet. By no means do these ideas represent the notions of the esteemed medical clinicians at Align. This topic came up in conversation at the clinic, which inspired one of our clients to write this exploratory piece and send it to us. Read it at your own risk! But it is certainly entertaining and interesting.
Why my experience at Align inspired this blog
Align Custom Fit Footwear & Footcare does foot luxury. They are specialists in and constantly at the forefront of what’s new for feet in health, fashion and technology. They decode your unique body alignment and re-teach you how to shop for shoes, make proprietary Align Orthotics (they’ve even patented their own high heel orthotic) And of course, they offer a footcare spa where you can have a Chiropodist give you a medical, yet decadent pedicure, while you sip away on your drink or enjoy a relaxing RMT reflexology session on your feet. Let’s face it; we all need this. Feet are an often neglected body part. Most people are not taught to care for their feet. But why? Well we think more people would do better to give some attention to this body part, beyond for health reasons. This blog discusses why the feet may or may not be considered an important body part in our sexual relationships.
The root psychological basis of foot fetishes
Google key word analysis finds that feet and foot accessories are the most fetishized of all non-genital body parts and objects.
In a book chapter on sexual fetishism, Dr. Chris Gosselin and Dr. Glenn Wilson reported that the three most common body part fetishes are feet, hands, and hair. Some individuals who have a pronounced interest in feet for aesthetic (attractiveness) reasons but without any sexual motive. Such people would not be classed as either foot fetishists or podophiles in the definitions provided by Dr. Aggrawal and Dr. Love.
So what is the fascination with feet? Why do we love them or hate them??
Foot appearance and foot health
Size, smell and shape.
Shape. There is a theory of 5 different shapes – each with different ‘said’ cultural meanings from royalty to extroversion.
Size. Is there a relation to penis size and foot size? Does any one find tiny Men’s feet sexy? Or just Women’s? Why?
Surprisingly, upon enquiring, a most common size at Align is 9 & 10 in ladies! Perhaps because it’s more challenging to find smaller, more attractive shoes in these sizes. Their most common men’s size is 10 also.
On this note, would you believe, there was actually a study showing women with small feet have prettier faces – in terms of male perspectives of attraction. How bizarre!
Smell. A friend of mine had such foul-smelling feet that her boyfriend made her leave her shoes in his condo hallway. True story.
Hiding ugly feet with ill fitting footwear as a cover up akin to going on a date with someone with heavy makeup only to wake up in the morning to a different person, with clogged skin issues.
Consider also toe symmetry. Patterns attract. It’s not like we’re going to change that -other than claw toes or bunions… but how women cram their feet in improper fitting shoes to make their feet look pretty is having the reverse effect.
A number of famous people who were allegedly foot fetishists including singer Elvis Presley, pop artist Andy Warhol, author and adventurer Casanova and novelist and poet Thomas Hardy. -Mark D Griffiths. They are usually interested in the size (of the foot, the toes, the heel), the shape (e.g., flat footed, high arches), the adornments (e.g., footwear, jewellery, toe ring, ankle bracelets, etc.), embellishments (nail varnish, tattoos, pedicure, etc.), non-visual sensory features (e.g., the touch, smell), and – perhaps most importantly – the type of interaction (massaging, touching, kissing, tickling, licking, sucking). There are also sub-dimensions of the fetish including those who are really into footwear rather than the feet (i.e., retifism, from the French novelist Nicolas Edme Rétif who wrote extensively about his own footwear fetish), or those that like naked feet as apposed to footwear adornments (i.e., aretifism).
The Body’s Subconscious Limbic Reactions
Do your lover’s feet point towards you? “feet point in the direction they want to go” . (Pigeon toe is not the best body alignment for health), but is a good sign since it’s a subconscious attempt to shrink in size and appear harmless, approachable. -Judy Dutton.
When a relationship is turning sour, there will be less and less foot contact. They may hold hands in public but their feet simply avoid each other. These are examples of limbic reactions, reflected in the feet and legs, to situations, feelings, and intentions. They are very timely and accurate. As stated in the book, What Every Body is Saying, “Nervousness, stress, fear, anxiety, caution, boredom, restlessness, happiness, joy, hurt, shyness, coyness, humility, awkwardness, confidence, subservience, depression, lethargy, playfulness, sensuality, and anger can all manifest through the feet and legs.” -Joe Navarro, MA
Neurological basis of foot sexuality
The neurological aspect of feet is a fascinating one. In an Align treatment, the Chiropodist assessed my proper neurological sensation and function. But beyond what foot clinicians assess medically, what is known about the sexuality of the feet?
Massage, refelexology and the feet
In reflexology (which shares some philosophical roots with acupuncture), the foot is seen as a metaphor for the body. The big toe is seen as the top of the head, and the sensitive area at the base of the toes represents the neck. The inner sole of the foot is the belly, while the outer sole is the spine. Reflexology and massage therapy for example, works for body and mind because:
- It elevates levels of oxytocin, which are the hormones that make you feel warm and fuzzy (it’s the same hormone that a mother’s brain secretes when she’s breast-feeding).
- It causes arousal, as the foot contains its own set of sexual nerves.
- It stimulates lymphatic drainage. Massage helps drain waste material out of your system.
There are almost 15,000 nerve endings in the feet (compared to 8,000 in the clitoris! Interestingly, that’s twice as many nerve endings as the penis :0)— one reason why massage and reflexology are so calming and nurturing. While releasing tension and stress, reflexology gently impacts all your organs, glands, and each part of your body, because each part has a related point on the feet.
Neurology Professor Vilayanaur Ramachandran believes that podophilia may arise because the feet and genitals occupy adjacent areas of the brain’s somatosensory cortex. He believes that there may be some “neural crosstalk” between the two brain areas.Cold feet and a feeling of safety
Cold feet and a feeling of safety. Surprisingly, one simple way for women to boost their libido is to pop on a pair of socks. In a study at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, researchers found that 80 percent of women involved were able to achieve orgasm when they were given socks to wear, compared with 50 percent when barefooted. According to Gert Holstege, who led the study, it’s all connected to how safe and comfortable women feel. The regions of the brain responsible for anxiety and fear – the amygdala and prefrontal cortex – need to be deactivated for a woman to successfully reach climax.
Some say that gait pattern has a biological effect on attraction.
One predominant factor is the feminine walk. As women normally walk differently from men, high heels may help exaggerate the particularly feminine aspects of gait. What these shoes do is make women walk even more like women.
The male walk is not without it’s biological attraction however. Male gait involves greater velocity, longer stride length and slower rate. There are also differences in side swing. Men present more movement of the head and greater upper body side sway, whereas women display increased hip movement.
Scientific study shows both sexes find greater attractiveness in high heels.
Using the dot pattern attraction concept, gait is studied using point-light displays representing the body as a series of markers placed on key landmarks on limbs. In these experiments, the perceiver is presented with a pattern of dots on a screen. Because all they are seeing are dots moving, any impact on preferences or attractiveness has to be something to do with movement patterns, and not static physical appearance. Perceivers are remarkably good at making sense of the patterns of movement of point-light display dots, and are able to distinguish between male and female gait. Just looking at moving dots representing movement of the whole body, it’s possible reliably to allocate the walker as male or female.
In their recent study, entitled “High heels as supernormal stimuli: How wearing high heels affects judgements of female attractiveness”, the psychologists compared ratings of women walking in ﬂat shoes, with the same women walking in high heels, in order to establish whether or not walking in high heels enhances the attractiveness of gait. Thirty second video clips of the point-light displays of walkers in high heels and ﬂat shoes were presented on a standard computer monitor. The study, published in the academic journal ‘Evolution and Human Behavior’, found that for all walkers, attractiveness was rated much higher in heels compared with the ﬂat shoes condition. Both males and females judged high heels to be more attractive than ﬂat shoes. Males and females also agreed which were the attractive and unattractive walkers. The authors of the study conclude that high heels are an important part of the contemporary female wardrobe — the minimum number of high heeled shoes owned by those taking part in the experiment was four, and the maximum 25.
The results indicate that the female walk is perceived as much more attractive when wearing high heels than not. One, conscious or unconscious, motivation for women to wear high heels might therefore be to increase their biologic attractiveness.
The effect seems highly consistent for each individual walker (i.e. all walkers were judged to be more attractive in the heels condition). The biomechanical results are also consistent with the theory that wearing high heels makes women look more attractive by making them more feminine, as the effect of heels was to exaggerate some sex-speciﬁc elements of female gait including:
Greater pelvic rotation is another biological indicator. Anterior pelvic tilt is a hot topic in the ever-turbulent online fitness community. Bumping out the bum can be seen as sexy. Think Discovery Channel and mating styles in nature? Do you think a posterior pelvic tilt is sexier on men?
Increased vertical motion at the hip may relate to the notion of broader hips = more potential to procreate. Even shorter strides could be seen as sharper, more pronounced ‘dance like’ movements. Likewise a higher number of steps per minute is akin to running prey!
The authors of this new study contend that high heels appear to act in a similar way to what is referred to in evolutionary theory as a “super releaser.” For example, some birds prefer large artificial eggs that they cannot even sit on, to their own normal size eggs. Female baboons with a larger than normal swelling of the bottom associated with the sexually receptive period of their cycle, arouse greater sexual interest in males. High heels similarly exaggerate the sex-speciﬁc aspects of the female walk which could cause sexual arousal in males. The normal stimulus of a woman walking is exaggerated by the wearing of high heels, producing a supernormal stimulus.
But of course we are creatures of free will and genes, evolutionary psychology. Biology and evolution are not the only accounts of our personal and sexual preferences.
Moral of the story – take care of ya feet, how you stand and move! Your feet are perhaps a non-verbal reprenatation of more than we realize and could have an effect on our interpersonal relationships!
- Dr. Raj Persaud, Psychologist in the UK
- For instance, both Dr. Anil Aggrawal (in his book Forensicand Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) and Dr. Brenda Love (in her Encyclopedia of Unusual Sex Practices) describe individuals who have a pronounced interest in (and derive sexual pleasure and arousal from) feet as having podophilia. [It is also worth noting that there are
- Mark D Griffiths
- Psychologists Paul Morris, Jenny White, Edward Morrison and Kayleigh Fisher from the University of Portsmouth, in the UK, have recently proposed a novel evolutionary theory about why women favor high heels.
- Neurology Professor Vilayanaur Ramachandran
- Judy Dutton, author