We do a lot of things with our feet. We squeeze them into heels, we buff them and decorate them with polish, and we burden them with our weight as we make our way through life. But one thing we don’t do too often is talk about them ― namely, how we feel about our own feet.
Feet are pretty polarizing. They are fetishized by some, repulsive to others. So we set out on an experiment to see how the women around us view their own powerful, impressive and visually fascinating pair.
The responses from the women we interviewed were all over the map, but there was a general appreciation for all the things our feet allow us to do.
In getting up close and personal with these 17 women and their feet (literally), we can all learn a thing or two about self-love from head to toe.
“I don’t love my feet, and I feel badly about that because they do so much for me. As a New Yorker I walk everywhere and it’s like, ‘Why don’t appreciate you for working so well?’ I think it’s an extension of poor body image — not thin enough, slim enough, feminine enough, perfect enough. Pick them apart as I do, though, and impossible as they might be to shop for, I still think my feet are kind of cute. They are also exact carbon copies of my father’s feet, which cracks me up.”
“I used to hate them, mostly because my sister hated them and because kids in primary school them oddly shaped. Now I wouldn’t change anything, they are totally fine.”
“My feet look like ‘all my life I had to fight.’ I know they aren’t that bad, but when I don’t have a pedicure, they feel very unpretty. But whether I’m walking or running, they get me where I need to go and I’ll be damned if I don’t show them off when I feel like it. If I could forever ensure that my size 10 feet never became ashy, it would be a gift from heaven. And this doesn’t have to do with my feet specifically, but I’d like the shoe industry to become more inclusive of big-footed girls like me. It makes no sense that I can never find my size.”
“I literally hate my feet. And all feet. I’m sure there was a time when I didn’t even think twice about my feet, but over the years I’ve definitely developed a weird complex. I just remember being told my pinky toes were really crooked when I was changing in the locker room after gym class in high school. I cried to my mom about it after, and for some reason that really stuck with me.”
“I have always known that I had exceptionally small feet (5.5) but with the width of a size 7 foot. No shoes fit me. Ever. But at least they’re kind of cute! Once a shoe salesman asked me what it was like to walk on stubs. I bought shoes elsewhere.”
“They take a beating for me. I wear high heels, trip over furniture, freeze them in the winter and sometimes step on tacks and Fourth of July sparklers. On top of that, the toe ring I’ve worn for nine years has left a permanent impression in my skin. They deserve a union rep. And a pedicure. I almost didn’t do this photo shoot because someone in my high school used to harass girls for photos of their feet, and recently found me on Facebook to do it again. But f**k that guy, this is for me!”
“I adore my feet. These days, I think they’re beautiful. But even before I started to believe that, I’ve always liked to be barefoot, so I’m used to seeing them, was never scared or shy or really grossed out by them. I haven’t always been so pleased with my feet, though. I wasn’t even exceptionally aware of them for my first 18 years of life, except when they weren’t fitting into high heels. Then, during college, I learned that a friend of mine kind of liked feet … a lot. Not everyone’s, but his girlfriend’s and, when he was single, the feet of other people he was interested in. Once I recovered from a short period of slight shock and confusion, I got around to realizing, OK, there are people in the world who appreciate feet like I appreciate boobs or butts or pecs or lips or eyes. Maybe that’s not me, but to each their own.”
“My feet are a size 5.5 so they are very small. In my opinion, they are hell cute. Shoe shopping can be a challenge, so I wouldn’t want to change my feet, but I would like to change the shoe industry. Also, because my feet are so small, it’s rare that I am able to share shoes with friends. I would change their feet sizes, too. Just not mine.”
“I’m really awful to my feet and have never liked them very much. They’re wide, I constantly get ingrown toenails and have a lot of trouble finding shoes that fit. It doesn’t help that in the winter I find myself making every excuse in the book to not get a pedicure — they are almost like an afterthought. It wasn’t until this shoot, hearing and reading about how much others appreciate and value their own feet that I took a step back to be a little less vain and a little more grateful.”
“I love my feet. I’ve seen it all living in NYC and I really think I lucked out with nice feet (thanks, mom genes!) This shoot though made me see so many details that I hadn’t noticed before. I felt like all the things my podiatrist sees, I saw clear as day after this photo session.”
“I like my feet but I hate my toes. My second toes are much longer than my big toes. When I was younger I once asked my parents if I could get surgery to chop my toes down so that my big toes would no longer look so small. My friends also love to take photos my toes and laugh when I wear sandals.”
“When I was younger I was a dancer and was always very frustrated about how flat my feet were/are. I had this ballet teacher who told me to stop dancing altogether because of my feet. I didn’t listen to her, but 10 years later I realized becoming a professional ballerina was not going to be an option. I actually was proud of how worn out they looked when I first started on pointe but in high school I was a little embarrassed by them (they aren’t cute). I have no strong feelings about them at the moment, other than that I’m glad they work!”
“I love feet in general — I don’t see them as body parts to judge on its aesthetic value, but rather parts of the body that are super fascinating to observe. They’re extremely expressive parts of the body, and what’s so interesting about them is that I feel your feet, and your toes, were never trained to be ‘performative’ in the way your other bodily expressions were. We’re not used to the idea that someone could judge our expressions and emotions based on the movement of our feet, since they are generally covered, or are ignored compared to your face, hands, arms, body posture, etc. So I find the way that feet move to be relatively unadulterated, unassuming, and uncalculating.”
“I love my feet. I think they’re beautiful. They can’t really take a beating, but they’re nice and useful. My sister used to find it so creepy that I could stretch out my toes and move them around kind of like fingers on your hand. I think it’s kind of funny now but maybe back then I thought it wasn’t very nice looking or normal. But to that I say: Embrace what makes you weird! It also makes you special.”
“I’ve always appreciated my feet. I think that comes from about 10 years of ballet and over 11 years of volleyball. My feet haven’t always been that great to look at (we’re talking blisters on top of blisters), but I’m thankful for their flexibility, strength and ability to recover. It was a little hard to have long, skinny feet when I was in elementary and middle school — I had a size 10 shoe in fifth grade. Luckily, I grew into them!”
“I feel pretty lucky that I think my feet are fairly unremarkable. My shoe size is pretty average, my feet aren’t flat. I’m grateful that I have them and they work and can carry me from place to place. I suppose I’d like to make them hurt less when I wear heels. I’m so bad at wearing heels.”
“Honestly, I’ve never had very strong feelings about my feet. Aside from treating them to a lovely pedicure every once in a while, I don’t pay a ton of attention to them. But they do so much for me — I definitely take them for granted. My feet are flat, which has caused some problems with my running/squash/other athletic endeavors, but never enough to be a huge deal. I don’t think I’d change anything about them — I love them just the way they are!”