Your Sole is Mine
Each year, as the weather warms up, feet go on display. But while men’s feet inspire relatively little devotion, women’s feet are one of our most common fetishes. Even Elvis was reputed to have a foot fetish (a.k.a. podophilia). But why do they inspire such special devotion, with lavish attention being paid to them in the form of massage, kissing, licking, sucking, manicuring and dressing? Not that an attentive massage doesn’t feel deliciously soothing to anyone, especially after a long hard shopping session…
Some neuroscientists believe that the part of the brain which relates to the genitals is right beside the area which relates to the feet, so a bit of cross-wiring is thought to be involved. Other experts believe that it’s due to early ‘imprinting’ during the period of desire formation, which means it could have been watching Mrs Robinson slowly peeling off her black stockings, or a schoolfriend’s sister giving herself a sensual foot rub, at an impressionable age, that triggered it.
It could also be innate. Many cultures, including in Brazil, Iran, Papua New Guinea and Tanzania, prefer small feet in women, and the Chinese and Persians even practiced foot binding to ensure it.
Chinese footbinding (or ‘lotus feet’) was practised for about a thousand years, but abolished in 1912. Girls as young as five, when their bones were still relatively soft, had their feet massaged and oiled, then the smaller toes broken and bent downwards under the sole before binding flat with silk strips. The two-year process, which inevitably involved walking on broken feet, resulted in what was considered to be the epitome of dainty beauty. It was also believed in some quarters that it created particularly tight thigh and pelvic muscles, suggesting tight vaginal muscles, too. However, even early western travellers described the swaying walk that these women then had, resulting from placing their weight on their heels rather than the balls of their feet, as alluring.
A general preference for smaller feet may also explain why so many western women buy shoes that are too small for them. Shoes also have a lingerie-like effect, both hiding and displaying toe cleavage, lifting and emphasising the arch, extending the leg - it’s all designed to suggest curves. No wonder Marilyn Monroe said, “Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world.” (On the other hand, Christian Louboutin once said, “I would hate for someone to look at my shoes and say, ‘Oh my God! They look so comfortable!’”)
Western culture further eroticizes high heels which inevitably change the way women walk. By tilting the body forward, they alter its centre of balance so that the wearer has to stick out their bottom and also their chest for counterbalance. And let’s not forget that high heels also make running away difficult, so women appear more vulnerable as well as curvier.
But there’s another price to pay for wearing these shoes, usually in the form of aches, pains, blisters, bunions, corns and calluses, which is where the beauty business comes in.
Although feet don’t always have to be pristine to inspire devotion (some fetishists even prefer smelly feet), Hobbity toes and cracked, hard skin appeal to relatively few, so here’s how to pretty them up. Even if your partner isn’t a podophile, possessing smooth, pedicured feet may at least persuade him (or her) into treating you to a luxurious foot rub.
- Start with a warm soak. Five to ten minutes of bathing the feet in foamy scented water, perhaps with a little bubble bath or shower foam swirled into it, will not only clean and fragrance the skin, but also soften hard-to-cut toenails for easier trimming.
- Use clippers rather than scissors to cut toenails. Aim for a slightly square shape to help prevent ingrown toenails, then use a nail file or emery board to smooth the corners and prevent their becoming too sharp.
- Try an electronic foot file such as Scholl Velvet Smooth, £26.99, or the award-winning Emoji Micro Pedi, £39.99 (both available from Boots), to swiftly buff away thick hard skin, paying particular attention to areas where it tends to build up, such as on the heels and the ball of the foot. Failing that, a pumice stone will slough it off. You can refine any remaining roughness or flakiness with a foot scrub, body scrub, or even a little coarse seasalt mixed into a spoonful of olive oil.
- Rinse well, then push back overgrown cuticles by massaging them with cuticle oil for a couple of minutes to soften them before nudging back the skin with a hoof stick.
- Wash off the excess oil, then paint the nails with a layer of base coat plus two coats of nail polish. Try Christian Louboutin Nail Colour. (If you can’t afford to wear his shoes on your heels, you can at least afford to wear him on your toes.) His spring 2017 Metalinude collection is particularly luxurious and comes in three shades of gleaming chrome, Goldissima (bronze gold), Preciosa (rose gold) and limited edition Irisa (silver), £38 each.
- Finish with foot cream, or even hand cream. This not only completes your pedicure with a pleasurable massage, but its hydrating properties add softness, suppleness and plumpness to the skin, making feet look - and feel - positively renewed. That should help put a little extra spring in your step.