Ready to Explore a Foot Fetish? Sex Experts Share Their Beginner Tips

Foot fetishes have long been stigmatized as taboo. But thanks in part to pop culture — from "The Real Housewives" cast members selling foot pics on OnlyFans to "Love Island" contestants sharing their love for feet — the foot fetish has become more mainstream. It's even considered "vanilla" in most kink communities.

And despite some poor portrayals of foot fetishes in the media (cough, cough, that "House of the Dragon" foot scene), foot play is more common and loved than you might think. "Incorporating foot play in your sexual intimacy can be really fun," says Oli Lipski, sensual intimacy coach and queer writer. "Just think of them as additional hands! The best part is that using the feet can make us much more mindful and present to the experience as we indulge in new pleasure zones."

Whether you're a beginner looking to understand more about foot fetishes or an experienced foot-loving pro, POPSUGAR spoke to sex therapists and intimacy coaches about all there is to know about foot fetishes. From why some people have foot fetishes to how to begin exploring foot play, here's everything you need to know.

What Is a Fetish?

According to Lori Beth Bisbey, PhD, clinical psychologist and sexual intimacy coach, a fetish is a desire for an object, sensation, or experience that is often necessary to reach orgasm. "The person with a fetish cannot reach an orgasm if the object of their fetish (or action) is not part of the sexual act or fantasy."

But fetishes differ from kinks, despite often being used synonymously. "Kinks are often manifested as a form of play that people enjoy, but a fetish is a nearly necessary element of sexual gratification for a fetishist," says Victoria Gagliardo-Silver, dominatrix and editorial lead of Cashmere. "Their fantasies, their sexual goals, their view of desire are all influenced by that desire. I'd argue fetish is as intrinsic as attraction, even if it's seen as odd by those who don't share it."

What Is a Foot Fetish?

At its most basic definition, a foot fetish, or podophilia, is an attraction to feet. "You can think of it as perceiving feet as we'd typically perceive breasts, butts, or genitals," says AASECT-certified sex therapist Heather Shannon, host of the "Ask a Sex Therapist" podcast. "Often, someone with a foot fetish thinks feet are even sexier than these traditionally [sexualized] body parts. For example, seeing naked, pedicured feet can be a huge turn-on for someone with a foot fetish."

Due to the inherently private nature of foot fetishes, there isn't a lot of research on the particular topic. However, every sex expert POPSUGAR spoke with confirmed it's one of the most common fetishes. "It is one of the more prevalent fetishes relating to the body," says Melissa Cook, an AASECT-certified sex therapist and writer for FunwithFeet. "It might involve the desire to caress, touch, or lick feet, or be about the aesthetics of feet, such as their size, toe shape, or footwear."

Why Do People Have Foot Fetishes?

A common question to those with foot fetishes is: why? But what someone finds arousing doesn't always have a simple answer. "Some theories suggest a possible link to childhood imprinting; others point to potential neurological cross-wiring in the brain," says Angelica Jackson, MA, LPCC, owner of Denver Couples & Sex Therapy. "Some people may associate feet with domination or submission or find particular aesthetic features attractive, such as the shape, size, or even the smell of feet."

People develop arousal stimuli in a myriad of ways. "A lot of kinks and fetish play is based on power exchange and the psychological impact of playing with taboos," says kink educator Rebecca E. Blanton, PhD. "Feet, in general, are seen as lowly or dirty. For some people, being consensually forced to kiss, lick, touch, or be stepped on by a foot puts them in a submissive position." For others, giving or receiving pedicures can be seen as an act of service and a form of a love language.

For example, Dr. Blanton is submissive and enjoys acts of service. "My partner has diabetes and must take good care of his feet," they say. "To make this whole pedicure process seem less medical, I provide sexy pedicures (wearing lingerie or nothing, kneeling at his feet). We both enjoy the power exchange, the intimate act of grooming (pedicure, massage), and it meets a medical need."

For Lipski, foot play for her began as something playful. "I remember giving my [boyfriend] a foot job when I was a teen," she says. "And as I've grown up, I've not shied away from incorporating feet into my intimacy. I think feet are such rich pleasure zones."

And although she clarifies she has a "foot kink" and not a foot fetish, she enjoys foot stimulation during sex. "I love giving foot massages, I've used feet to stimulate my vulva, and in my solo play, I sometimes think about the sensations in my feet to keep me present."

Essentially, the origins of foot fetishes are diverse and depend on the individual. "'Why do people have any fetishes?' is the same question as 'Why are people queer?'" Gagliardo-Silver says. "Maybe a formative memory in childhood influenced their sexuality and attraction, maybe a magazine ad for shoes stirred something within them, but there's no 100 percent accurate reason why someone does or doesn't have a fetish. It's a matter of personal arousal and attraction."

How to Incorporate Foot Play Into Your Sex Life

If you're interested in exploring foot play, first communicate with your partner that you want to bring feet into the mix. "Ask if they feel comfortable having their feet touched or if they'd rather it just be your feet," Lipski says. "Some people's feet are incredibly sensitive, and some are just not into feet. Hygiene might also be a factor, so cleanliness is key." So be respectful of everyone's desires while also acknowledging your own.

Then, if you and your partner decide you'd like to bring foot play into your sex life, discuss a safe word to use. You can pick something like "red" or "pineapple," and use the term during sex whenever you don't enjoy what's happening or feel uncomfortable and want play to stop immediately.

Once consent and safe words are established, below are tangible ways to incorporate foot play if you find yourself wanting to dip your toe into the foot fetish world:

  • Touch them yourself. Connect to the sensations in your feet by playing with temperature and textures like feathers or ice cubes. "We spend so much of our lives on our feet, putting a world of pressure on them, so acknowledging them with touch can be incredibly pleasurable and gratifying," Lipski says. Some examples: rub ice cubes around your feet, spend an extra-long time in the shower washing and caressing them, lotion your feet before you go to bed, give yourself a foot massage, etc. Learn what feels good so you can share what you enjoyed with your partner.
  • Get a pedicure. Whether you're giving or receiving the pedicure, it has the potential to be very sensual. "And the pampering can put someone in the mood," Dr. Bisbey says.
  • Give or receive a foot massage. Similar to a pedicure, a foot massage is a good starting point. "Often, people have sore feet and will enjoy that," Dr. Bisbey suggests. Simply offer to massage your partner's feet with some lotion, or ask them to give your feet some love with a massage.
  • Try toe sucking. Start by gently licking and sucking each other's toes. "You can also try licking between the toes," Shannon says. "Or going for other parts of the foot to experiment with what feels best." Remember, hygiene is a must, so this type of act would be best immediately following a shower or bath. And don't forget to use your safe word if you begin to not enjoy the sensations.
  • Give a foot job. Instead of fingering or giving a hand job, try a foot job. "Obviously, your feet aren't as coordinated as your hands, but you can still use them to create friction on a penis or to stimulate a clitoris or vaginal opening as well," Shannon says. Simply place your feet together and put them around the base of a penis so they're moving back and forth, similarly to how your hands would with a hand job.