As summer ends, so too hopefully does the season of open-toed shoes and the foot-phobic amongst us can rejoice.
According to a study by Bangor University a couple of years ago, we rate our feet the least sexually attractive out of 41 body parts - in other words, a lot of people them pretty repulsive.
Our collective hatred of the lower extremities of the leg is so rife that there’s even an I Hate Feet Facebook community, with 93,000 likes.
So what’s going on here, and why exactly are we so ashamed of our toes?
1. It’s engrained from childhood
Psychologist and cognitive behavioural psychotherapist Glenn Mason explains that our general dislike of crumbly toenails and calloused skin starts back in childhood - when we were first taught about our bodies.
“It’s a part of the body that’s often covered up,” he explains. “And through people’s experiences growing up, it might have been described as not very clean - as dirty, ‘smelly feet’. We know that the ideas we form about things when we’re little can carry into adult life too, so people see them as not very attractive.”
2. It’s a very real reaction
At its most extreme, some people suffer from ‘podophobia’ and actually can’t stand the sight of feet. On the other side of the coin, as Mason points out, some people fetishise feet. And again, both extreme reactions have their roots in our early years.
3. It can start very suddenly
“Often phobias link back to experiences in childhood - it’s not like someone wakes up one day and thinks they’re going to be afraid of a dog. Or it may be someone else in the family had that phobia,” he says, adding that podophobia could stem from a single incident such as, let’s say, seeing Great Uncle George’s gnarled and hairy toes poking out of a stinky old pair of sandals.
4. It can be (pedi)cured
Start ‘em young by getting your little ones used to bare feet in all their glory, says Mason: “If family members often walk around barefoot, then children wouldn’t necessarily see feet as unattractive - because that’s kind of the norm.”
5. But it’s no mean feat…
For those who have more serious phobias, cognitive behavioural therapy is “the first port of call to address how we think about our feet and how we respond to them.”
6. But, be warned: you’ll have to face your feet head-on, so to speak
“With any phobia, such as flying or heights, we’d always think about using exposure, so we’d expose people to their fears and they’d think about what’s going through their mind and what they are feeling,” adds Mason.
Are you freaked out by feet? Let us know in the Comments below.