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Do You Have Podophobia, the Fear of Bare Feet?

Podophobia is the fear of feet.

Podophobia is the fear of feet.

What Is Podophobia?

For as long as I can remember, I have had a phobia of bare feet. There is no rational reason I can think of for this, but it does impact my life in quite surprising ways that many without this phobia may not have considered. In fact, this phobia is far more common than I had realized.

The phobia of feet is called podophobia or petaphelaphobia—the latter being the fear of people touching your feet—and can consist of a fear of not only your own feet but also other people's. In extreme cases, some sufferers of podophobia can't even go into a shoe or sock shop without a problem. This actually made me feel a little better, mainly because I am not literally scared of feet—they just make me cringe, but not in the same way as, say, a large house spider would. In other words, a bare foot would not have me clinging to the ceiling, shaking like a leaf.

I am more what I have seen described as a 'foot-o-phobe', i.e., I feel uncomfortable or even irritated when I look at feet. I hate people touching my feet, and I don't like discussing feet or problems with feet on a face-to-face basis. I certainly would not enjoy watching any kind of TV documentary on feet, and I don't even like adverts on the television where they talk about Happy Feet, etc. I don't even find children's feet tolerable, so when I see a mum playing with her baby's feet, nuzzling them with her nose and blowing raspberries on them, I squirm.

I cringe when I see parents playing with their baby's feet.

I cringe when I see parents playing with their baby's feet.

Symptoms of Podophobia or Podiaphobia

  • Sweating and breathlessness
  • Change in body temperature
  • Change in blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • A headache or dizziness
  • A full-blown panic attack
  • Feeling exceedingly terrified and queasy

Therapy Might Help You Get Over Your Phobia

If this phobia has become a real problem in your life, there are plenty of treatment options available, such as:

Psychological Therapy

This is especially suitable for people who suffer from panic disorders. The long-term success of this kind of treatment is proven.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Apparently, this is one of the most effective methods of treatment for feet phobias. This assists in dealing with difficult situations. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has suggested that 7–14 hours of CBT with a patient suffering from agoraphobia or a panic disorder will help the problem within four months.

Exposure Therapy

In this kind of therapy, patients are gradually exposed to the element they fear. They are taught to control their reaction through deep breathing and positive thinking.

Hypnosis

For those capable of being hypnotized, this is an option that could be very successful and is certainly worth considering.

Support Groups

The main aim of support groups is to make people discuss and share the experiences which are unpleasant to them. This should help them to connect with others having similar feelings.

Medication

Podophobia is difficult to cure with only counseling and behavioral therapies. Some medication might also be necessary in order to help the patient deal with their phobia.

  • Antidepressants: These are used to treat depression and can take several weeks before they become effective.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): These are also a type of antidepressant that increases the level of serotonin in the brain.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants: These also work as antidepressants, keeping the brain and mind calm.
  • Beta-blockers: These can control anxiety and its symptoms, such as sweating and trembling. Beta-blockers slow down the heart rate, which lowers blood pressure and reduces the chances of a panic attack.

There is no guarantee that these treatments will work, but until the patient tries them, they won't know. It is worth persevering until your therapist concedes that the current choice of therapy is not succeeding.

Therapy can help you face your fears.

Therapy can help you face your fears.

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Read More From Patientslounge

I Have Had a Fear of Feet for as Long as I Can Remember

When I was young, my hatred of bare feet made me very uncomfortable doing sports in the gymnasium at school because, when using much of the gym equipment and the landing mats, we were required to go barefoot. I was very self-conscious about my feet, even though they are perfectly normal and petite in size. When being bullied at school, I desperately wanted to take up a martial art for self-defense but was put off after one judo lesson, when I realized that it was essential to go barefoot. I never went back, and the bullying continued.

As the years have gone by, my foot phobia has not diminished, and even now I will never walk around the house in bare feet—I always choose to wear shoes or slippers. When in bed at night, I keep my own feet well away from my husband's. Occasionally, his feet will accidentally touch mine at night, and I will flinch as if I have been stung, instinctively moving my feet to the opposite end of the bed. In many ways, I am not sure if this reaction is because I can't stand the contact from his bare feet or if it is because I can't bear him touching my bare feet. Either way, I dislike it intensely.

Unfortunately for me, my husband has a bad habit of walking around the house with no socks or slippers on. This makes me cringe, and even though I have bought him slippers, I still find him walking around barefoot. It is frustrating—he knows I hate feet! There is no point in having a bath and then walking around with no socks on because his feet will quickly end up filthy from simply walking on the kitchen floor tiles. I point this out to him, but he continues to walk around barefoot without wearing the new slippers I bought for him.

I was at my own mother's house on one occasion when my stepfather had to cut her toenails for her. Witnessing this made me feel quite nauseous, and there is no way I can imagine ever doing this service for her myself. The very idea of bare feet just makes my nose wrinkle up in distaste and my whole body cringe. I cannot understand for the life of me how people enjoy foot fetishes or can cope with foot massages. When I see a bare foot, all I see is the most unattractive part of the human body—with the potential to smell truly appalling, the ability to contract fungal infections, a verruca haven. In general, they're just an ugly, knobbly pair of appendages. In fact, l won't even buy or wear open-toed shoes or sandals of any kind, nor can I see why others choose to draw attention to their feet by painting their toenails. Yuck!

If your friend or partner suffers from this phobia, don't tease them or put your bare feet near them.

If your friend or partner suffers from this phobia, don't tease them or put your bare feet near them.

If This Phobia Affects Your Everyday Life, Seek Treatment

Although my phobia of bare feet is annoying and at times frustrating, I was relieved to find out that I am not an extreme case. My advice to anyone who is suffering from this would be to judge carefully how much this impacts your day-to-day life. If the answer is "too much", then seek out one of the therapies above.

To anyone who has a friend, partner, or family member who suffers from this phobia, please be considerate. Don't play the fool and do idiotic things such as pinning the person down and rubbing your bare feet on them or surprising them by draping your bare feet over their shoulders when they least expect it. Whilst these immature actions may seem funny to you, remember that, to them, this is serious and distressing. Consider how you would feel if they exploited a phobia of yours in a similar way.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

Raghav on March 02, 2020:

Oh! Thank god I am not the only one. I'm 17 and I think I have had it for years, though I didn't know it was called podophobia until right now. There are only 1 pair of feet in the whole world I can bare to look at, and those are mine, others I just hate. People don't know about this as of now, not even my family. But I'm afraid they will because I have yoga classes in school and we are required to go barefoot. Do you think there is a possibility that my phobia would go away if I get used to see them almost everyday?

Drakalibus on October 12, 2017:

I'm sorry to hear that as well I hate to hear anyone with fibromyalgia. I'm 33 and have had it about 7-8 years. Mine probably wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for hypermobility( joint come out of socket easily). Cures for phobias and diseases like fibromyalgia are what we need not more wars and junk like that. So I wish everyone luck with copying with such difficult things and appreciate your time and listening to others cause I might make all the difference for someone.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on October 10, 2017:

Thanks for sharing Drakalibus. I have a friend with severe fibromyalgia so you have my sincere sympathies for the discomfort and pain that causes you. She is housebound most of the time, but fortunately doesn't have light sensitivity issues like you do. All I know is that it has taken over her life and even though she is only in her 40's she is in so much pain she can barely get off the sofa without groaning out loud in pain.

Drakalibus on October 10, 2017:

I don't have a phobia of feet but instead the opposite a foot fetish. On the same note I can see how that would be a problem because if i sleep with socks on I will have nightmares. Don't know the reason behind it and no im not claustrophobic, my mother has the same issue. If I had the same issues as you people that would be a real big deal. Tho I do have something similar I am afraid of the dark but have a light sensitivity issue caused by fibromyalgia. So I have to keep it dark enough to keep my eyes from hurting but light enough so I don't freak out and start to panic. I appreciate everyone for sharing, as sharing a phobia can be tough and embarrassing so I figured i'd share mine also.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on November 19, 2016:

Fair enough Matt, not everyone is the same of course :)

Matty on November 19, 2016:

I don't have the phobia, coz I like human bare feet and I like to touch them.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on October 03, 2016:

Thanks for sharing your experience of this a man.

a man on October 02, 2016:

I had this phobia for man year, however not as intense as what is written this article. But during my childhood and teenage years, I felt shameful to go to the gym or be barefoot in school, however my feet was normal without any special problem.

But at the same time, I became interested somehow a foot fetish, especially to the clean feet and painted toes of women, and this fetish developed.

Now I see that how my mind and my foot phobia changed during these years, however, still I may have a little foot phobia in some situation...

Anyhow, human mind and human behavior is a very complicated issue..

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on April 06, 2016:

Thanks for your comment Michelle, I totally identify with how you feel.

Michelle on April 06, 2016:

I only wish this article wasn't covered in pictures of feet! It made it quite difficult for me to get through it, but I really wanted to because I can relate.

Alice on August 15, 2015:

I have the same problem as you. I hate going barefoot and I always wear socks when I'm at home even if it's very hot outside and even at night I always wear them.

I remember this phobia started when I was around 6 years old, in the summer my grandpa would make a inflatable swimming pool in the garden so his grandchildren would play in there but I really hated going barefoot so I never went in there.

My feet also has long toes and my smallest toe is curled so it's not completely perfect 'normal' and I hate it. I also dislike watching other people's feet and cant stand the thought of somebody touch my feet.

Sorry if my English isn't perfect I'm not a native speaker :)

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on December 10, 2014:

Hi Mthir, thanks for your comment. I totally agree with you and would always wear tights or stockings with any shoes that showed feet, although I refuse point blank to wear shoes where you can see toes with or without stockings.

Mthir on December 09, 2014:

Mistyhorizon2003; i feel EXACTLY the same as you do about nasty bear feet..I Cannot be attracted to a female if she is bear foot. I will not touch them "gross". I hate people who like to be bear foot all the time. I also consider warning shoes without socks or stockings still bear foot. I will NEVER understand how a woman will spend hours getting dressed up with hair done and makeup, put on a sexy dress then ware her heels while bear foot. It just ruins it. Not to mention its nasty..bear feet are repulsive!!!!! Women need to wear stockings when warning a dress. It's classy looking, very sexy, and Covers the nasty feet.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on April 01, 2014:

+1 'hate' I totally agree :)

hate on April 01, 2014:

i hate feet, smelly and ugly

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on March 07, 2014:

Loved the comment Miguel, please feel free to leave such 'ventings' any time you like lol.

Miguel on March 07, 2014:

I am a writer, actually, which precludes me to use rather vivid terminology. :) Thank you for letting me vent here.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on December 13, 2013:

ROFLMAO Miguel, that truly has to be the best comment I have ever received on this article. Absolutely hilarious and so well put. You should be writing comedy for a living. Brilliant.

Miguel on December 13, 2013:

I shudder even before I see feet because most women insist on wearing flip-flops, and you can hear the disgusting, moist-sticky sound of their stank pods flapping nearby. I never understood how anyone can pretend not to hear that sound, which makes a long wet fart sound like Handel. Vein-engorged, bulby toes spilling out of the front of shoes like ripe maggots out of a cadaver, bony, fleshy, sticky grossness. And that goes for ALL feet, period. I don't care how much pedicure time you get in, how colorful your bacteria-laden toenails are, how much jewelry you've festooned to your rankness, or what tats you've put down there, all with the aim of trying to draw attention to the most disgusting of body parts. If you took a turd and painted it, bejeweled it, and/or tatted it up, it's still a turd, just like anyone's feet. There is nothing remotely attractive about feet, and they're actually even more disgusting the more bling a woman puts on them. Only perverts who are partial to bacteria, stink, and raw nastiness will find anything interesting there,

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on October 21, 2013:

Lol, what can I say other than I feel exactly the same way you do right down to not actually being afraid of feet, but loathing them and the way they seem to constantly be portrayed wherever you look.

Joe on October 21, 2013:

And here I thought I was all alone in the world. I don't think I have a phobia of feet per se as I am not afraid of them, but I am utterly repulsed by the amount of attention bare feet get in the media, and how much overall people go around barefoot in public where they should have shoes on. First and foremost are the idiots that prop their nasty bare feet up on dashboards while driving down the Interstate. Every time I see this I wish I could grab these morons and beat them senseless. I believe this is a fad of some kind, because the only type of humanoid I see doing this 99.9% of the time are white women. Not only is it extremely dangerous to be riding that way, but it is absolutely tacky, redneck and disgusting. There are only about 4 places in the WORLD someone should be barefoot and they are the beach, a pool, a bath/shower, or in bed…and that’s it! Then you have commercials…oh those lovely commercials. I don’t care if the commercial in question is selling cow manure, I can almost guarantee you there will be someone featured in that commercial who is barefoot. Don’t believe me? Start paying attention to this. I think advertisers are playing on peoples sick sexual fetishes which is why this is the case. Again….pay attention, 7 out of 10 commercials you see will feature barefoot people, most of the time the camera will even zoom in and focus on the feet. WTF is up with this? How about all those products that they sell on TV, you know the ones that say hey I’m not stopping there call now and I’ll double the order? 3 out of five of these products will be for the feet. Hot Booties, Ped-Egg….and the list goes on and on. What about those low-life chicks that walk around in stores and stuff barefoot? GROSS!!! I saw some nasty ho just today…October….65 degrees in a convenient store parking lot where people spit, throw up and God knows what else walking around BAREFOOT! Are you effing kidding me!?!?!? Sign of the times I guess. Hey idiots…put your damn shoes on! Good Lord!!!

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on July 27, 2013:

Hi Trish, how awful for you, I can totally understand why you feel a dislike for your feet after going through all that, but at least now you know a pedicure can improve their appearance for you. To answer your question, well, firstly I only ever go swimming about once a year if we go away on holiday somewhere hot so I rarely have to worry about it. When I do I simply have to switch off the fact I don't like my feet and avoid looking at them too much. Other people's I definitely avoid looking at. If I am walking around near a swimming pool I always wear some kind of footwear to cover up my feet e.g. pumps, deck shoes or espadrilles.

trish1048 on July 27, 2013:

Hi Misty,

I have come to hate my feet, due to an ingrown toenail surgery I had many years ago. I was being treated for it, and would visit the doctor every 6-8 weeks or so. On the last visit, he said to me, you know, I could fix it so the ingrown toenails never come back. I thought wonderful, do it! It would certainly eliminate my need to get injections in both feet and have the offending toenails temporarily fixed. So, I opted to have them permanently removed, and although I no longer suffer with ingrown toenails, it has permanently affected the way my toenails grow. The doctor failed to mention that my remaining toenails would not grow straight, so I am left with two crooked nails. I hate it! My daughter gets pedicures regularly, and would often ask me to go. I was too embarrassed to go, until one day, I said, well, perhaps they can make the two toes look a bit more normal. My daughter assured me there was nothing to be embarrassed about, as the nail technicians see a lot worse. I can tell you, that is one job I could never do! Once I went, I was hooked. It's a very relaxing experience, but more importantly for me, I can now stand to look at my feet. I have a question for you, what do you do about swimming?

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on July 25, 2013:

Lol Barry, what would we do without our Mum's eh?

barry on July 24, 2013:

for 59 yrs my bare fee have never touched the dirty ground. my dear old mom would tell me 'u will get hookworms'. scared me.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on July 17, 2013:

Lol, well on that basis I understand why you don't understand me. Some people's fetishes mean they like to be urinated on by their partner, or even pooped on, but I don't understand that either, and I expect you might struggle to understand that. Basically everyone sees things differently, and mine is not a sexual thing, it is a pure and simple phobia which makes it fall into a different category to a fetish.

Luca39Luca on July 17, 2013:

Im a foot fetishist so i really don't understand you. I love womens feet

Jessa on January 28, 2013:

I HATE feet as well. When I watch those "baby story" shows on TLC and the mom is giving birth with her bare feet in the doctor's face I want to reach through the TV and slap her! I don't have a phobia though. I hate my feet but I will still wear sandals and paint my nails and loofah the soles to keep them looking as nice as they can. My husband has nice feet actually (for a man). I LOVE my kid's feet. I kiss my baby's feet all the time. But other people's feet put me off especially other women's feet. BLECH. Even when they have had a pedicure and look clean I just hate them. I find it annoying that women showcase them as if they are something sexy. The only phobia I suffer from is trypophobia which is horrible so I feel bad for anyone with a true phobia of feet. Phobias suck.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on October 29, 2012:

I completely understand what you describe Anti-Feet, it is pretty much how I feel too.

Anti-Feet on October 29, 2012:

I think feet are disgusting myself. People that go barefoot in public make me want to vomit. I don't like wearing sandals or any thing that shows off my barefeet. I still do regular maintenance on them, but no one will convince me to like feet. They look gross.

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on September 16, 2012:

LOL, okay, so no intelligent answer then.... much as I suspected!

Jimbo on September 16, 2012:

scrape under your big toenail and take a big whiff

Cindy Lawson (author) from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on September 15, 2012:

Good Lord, not only have you failed to explain the 'spoiled rotten' part of your comment, but you also are scraping the barrel with your opinion of rats, snakes and spiders. For a start there are numerous varieties of snakes and spiders that are non venemous, and yet people are still terrified of them with no logical reason for being so, e.g. try living in the UK where spiders and snakes are non-venomous (apart from the Viper which is a non life-threatening venemous snake.) Rats (if non-sewer rats) are generally harmless, and in fact make excellent pets that are incredibly clean, intelligent and don't smell. I see rats all the time by our fishing lake, and they are clean. beautiful creatures that pose no threat to anyone.

I never suggested people should 'not have feet' so to say 'people would not look right' without them is just a silly trollish thing to say. All I recognised is that there is a known phobia for feet, just like there are known phobias for many things, including 'buttons', 'outdoor spaces', 'heights', 'cotton wool' etc etc. Doesn't meant that those fears make sense to those who don't experience it personally. What you need to learn is to understand is that your opinion is based on not having any knowledge of the fear in question, and therefore you are being unsympathetic to those that do. Honestly, this attitude makes you the lesser person, and the one people will look down on for being so ignorant and lacking in empathy or knowledge. Still, can't be helped I guess!