#SaysTheEditor Feet Long


It was maybe fifteen years ago that we all kept our feet under wraps. Flip flops weren’t everyday footwear and Crocs hadn’t even debuted yet (That happened in 2002). Seeing someone’s feet was… scandalous. Shocking. And man, feet were ugly. None of the Victorian (was it Victorian? Historical-writing clients of mine, chime in. And remember: this is why I don’t fact check!) desires that escalated when a body part was hidden. Nothing erogenous about feet.

Of course, you can’t not notice the change in our culture since then. Flip flops everywhere. I haven’t grown to love those Nike slides that so many athletes wear; toes hanging over the front edge of your shoe don’t do it for me. And pedicures! They’ve become a staple of many lives (and I hear men aren’t afraid to indulge, either. More power to you men!).

I have a neighbor who wears shoes only under penalty of eviction. He’s taught his kids to be that way, too, and hey, more power to them, too. It does feel good to let the grass tickle your toes, even though I do question their judgement and degree of luck when they bike barefoot. That’s a lousy way to lose a toe!

But that bit about the grass tickling your toes… That’s a sentiment echoed in the world of Ultimate Frisbee, I’ve noticed over the past year. The players seem to have three kinds of footwear: Nike slides, cleats, and … nothing. (and they are wearing off on me, who now thinks nothing of stripping off hiking boots and wool socks and hanging out beside a field that way. Like I said, it does feel good to let the grass tickle your toes. And it’s strangely good for my arthritis, too.)

So with our feet so terribly on view, have you writers stopped to consider feet? They’ve gone, in just a few years (or so it feels to older-than-dirt me), from being ugly and gnarly and hidden away to being on display.

And terribly, terribly beautiful, too.

I didn’t notice it until those Ultimate fields, frankly. How gorgeous and sexy feet are.

And, here’s the editor’s point for you writers: how varied feet are. Toe length. Width. The way the foot takes the rest of its body’s weight: inside or outside. How does the weight resting on its heel affect the line of the leg going up into the hips, and then from there up into the back? Can you see the metatarsals or is the foot smooth? Is the arch high, shockingly high, medium, or is the foot flat — and how does that not only affect the footprint you leave behind you, but how you stand? Does the person stand balanced on the balls of his or her feet? What does it look like when the barefoot bohemian crosses his legs at the ankle and those feet are overlapping?

And then, too, questions arise about how footwear and bare feet define character. Have you ever been thrown for a loop when you run into some high-profile figure while he’s out getting ice cream and okay, the shorts you can handle, but … flip flops! You can see your boss’s, your favorite athlete’s toes! What about that moment when you find a picture of your favorite tattooed rocker in flip flops? Maybe they’ve got grungy shorts on and an older concert tee that belongs some band not their own. Their hair’s lank. But their feet? Look like they just got done with a good soak and pumice stone. Their fingernails may be dirt-caked, but not those toes.

Think about the people who never let their toes show. Who are they? What are they saying about themselves via their shoes? Their socks? Their choice to remain covered versus exposed?

Shoes, or the lack of them. Think about them as you write. Use these details as another way to define your character’s personality.

And then, be sure to kick off your own shoes and walk barefoot in the grass. My own grass is usually on the long side — Lawn Boy knows I like it that way — so c’mon over and stroll across my yard. You’ll be glad you did.


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