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Foot size preferences

Some comments on the relatively smaller feet of women.

Foot size and attractiveness: cross-cultural evaluation

Fessler et al.(1, pdf) studied the relationship between foot size and attractiveness among people sampled from Iran, India, Tanzania, Lithuania, Brazil, USA, Papua New Guinea and Cambodia.  They used crude line drawings.  The general find was that men with average size feet were optimally preferred, and, with some exceptions, women with smaller than average size feet were preferred.  The exceptions were the Papuans, the Cambodians and the Tanzanians.  The Tanzanians indicated a preference for women’s feet that were larger than average.  The authors noted that the oddities for these three populations were possibly due to communication difficulties and the inability of a number of the participants to find any differences between the drawings in a given series, their being confused by a confound between ankle size and foot size (both change proportionately) or the alien nature of the drawings for these populations.

There is some reasoning that the authors used that I don’t like.  They considered two hypotheses that would explain why women have smaller feet for the same height, and why this is preferred.  The first hypothesis was that if people observe that women have relatively smaller feet than men, then smaller feet will be associated with femininity and hence preferred in women.  The second hypothesis was that men preferred smaller than average feet in women and sexual selection was responsible for women ending up with relatively smaller feet.  The authors rejected the first hypothesis based on their find about a preference for average foot size in men rather than above average size, but the study cited below found a preference for large feet in men.

Foot size and attractiveness: Austria and Canada

Abstract:(2) Foot size proportionate to stature is smaller in women than in men, and small feet apparently contribute to perceived physical attractiveness of females. This exploratory study investigated the sex difference in relative foot length and interrelations among foot length, physique, and foot preference ratings in samples from Austria and Canada, each comprised of 75 men and 75 women. The findings included the following lines of evidence: the sex difference in relative foot length replicated in both data sets; the magnitude of this sex effect was large. Relative foot length was smaller in young, nulliparous, and slim women. Pointed-toe and high-heel shoes were more likely worn by smaller, lighter, and slimmer women. Men reported liking women's feet in general more than vice versa. A vast majority of both men and women favored small feet in women, but large feet in men. One's own foot size appeared to correspond to evaluations of attractiveness; particularly, women with small feet preferred small feet in women in general. The preference for small feet in women was convergent across different methods of evaluating attractiveness. Directions for investigations in this emerging field of research on physical attractiveness are discussed.


  1. Fessler, D. M., Nettle, D., Afshar, Y., Pinheiro Ide, A., Bolyanatz, A., Mulder, M. B., Cravalho, M., Delgado, T., Gruzd, B., Correia, M. O., Khaltourina, D., Korotayev, A., Marrow, J., de Souza, L. S., and Zbarauskaite, A., A cross-cultural investigation of the role of foot size in physical attractiveness, Arch Sex Behav, 34, 267 (2005).
  2. Voracek, M., Fisher, M. L., Rupp, B., Lucas, D., and Fessler, D. M., Sex differences in relative foot length and perceived attractiveness of female feet: relationships among anthropometry, physique, and preference ratings, Percept Mot Skills, 104, 1123 (2007).