The Future

Inside Instagram’s foot fetish economy

People are buying and selling photos of their feet on the same app where your mom posts blurry pictures of pasta.

The Future

Inside Instagram’s foot fetish economy

People are buying and selling photos of their feet on the same app where your mom posts blurry pictures of pasta.
The Future

Inside Instagram’s foot fetish economy

People are buying and selling photos of their feet on the same app where your mom posts blurry pictures of pasta.

I was already deep into a procrastination-fueled social media binge when I got the notification from Instagram. An account, called “parkfeetdaily,” had liked three of my photos — from a year and a half ago.

I decided to tap on the guy’s profile, and instantly discovered that my new follower was not a spambot or a brunch ‘grammer. I’d been found by a foot fetish page.

Every photo posted by the account, parkfeetdaily, was of someone’s feet. Feet on beaches. Feet in socks. Feet on a teddy bear. “Pictures of girls feet who I’ve met around town or on instagram,” reads the profile description. “Photos are not of me. Please stop DM’ing me guys…”

So, okay, fine. Certainly not my bag of chips, but you know, live and let live. Then, I noticed the photo: Right there in the middle of this account’s grid was a picture of me.

Bottom right, that photo of the two girls on the beach? Yep, that’s mine. I posted it to Instagram a couple of years ago. I’m the one on the left, and the girl next to me is my (then 16-year-old) sister. To say that seeing this photo here — on an obscure foot-fetish Instagram account run by god-knows-who — was jarring would be an understatement. It instantly triggered that gut-wrenching fight-or-flight feeling within me. I was simultaneously paralyzed by the very thought that this person had combed through my Instagram, and enraged beyond words that my post had, for all I knew, led to a bunch of people leering at my kid sister.

Within minutes, I had reported both the photo and the account to Instagram, requested the owner take it down immediately via comment and DM, and taken screenshots of the post for proof, lest I be blocked. Thankfully, he responded right away, and after some rather annoying I-don’t-really-get-why-you’re-this-upset banter, down it went.

I couldn’t stop wondering how the hell my photo had ended up here in the first place. I’d originally posted it, without any hashtags, in July of 2016. This user would have either had to scroll through thousands of photos geotagged to that specific spot in Koh-Samui, Thailand, or click on a direct link to my (not-very-popular) personal profile and then scroll all the way back to this post, which seems pretty unlikely.

So, in an attempt to get some answers, I did some digging. What I found was a thriving online foot fetish photo marketplace on the same app where your mom posts blurry pictures of pasta.

Turns out, there are three general categories of accounts in this Instagram community — the Feet Pic Buyers, Feet Pic Takers, and Feet Pic Aggregators — all of which are essential parts of the ecosystem. Let’s start small, with the Feet Pic Buyers. These average (foot-fetish-having) joes are the backbone of the economy. They’re almost always men, running Instagram accounts that are usually devoid of any identifying photos — as most people aren’t comfortable going horny on main — and are used to follow and interact with Feet Pic Takers and Aggregators.

Let’s say you like step-sister/step-brother porn, she’ll fucking act like she’s your step-sister telling you to smell her feet...
parkfeetdaily

Feet Pic Takers are almost exclusively women who are in it for the cash. These accounts generally fall into one of two categories: private or public. Feet Pic Takers with private accounts (meaning you can’t follow them — or see their photos — without requesting permission) make money through a subscription-type model. To get your request accepted, you generally either have to fork over cold hard cash, or, in certain cases, buy the Feet Pic Taker something off of her Amazon wishlist. An accepted follow request grants you access to the full account, which usually has wide variety of photos, videos, and other original content.

However, for Feet Pic Takers with pubic accounts (meaning anyone can see the photos posted without paying), the game is a bit different. These women generally make their money by selling custom photos and videos directly to Feet Pic Buyers through Instagram DM.

“Their pages are an advertisement for what they also sell,” the owner of parkfeetdaily, the foot-fetish account that followed me, explained over Skype. “So, you know, you get a custom video. Let’s say you like step-sister/step-brother porn, she’ll fucking act like she’s your step-sister telling you to smell her feet, or something like that, and she’ll send you that video for X amount of dollars.” The man running parkfeetdaily spoke on the condition of anonymity because he didn’t want his “kinky side” to be public knowledge.

A popular public Feet Pic Taker account.

A popular public Feet Pic Taker account.

According to parkfeetdaily, the length of these custom videos is anywhere from three to ten minutes, and they don’t come cheap. “I’ve only [sic] spent about a hundred dollars in the last year,” he explained. “[sic] There’s only one person that I actually talk to [in this community] because he actually has sent me a couple of videos and photos sets and stuff that he’s bought, just to kind of like show off. He spent $400 with one girl. He spent, I think, $1500 dollars with another girl — and I wouldn’t believe him if he didn’t talk and send all that stuff my way to prove that he did.”

For some of the most popular women, running a foot fetish Instagram is a full-time job, which sometimes can bring in more than $70K a year. Getting to the point where you’re making that kind of cash isn’t easy; numbers like those usually require a follower count of well over ten thousand. And while, in a world where mainstream celebrities can often boast a million or more followers, this may not seem like the most sisyphean of tasks, it turns out gaining public support for your Instagram account dedicated to the expression of a non-mainstream sexual proclivity is a bit more difficult.

Enter the Feet Pic Aggregators. These Instagram pages serve as hubs, connecting Takers and Buyers by publicly posting a wide variety of non-original content from different sources. Most of the time, this means sourcing pics from Takers — who often pitch their photos to Aggregators in the hopes of attracting more followers — but occasionally, when they’re running low on pitched content, they have to get creative.

Another aggregator account.

Another aggregator account.

“Originally I would find people in public and ask to take photos for my Instagram page,” said parkfeetdaily over Instagram DM. “But when the seasons changed and it got too cold to be out at the park with no shoes on, I switched to asking random people on Instagram. A surprising amount of people agreed and seemed intrigued by it. If I see a picture on someone’s page I might screenshot and post it, usually along with a m[essage] asking permission. Though I might post it regardless since some people with tens of thousands of followers may not respond to my m[essage] or comment.”

Though he wouldn’t say specifically, I’m guessing this is is how my photo ended up on parkfeetdaily. I mentioned before that the person in the photo with me was my younger sister, but I failed to include that she’s kind-of, sort-of Instagram-famous. (Here's a link if you must.) Somehow — through the magic that is having an account with over 10K followers — I suspect that my sister’s profile ended up on Instagram’s Explore tab, which parkfeetdaily uses to search for new photos to screenshot. From there, he probably stumbled upon my account through one of the many photos she and I have tagged each other in, and found the pic he’d later post.

This isn’t the first sex-oriented world to pop up on Instagram (and it likely won’t be the last). Back in November, the app’s live-video section was overtaken by porn, and porny posts have existed on the platform since the beginning. Instagram explicitly bans “violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos,” but it’s difficult to say whether or not foot-fetish-related content falls under this umbrella.

“I get it, it’s creepy,” said parkfeetdaily. “I’m just stalking your fucking Instagram asking if you will just ‘show me your feet, please.’ I get it. However, foot fetish is — if you look it up — it is the most common fetish. It is everywhere. It’s ubiquitous. Every culture everywhere, that is the most common one. So yes, it’s creepy for me to do it. But at the same time I’m a normal guy.”

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