The Effects of Foot Binding

Written by tina cisneros
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The Effects of Foot Binding
Bound feet were considered beautiful and sexy. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Foot binding is a horrifying tradition that lasted for hundreds of years in China. The origination of this practice is debatable and rich in myth and legend. This practice continued on and off until it was outlawed in 1912. But despite being outlawed it was still commonly practised. Tiny 3-inch feet were seen a symbol of beauty and many wealthy men only wanted to marry women with these tiny feet. So young girls were forced into foot binding in order to bring wealthy and honour to their families. The process of foot binding is appalling and the effects are heartbreaking.

The Process

The process of binding feet began when the girl was around 7 years old (some even started as young as three). The idea was to manipulate the foot into the shape of a moon, often referred to as the "golden lotus." Foot binding was the responsibility of mothers or other elder women in the village. In order to speed up the process, the mother would break the toes of the young girl and bind them so they could sit beneath the sole of the foot. They would continually tighten the bandages. Eventually the arch of the foot would break and it would be pushed upwards. The heel and the ball of the foot would touch.

Painful Effects

After the foot binding process began, it was necessary to continue binding the foot. The foot would swell up and be prone to infection and pus. The bindings could only be removed to clean the foot, then it had to be reapplied. Without the bandaging, the women would be in terrible pain because the foot would lose its shape. This painful process didn't end once the foot was manipulated into a 3-inch shape -- the pain continued permanently.


Foot binding encountered plenty of medical complications. These young girls were susceptible to ulceration, paralysis, infections and even gangrene. There were even some girls who did not survive the process. However, many women thought that the outcome was more important. A woman would never marry a suitable man without having bound feet.


Walking was made very difficult for those who had bound their feet to a mere 3 inches. These women struggled to walk in their own homes and often required an attendant to help them with their limited mobility. This was considered ideal for the Chinese husband since he was guaranteed a faithful wife (the woman was always confined to the home); the process of foot binding meant that the woman was strong and loyal. Cheating would not be a concern simply because the woman could not move about freely.

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