Please share your experiences with foot tattoos?
May 23, 2009 2:50 PM   Subscribe

Do you have a tattoo on your foot? Do you have any regrets, lessons learned, or advice for someone considering it?

I've been thinking for a few years now about getting my dog's pawprint as a tattoo, and since she's constantly stepping on my feet it seems kind of "right" to me to have it placed on the top of my foot. This would be my first tattoo so I've been trying to learn as much as possible before committing, and one thing I keep coming across is the idea that foot tattoos apparently don't wear very well over time. I've read different posts on the subject (e.g., 1, 2, 3, 4) but I don't have a sense of just how bad the fading or blurring is likely to be so now I'm hoping to hear from tattoo artists and from people who actually have foot tattoos, especially ones they've had for a few years or more.

If it helps, I'm thinking I'd want the tattoo to be all-black, and placed somewhere on the top of my foot (would it be more/less prone to fading if I placed it closer to my toes or farther back?). My dog's paw is roughly 2"X2.5" and I would like it to be life-sized (for once I'm kind of happy with my US Size 9 feet!). As a student who's off for the summer, if I got it done now I could easily wear flip-flops for a few weeks while it healed, although to be honest I really hate flip-flops and so would hope to eventually get back into my Doc Marten sandals or my trainers. Hmm ... I am aware that the foot is supposedly a painful place to tattoo and am not really put off by that ... I hope that gives enough background info to be helpful.

Finally, I do realize the most important person for me to talk to will be the actual tattoo artist(s) I approach (actually, if anyone has any recommendations for a Tampa or Orlando artist I'd be most grateful!), but for now I'm just trying to do as much groundwork as possible so I know if this placement is even one I should pursue. Thanks very much for any experiences or advice you can share!
posted by DingoMutt to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (17 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Hi! When I was a tattoo apprentice, I gave myself a foot tattoo. Possibly because I ended up going over it 3 times, it hasn't faded very much at all in 5 years. I've seen other foot tattoos that have faded substantially--if you don't mind getting touch-ups, I suppose it would be a fine placement. If you don't want that extra expense, it might be best to consider another spot.

The tattoo will wear most at the places where your foot rubs against your shoe--so I would think that the area closer to your toes would fade less.
posted by elder18 at 3:05 PM on May 23, 2009

Foot tattoos heal fine as long as you take care of them and stay just as well as anywhere else. I think a lot of the problems people have had with foot tattoos come from artists who didn't know what they were doing since the skin is thin and it's easy to go too deep or go too shallow. Find a competent artist and you're good to go.

The top of my foot didn't hurt that badly to be honest but my girlfriend wept when getting hers done so ymmv.

As far as healing goes sandals are good or make sure that the tattoo isn't lymphy and just wear some brand new socks and some tight fitting shoes. If the sock sticks to the tattoo a bit, putting some water on top should help get it off. Because of the location you may need some touchups anyway, but nothing too bad.

I've had the top of mine done for 7 years now and it hasn't changed at all in that time.
posted by mikesch at 3:07 PM on May 23, 2009

Why don't you wear a ballpoint sketch for awhile to see what you think?
It seems all-too-easy to end up with a hideous mistake.
posted by aquafortis at 3:22 PM on May 23, 2009

i have a tattoo on my right foot, near my toes (closer to the fourth and fifth toes). i've had it for two years now and it hasn't faded at all. of all my tattoos, that one healed the fastest. if you take care of it (keep it moisturized, not too much sun exposure, be careful while it's scabbing, etc.) it won't fade or blur too much. mikesch is right -- a competent artist will ensure the tattoo is in a good spot, and they'll do it properly.

be sure you eat before you get tattooed. i have 11, and the one on my foot was the only one that hurt (and hurt quite a bit). to make things worse, i hadn't eaten before going to get it and almost passed out.

good luck!
posted by gursky at 4:00 PM on May 23, 2009

A friend of mine got a small black tattoo on the top of her forefoot when I got my second, so that would have been November of 2004, last I heard (about a year ago) it still looks fine.
posted by Lemurrhea at 4:01 PM on May 23, 2009

It's not the top of the foot, but I have a tattoo on the little concave place on the inside of the heel. It's been 10 years and the edges have blurred slightly. It's not enough to merit a touch up yet, but I'll probably get it done in another 5-10 years.

The pain was negligible. It felt like dragging a needle point across skin, with a little pressure applied. It only hurt after going over it a few times.

While I don't regret it, it's nice to be able to cover it up for certain occasions.

I've never been to a tattoo convention, but it could be a good place to shop for someone you trust. There's one coming to Miami in mid-July.

There's a phenomenon that tattoos can be addictive. I guess one lesson learned is that I'm happy I didn't fill up on tattoos while still under that spell. Not to say there's anything wrong with lots of tattoos, but I for one am glad I waited.
posted by degrees_of_freedom at 4:26 PM on May 23, 2009

I have had a tattoo across the top of my right foot for about fifteen years now. Jesus, now that I typed that I realize how long it's been! It hasn't really faded much, especially when compared with pictures taken many years ago. I have been very pleased with it all this time. As I recall, the only thing that bothered me in addition to the normal 'tattoo = ouchie' was the fact that the damn thing tickled, especially on the sides. I have several other tats, and this one was the only one I found excruciating, because I have very sensitive feet.
posted by msali at 4:44 PM on May 23, 2009

I have both of my feet tattooed, toes to ankle on the tops. I ran into a few issues:

-I was outright refused by several tattoo artists with simple curt phrases like "We don't tattoo feet, ever". I just moved on. No use trying to wheedle my way in.

-I also was told that if I were to get my feet tattooed, the first touch-up would not be free (as is customary for most parlors).

-I had one shop tell me they wouldn't tattoo my feet in the winter because I would have to wear closed shoes/socks. I ended up getting both done in the winter and healed them by wearing a thin layer of a+d ointment covered with a non-stick gauze pad held on by a sock, then loosely applying some kind of shoe (I wore open backed sandals with one of them, unlaced shoes with the other). I would try to limit the amount of time my feet spend in shoes, and when I was at home I would wash the tattoo with soap and water very gently, moisturize, and let it hang out in the open air for as much time as possible. I just didn't go out except for classes for about five days.

-I got touch ups done on both feet. One was free because the tattoo artist was a friend and did the initial tattoo for free. The other was charged at the same rate as the initial tattoo (100 bucks/hour) because it was incredibly detailed work.

-Tattoos only "wear" when healing. After that, they are a solid part of your skin. I have gotten bug bites, blisters, cuts, etc to nearly all my tattoos, including my feet, and they have healed intact. Your straps will not "wear out the color" after the healing period is finished.

-I got my second one at a convention. It's a great way to go because you can look at all the artist's portfolios and ask them questions, and even if you get rejected by the non-foot-tattooers and the people who think feet don't heal, you will have another hundred artists to choose from. See if you can find someone with some foot pictures in their portfolio. See how they turned out (especially healed ones...if they're shiny, they were just done). Go early, expect that you might have to come back on a different day if the artist is busy all the day you show up, but since your tattoo is not very big or complicated, it should be easy. Just bring in a very sharp line drawing of the tattoo that you have in mind, or try to talk an artist into drawing it for you. It's far easier if you just have a drawing, but if not, make sure you bring references like a picture of your dog's paw to ensure accuracy and to give the artist a firm impression of what you would like.

Good luck. It's gonna hurt, but I think that foot tattoos are so lovely that they make up for it. Plus, you'll be asked by random people walking down the street, "Oh man, did that hurt? Dude, that must have hurt like hell." It's just so charming. Memail or gmail me for more questions (or, i suppose, for pics of mine)
posted by nursegracer at 5:28 PM on May 23, 2009 [3 favorites]

Here's another data point: I've had big toes tattooed for about two years. They're small and all black, taking about 20 minutes total. We did one small touch-up a couple weeks after the initial session, but nothing since. I've noticed no fading. The pain was not bad, but it felt a bit itchier than my other pieces.

My understanding, from working as the receptionist at a tattoo shop for over a year, is that the skin on the top of the foot, where you're considering, takes the ink better than the skin along the sides and closer to the toes and heels, where it changes texture. While shopping for artists, try to find someone who has photos of healed foot pieces. That should give you a good idea of the success that he or she has had on that part of the body.

On preview, listen to nursegracer. I've seen her pieces; they're huge and gorgeous (among my favorite foot tattoos of all time!).
posted by kwaller at 5:36 PM on May 23, 2009

I just had my fourth/fifth (can't remember) foot tattoo coverup session on Tuesday. Here is a picture of the first stage. And the 2nd. Here's the thing, I am NOT a fan of tattoos in places that show (and aren't easily coverable). That is to say, I'm fine with tattoos in obvious places for other people, but not for myself. I got the silly celtic ankle band on a whim, 13 years ago. Had I known what a pain in the butt it would be for me professionally and otherwise, I would have never, ever started there. But I'm stuck with it, and stuck explaining it. So it made sense to turn it into something I am proud of and needed no obvious explanation.

There are some definite drawbacks though. Even though my skin takes well to ink, the color around the base of my foot falls out every single time. I don't think that this session will be any different. It's tough, working skin. This is mostly true to the whole foot, and your results may vary. Also, black ink is hard to come out 'even', especially in tricky areas like feet. Be sure that your artist has experience in both foot tattooing, and solid black designs.

Also keep in mind that if you ever want to wear fancy/dress shoes and skirts/pants in a professional environment, you will most likely HAVE TO wear thick, dark tights. Even if you don't plan on working in corporate america, you will eventually find yourself in some situation (a funeral, graduation, meeting of some sort) where you don't want to have your foot tattoo be an issue or conversation piece. Boots may not be an option.

One last thing, feet are like hands in that they get a lot of sun, and a lot of wear. Your foot tattoo will fade. With care, it will be minimal. Also, hands and feet take longer to heal than other areas (I was averaging 4-5 weeks for each session).

All that said, these may not be issues for you at all. But keep in mind that the way you feel now may not be the way you feel about it forever. If you've thought about that and you're ok with the possibility, go right ahead, and you will enjoy the piece I'm sure.

I'm not going to tell you about the way it feels to have the top of your foot tattooed. You will find out for yourself I'm sure. :)
posted by iamkimiam at 7:25 PM on May 23, 2009

Wow, thanks for the helpful input, everyone! It's really quite a relief to hear that foot tattoos can hold up reasonably if properly done and cared for - I think I'd built "may be prone to fading/blurring" up into "will be a blobby mess in no time" in my mind, so it's good to hear from folks who have actual experiences with foot tattoos (iamkimiam, your coverup tattoo is looking lovely, I love those nice, sharp lines and vibrant colors!). And gursky, thanks for the reminder to eat beforehand, my pain threshold is definitely not very high so it's helpful to have suggestions that could help keep me from passing out, too.

As for the 'concealability' of a foot tattoo, while I've never been big into dressy shoes (even when I was doing my time in the corporate world I very rarely wore anything all that revealing of foot) I can see where it would be wise to consider what I might do at the occasional "ceremonial" affair or whatnot ... towards that end I guess my impulse right now would be to cover it up with a large bandage but does that generally work? I can't really think of reasons it'd be problematic but if anybody has any better suggestions I'd love to hear them.

Either way, thanks again for all of the advice, it's great to have these additional data points as I try to come to a decision!
posted by DingoMutt at 9:43 PM on May 23, 2009

I think the actual tattooing has been addressed at this point, so I'll address the follow-up about concealing it. Use Dermablend. I've seen people with black facial tattoos look like they've never seen a tattoo needle, and it was due to Dermablend.
posted by bedhead at 10:43 PM on May 23, 2009

I have a tattoo that covers the top of my left foot (based on my daughter's artwork) I've got a pretty good tolerance for pain - this was my third - but it hurt so much I nearly asked the artist to stop without finishing it.

It's worth it, but be prepared.
posted by Space Kitty at 1:20 AM on May 24, 2009

My wife has a tattoo along the top-outside edge of her right foot, and a small tattoo on her 2nd toe on her left foot. She has one other tattoo on her right hip.

She was warned by many about the pain.

Her experience was that the foot tattoo caused very little pain, less even than her hip tattoo. But the toe tattoo, although small, was excruciating. She had both foot-based tattoos done the same day, so it was easy to compare.

The foot tattoo still looks new and crisp a few years later and has required no touch-ups. The toe tattoo required immediate touch-up and was slow to heal, but since then has had no problems.

She loves both of them and receives several comments on them.

I think the pain is truly in YMMV territory.

I think most places are getting to the point where tattoos are no longer taboo. My wife wears sandals to work, a professional non-profit environment, and has never had any negative comments. She does not consider changing footwear or concealing due to attending a funeral or wedding.

I think in the last 5-10 years, tattoos (and even piercing) have become entirely mainstream. Ankle tattoos, small back tattoos, and pierced belly buttons are now so common on young females it hardly merits mention anymore.

Also, as an employer I have not yet asked any employees to cover tattoos at work. I suppose if someone had FUCK tattooed on their knuckles or a naked woman on their forearm, I might ask them to bandage that over.

But seriously, people somewhere are still getting offended over a butterfly on a girl's ankle? That's almost quaint.
posted by Ynoxas at 9:04 AM on May 24, 2009

Picture of my feets (cell phone cam so not great quality) by popular demand: Lobster and Anchor.
posted by nursegracer at 4:31 PM on May 24, 2009

I have a recommendation for a tattoo shop in Ybor City: The Blue Devil . Five of me friends have had work done there and all of it was exceptional. Great clean shop, lots of places to eat and hang out nearby if you need to wait. They are very busy so you'd probably need to make an appointment way ahead of time.
posted by Mouse Army at 7:25 AM on May 25, 2009

Ack, I'm a loser! My apologies for the delay here - I've been largely away from my computer throughout the summer thus far, and had no idea that there'd been a follow-up request for this question! At any rate, so far I haven't yet gotten that tattoo but that's largely due to the fact that I've been having a hard time getting a suitable pawprint from my dog, that's been harder than I'd expected - simply using an ink pad and piece of paper really hasn't worked out, and I've not really been able to get a good "natural" print yet ... I'm still wanting to get this done, though, so if worse comes to worst and I can't get it before class starts again (and I therefore lose the chance to wear flip-flops or go bare-foot for several weeks while it heals), I'll hopefully be able to do it over my month(ish)-long winter break this year ... either way I'll post pics here, or in my profile if this thread gets closed, once I finally do have it done. At least now I know that my foot really IS a viable site for it, which truly delights me =) Thanks once more, and again, my apologies for the delay in following up!
posted by DingoMutt at 8:39 PM on July 26, 2009

« Older Pets allowed?   |   Help me enjoy the beach on my own... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.