Suffering For Beauty: The Shoes That Bind

Due to an overwhelming number of hits and comments on this post, I have decided to keep updating it every few months. You can learn more about the ancient practice of footbinding from some of our other posts here on My Several Worlds.

Chinese Footbinding: Photos of Women with Bound Feet

Suffering for Beauty: The Curse of the Beloved High-Heeled Shoe

“The pain, of course, teaches an important lesson: no price is too great, no process too repulsive, no operation too painful for the women who would be beautiful. The tolerance of pain and the romanticization of that tolerance begins…in preadolescence, in socialization, and serves to prepare the women for lives of childbearing, self-abnegation, and husband pleasing.” (Andrea Dworkin)

Portrait of a Chinese lady with bound feet.

A few weeks ago, I posted an article on the ancient practice of Chinese footbinding. I’ve had an overwhelming response to this article. One cannot help but feel shock and curiosity at such a thing. In response to this article, I’ve posted some examples of footwear worn by women throughout those centuries. The making of these shoes was intricate and at times, time-consuming, as all of the following examples were hand-made and hand-embroidered.

Hand-embroidered silk lotus shoes from China.

Ladder lotus.

Purple Lotus

A pair of hand-embroidered boots.

Post Author: Carrie Kellenberger

I'm a chronically ill Canadian expat who has been living abroad in Asia since 2003. I moved from China to Taiwan in 2006. My husband and I have owned our own business in Taiwan since 2012. In addition to my own work, I've been writing professionally about Asia, travel and health advocacy since 2007, providing regular content to several publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. Follow Carrie on on Twitter @globetrotteri or on Instagram at

2 thoughts on “Suffering For Beauty: The Shoes That Bind


    (April 29, 2011 - 3:24 pm)

    Actually the picture with the naked foot of a woman is not too good example. They had their toes broken (all but the big toe) and folded under the soles of the feet, so that the feet would be tiny AND narrow. By the time the feet healed, the toes were flattened against the sole. If you search “bound feet” on google – images, you’ll understand exactly what is was all about.


    (October 1, 2011 - 3:14 am)

    Croko – My guess is that the photo at the top of this article is of a woman whose feet were first bound, then “unbound” in childhood. After the practice of footbinding was outlawed in China (both times!), officials went around the country demanding that girls who’d had their feet bound have the process undone. The sort of half-deformity of the foot in this particular photo is probably the result of binding that was “undone” somewhere in the earlier stages of the process. The photo is copyrighted 2005, which would mean its subject could have been a small girl in 1949, when the second wave of “unbindings” occurred.

    Again, just a guess, but an educated one.

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