The Symbolism of Toes

feet and flower main

Toes are important for walking, balance, and having fun. Toes also symbolize different things. Toes can symbolize childhood, sex and sensuality, and dancing. Toes can also symbolize being practical, following the rules, and testing the waters. Toes also symbolize bad things, both minor (stubbing toes) and much more serious (morgue toe tags).   

Toes, like fingers, are a basic part of human anatomy.  “Ten fingers, ten toes” is a way of saying you are normal.  Toes are not only important parts of your anatomy, but can be symbols too.  

Austin (my nephew) finds his feet

Toes and Childhood

Being a baby means learning about all the wondrous things in the world.  

A basic part of this is learning about their bodies, including their feet and toes.  Toes always retain some of that childish fun and wonder.  After all, part of growing up is needing to cover up your feet. Babies also get away with trying to put toes in their mouths.

A child’s enjoyment of toes is also shown by the old “little piggy” games, with each toe being a “piggie.”  Children also are more naive about things.  They think “this piggy went to the market” is about Peppa Pig getting some groceries or something.   

Growing Up: Toes as Sexy

Toes, as a part of our body that is exposed, can also symbolize more adult things.  

The sensual and sexual symbolism potential of toes is shown by the desire to decorate them with nail polish or rings.  Pedicures also make sure toes are nice and attractive.

Sometimes, exposing toes is seen as not meaning much at all.  This is especially the case when people usually go barefoot.  Other times, when feet and toes are usually covered, toes symbolize an intimate part of our bodies.  Normally private, exposure of toes can be very sensual.  

Toes as Symbols of People 

Toes can symbolize different types of people and things they do.

Toes can be young, old, worn, dirty, and any number of shapes, colors, and sizes.  Each toe here can symbolize a different type of person.  Yes.  Just a toe can stand-in for the whole person.

For instance, ballet dancers spend a lot of time on their toes.  “Toe picks” also show up in ice skating.  As the guy in the film Cutting Edge found out.   

Some argue toe size can even tell us about a person’s personality.  I’m not sure about that.  My toes have no personality at all.  Do I just have boring toes?  Does that make me boring?!

International Toes? 

By one count, there are Greek, Roman, Celtic, German, and Egyptian varieties of toes, each based on different toe lengths.  Each type of toe can symbolize a different ethnic group.  

There is some dispute about this, however, and at least some of this might be a result of different ideas of beauty.  A Greek statue, for instance, might have a certain type of toe without all Greeks having said toe.  

Still, toes might symbolize nationality too.  

Toes Can Symbolize Being Practical 

The chief mate … marked a line on the deck, brought the two boys up to it, making them “toe the mark.” 

– Richard H. Dana, Two Years Before the Mast 

Different toe-related sayings symbolize the connection toes have with being practical, on the ball, or putting in extra effort.  “Toe the line” means to follow the rules.  The saying arises from loyally staying in line, such as in the military for roll call or inspection.  

A person can be told to be “on your toes,” or on guard for possible problems.  “Tiptoe,” walking on the tip of your toes, also being extra careful or quiet.  En pointe, or on the point of your toes, is a graceful ballet move.  It also is a lot of work; all your weight is on your toes.   

The same general idea arises with the saying “toe in the water.”  A person here carefully “tests the waters” a little bit, literally, with their toes.   

Toes and Bad Things

Stubbing your toe can hurt.  But, it also can symbolize a problem or injury that is mild.  

Toes, however, also at times symbolize something much more severe.  I am thinking here of tags on toes in a morgue.  Toes are the only thing exposed and the toe tag is a symbol of death.  

Toes, like other exposed at-risk parts of the body like lips and fingers, are a symbol of human frailty.  This is a basic reason why early humans soon found it useful to wear footwear.  

And, toes can be a sign of life and being okay. “Wiggle your toes” is one way to show you are awake and not paralyzed.  Numb toes can also be a sign of diabetes and other ailments.  

Open Toe Shoes 

There is nothing wrong with a little peep toe. A small one. If we can see too many toes, it may start to feel like you’re wearing flip-flops.

Dos and Don’ts About Wearing Heels in the Office

Clothing can highlight different body parts.  We often think about this when deciding what outfit to wear.  This includes when choosing footwear that emphasize your toes.  

Showing some toe can symbolize a variety of things.  Flip flops send a message you are laid back, casual, practical, and having fun.  Others find them weird, too revealing, or some other bad vibe.  

An open-toe shoe can be more formal.  But, you are still showing your toes here.  It also symbolizes some sensuality and sex appeal, especially if you are wearing some red toe polish.  


I admit to not being that excited about my toes, but do appreciate they have a lot of symbolic meaning.  Makes them less boring.  I am not a big fan of flip flops though.

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