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How to Get Ready for the Foot Tattoo Pain Train

I have lots of experience taking care of my tattoos—first to heal them and then to keep them looking good.

Foot Tattoos Hurt, But You Can Prepare

A foot tattoo? Are you serious? Do you really want to do this? Ask anyone who has one what it felt like, and I bet they're not smiling. Getting your foot tattooed is insanely painful, and a complete pain in the you-know-what to heal. But do they look awesome? Hells ya! So, if you're crazy enough to go for that foot tattoo anyway, keep reading to get yourself prepared and peep a few cool design ideas.

5 Things to Consider Before Your Foot Tattoo

  1. Size
  2. Placement
  3. Design
  4. Healing
  5. Aftercare
Most awesome anchor foot tatt

Most awesome anchor foot tatt

1. Make Sure Your Tattoo Is Small

Start small. Let me say that again so you really get it: Start small. Don't be a hero or a fool, choosing a foot tattoo design that covers the entire top of your foot will just lead to tears and an unfinished tattoo. The cardinal rule in tattooing is "you can always build." So pick something smallish that works on it's own, but can be added to if you need another dose of searing foot pain.

This lovely ladybug is a good size to start with if you're not sure how you'll react to the pain of having your foot tattooed.

This lovely ladybug is a good size to start with if you're not sure how you'll react to the pain of having your foot tattooed.

My sad off center swirl

My sad off center swirl

2. Be Careful With Placement

Foot tattoo placement is so important, so check and double-check before putting needle to skin. Speaking as someone who has a slightly off-center weird blue swirl on my left foot, I can't stress this enough. Although I wouldn't recommend putting something on the center of your foot to start with, if you do, be sure to have the design put on your foot as you are standing on it. I failed to to this with my blue swirl, so it looks centered when there is no pressure on my foot, but way off to the left when I stand. Trust me, how it looks when you are standing matters most.

Another consideration for your tattoo placement is your footwear. If you wear heels or open-topped shoes often it might be a good idea to marker on a rough sketch of your tattoo and try you favorite shoes on. Will you be able to see all of the design, or only half of it? Will that look weird or distracting?

The placement of this butterfly tattoo is perfect

The placement of this butterfly tattoo is perfect

3. Choose a Design That Goes With Everything

Look down at your foot, it's probably pretty ugly, right? Or, at the very least, boring-looking. Well, get ready to jazz it up, because a foot tattoo will do just that. But take some time to seriously consider the design, because in the summer you will be seeing that thing all the time. In a way it's like picking a pair of socks or shoes for life, so make sure you like it a lot and that it goes with everything.

Although the Egyptian eye of Oris or a cute dolphin seem like fun ideas now, how will they look at that wedding you have to go to in a month? I'm not saying don't go for your heart's desire and get Tweety bird sucking a lolly pop on your foot, but try to think about your life, who you are and what would fit in with it—or forever wear socks and cowboy boots to hide your shame.

Simple, swirly, perfection

Simple, swirly, perfection

4. Have a Plan for Healing

Foot tattoos are an absolute nightmare to heal and require some serious planning beforehand. Timing is everything. You need to find yourself a good three days in your schedule when you can go without socks and shoes. So winter is out unless you are prepared to be housebound for a while. And I know everything in you will be begging you to sit in a lovely warm bathtub and give your trotters a soak, but do not soak your feet. This will royally screw up your tattoo, leaching some of the color out and maybe even causing your lines to bleed. Water and tatts don't mix. This should be a no brainer, but it bears repeating.

If at all possible, plan to be able to put your foot up and limit your mobility for the first day, possibly two, after you're inked. You want to limit the stretching of the skin where the tattoo's located, so the less you move around, the better. By day three, you should be able to rock some flip flops or ballet slippers, depending on what you have had done, and shuffle around. These puppies take a while to heal, so it might be a good idea to trick someone into piggy backing you around for a week.

Maybe the best foot tattoo I have ever seen

Maybe the best foot tattoo I have ever seen

5. Don't Forget Aftercare

Once your foot tattoo is all healed up, be sure to take proper care of your new inky loveliness. Sunscreen is a must when your tattoo is exposed if you have color, and avoid any footwear that rubs on it. Now get inking!

Gorgeous tattoo, but notice the redness and swelling. I bet this didn't tickle.

Gorgeous tattoo, but notice the redness and swelling. I bet this didn't tickle.

Comments

Frazer on January 15, 2019:

I have had two foot tattoos recently 1 I didn't feel at all but it was a simple mountain under my ankle on the heel and the other one a different design but in the same place the outlining hurt quite a bit more than my other tattoos but then i hardly felt the shading which was nice.

Debi on August 26, 2018:

Good size foot tattoo some parts didn’t hurt (the lining was not painful) but on top of my foot the detail work and shading was crazy painful. And I am no wimp. Worth it because it is beautiful and is sentimental to me but wouldn’t do it again! Wish I could post a picture of it.

Toxigal on July 29, 2018:

My very first tattoo was on my foot and I actually started laughing when the artist started thinking because I was expecting it to hurt way more than it actually did.

Just had the side of my heels (below the ankke) done today and it only hurt near the bottom

Scott on March 12, 2018:

Had my first foot tattoo done 2 weeks ago, Its my third overall. There was a lot of pain involved in the inking process, that I did not experience with my other 2. The foot is a very painful spot. However I have wanted one on my foot for many years, so I did make it through the process. Still healing though !!

Cheryl on June 11, 2017:

Just got a foot tattoo. It was the most painful of all 6 of my tattoos. I was screaming in pain and I have a high tolerance for pain. I have NEVER even winced getting my other tattoos. The good news is I didn't tap out and the tat is finished. O U C H

Angie on May 14, 2017:

Hi I got a tattoo on my foot just over a week ago...wow it was painful and my seventh tattoo by far the most painful and to add to that I got a slight infection by walking to much on it the following day but it's getting better now and I'm hoping it isn't ruined.

Anon on May 08, 2017:

So.. I got an ankle tattoo and I forgot I had an award banquet to go to on Wednesday night and we are suppose to be in full uniform including heels that I know will at least touch the bottom of my tattoo and by Wednesday it'll be the 5th day I've had it the thing is an hour and I have to go on stage at least a few times but only to walk across. Any recommendations on what to do? I will be wearing stockings so I was thinking a bandaid but I don't want to pull it off after

Meredith on March 13, 2017:

Just got both of my feet done on the 10th. My left wasn't as painful as my right, but my left was first and adrenaline and all... I actually got my forearm done after my feet, so I really was D-U-N by the end of the session. Went home, took excedrine, raised my feet. I've been rocking flippy floppies, no issues. After the first day and a half, my swelling has gone down with no redness. I'm cleaning my feet 3 times a day and using A&D on all 3. I took a 10 day vacation from work just so I could get them done. I love my new ink, I've wanted foot tattoos for a long time. So glad I finally did it. Big question: Did it hurt? OMFG YES! But my artist said I'm hardcore by getting both done and not moving a millimeter. Just make sure you stick what you really want down there. You don't want to look down and regret, that's a lot of pain for regretting.

ChellaGem on December 12, 2016:

I love tattoos! I have 5 and, they're absolutely addictive. I'm currently on vacation for a week and, this wed I'm getting 2;one which just so happens to be on my foot yikes lol. I'm nervous but excited and your hub was so helpful. I have a question what do you think about Ugg boots after a foot tat?

jessigirl✌ on August 21, 2016:

My first tattoo was a foot tattoo! It hurt so bad. Plus I did it on myself (after much practice of course

Joyce on July 28, 2016:

Just had a cover up on my foot it's large covering all the top of my foot and ankle... Yep it's sore and have to go back to have colour put in. But it WILL be worth it..no pain no gain... Or so they say lol

Katie on May 03, 2016:

I want one on my foot and it will be my 1st tattoo when u grow does your tatto stretch and look daft and out of place x

Shannon Davis 517 on March 16, 2016:

This article is spot on! If I'd read it before today I probably wouldn't have gotten my tat today. It hurt like hell! But it's pretty!

franki on March 13, 2016:

I just got a cover up done on my foot and... ohmygod... I never AGAIN want to experience that pain.. my whole left foot is a big red rose! And.. in excruciating pain.

Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on October 14, 2015:

Wow, you must have an incredible pain threshold Penny!

Penny on October 13, 2015:

Just got my foot down in Ireland @ Miami Ink shop. It was a piece of cake.. Ready to do other foot

Leah R. on December 28, 2014:

I got my very first tattoo today on my foot, im 17. It covers my entire foot with a bit of shading. The pain on a scale from 1-10 was a 7. It's not an excrutiating pain and I was definitely able to sit through the entire hour and a half without problems. I love my tattoo and if you're really in love with the idea of a foot tattoo, don't let the pain stop you!

Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on October 06, 2014:

If you survived your ribs being done, the foot should be no problem. Go for it and thanks for reading and commenting.

pinupBaby on October 05, 2014:

I am worried to get a tattoo on my foot. I heard a lot of comments on how they hurt really bad. I keep telling myself if I'm able to get a huge piece on my ribs I can get one on my foot. Reading this really helped so thank you. Wish me good luck ^_^

Mariska on September 15, 2014:

Had my tattoo done 3 days ago, pain was not that bad for me. I hear people cringe and have trouble controlling their reflexes, I never felt this way.

I was relaxed, I didn't think it was a nice feeling, but not the way most people seem to experience. I'm probably lucky in this I guess, but I had one on my stomach, just below my ribs and that one WAS bad.

Foot I'd do again any time. No swelling at all, no afterpain, except a little sensitive when applying the cream, but nothing more. I'm glad I didn't suffer the way many of you have done, wow!

kris on September 04, 2014:

My first and only tattoo (for now) as on my foot. It didn't hurt as much as I thought it would. Granted I've been told I have a high pain tolerence, I think it matters how intricate the tat is. I'm addicted to tats now and I want more.(I've got 3 on my list so far) I can't wait to get the money I need for more!

frankieb2302 on August 04, 2014:

i wish i had read this before i had mine lol i had my done yesterday a gorgeous pink rose and flying robin (a bit impromotu at a tattoo convention) it cover the whole top of my left foot, wasn't as bad as i thought having it done but my god...today its swelled up like a mother crusher and with two under 5's im struggling. its stunning though and had loads of comments on it so no pain no gain i guess

goingon17 on July 15, 2014:

I have to say...I goty left foot done 5 years ago...large piece with a lot of shading...from my toes all the way around my ankle bone. I remember it hurting but I just got my right one done yesterday...a little smaller than the other one but HOLY HELL. I almost chewed my finger right off, ripped the couch from gripping it so hard and almost thought about stopping...I have 16 tats and never once thought about stopping. Today, the day after, I feel crippled...I'm hobbling around limping and whining and it is swollen like crazy. Gorgeous though...100% worth it. But glad I ran out of feet to torture.

booneybig1 on May 12, 2014:

My first tat was on my foot. The whole top is my brother's dog tags, and the chain wraps to hit both ankle bones..the pain, extreme..but EVERYONE flips over it. So now we are 1/3 of the way through a huge back piece that cover my blade and wraps over the shoulder and collarbone. 2 more sessions to perfection!!!

Ao on October 20, 2013:

Not insanely painful, just painful. My back hurt much worse.

Anon on August 20, 2013:

I got my first ink on the arch and top of my foot it's a big piece with colour and loads of shading. It took 2 hours to complete and I only just managed it in one sitting thank god. Never get first ink on a foot it will put u off getting more ink

kellyanne828 on February 12, 2013:

Great hub! I have a flower tattoo on my foot. They hurt like crazy, but the pain shouldn't stop someone from getting it done. Definitely worth it in my opinion!

Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on December 05, 2012:

Thanks for reading and posting Elle. I love your attitude, pain or not, if you want it done, go for it!

Elle on December 05, 2012:

I'm planning on getting my first tattoo, and I want it on my foot. Pain doesn't worry me -- my view is, if you can't/don't want to handle the pain, you shouldn't get the mod!

Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on October 07, 2012:

Tattoo Kitty, thanks for reading and commenting. Ribs! You are one brave lady. Although I have some extra meat on my ribs, I'm not inking that area just yet. Good luck!

TattooKitty from Hawaii on October 07, 2012:

I absolutely LOVE my Pokémon foot tattoos...but, you're right, they weren't my favorite tattoos to endure. Still, well worth the pain. Next stop? Ribs, baby!!!

Voted up, useful, & awesome!

Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on October 02, 2012:

Thanks for reading and commenting teaches. Tattoos aren't for everyone and the pain certainly is a deterrent for many. But if there is a design you find meaningful and you choose a discrete spot you might not regret getting one.

Dianna Mendez on October 02, 2012:

I am not a big fan of of tattoos for myself, but I think the lady bug and swirlys are very pretty. Maybe if it wasn't painful and I wouldn't look back and regret the decision?

peachpower from Florida on October 02, 2012:

Haha!! Thanks for the virtual high five on the name, and I hear you loud and clear on the long sleeves. :)

Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on October 02, 2012:

Peachpower, first of all love the name, super cute, secondly I totally appreciate how addictive they can be. I was only going to get one...let's just say thank goodness for long sleeves.

peachpower from Florida on October 02, 2012:

Tattoos are sooooo addicting. I'm not even sure HOW, and I'm certainly not sure WHY, but I know that I got my first one at 18 and never looked back. I only have 6, but I want more. In my profession, though, they must be hidden... It might be 2012, but people aren't really keen on seeing nurses with ink. Sigh. Loved your Hub!!

Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on October 01, 2012:

Thanks for reading and commenting tamron, and yes it is painful, but worth it if you like tattoos.

tamron on October 01, 2012:

I never thought of getting a tattoo on my foot but my girlfriend got one on her foot. It looked painful!

Catherine Taylor (author) from Canada on October 01, 2012:

Oh bb, you're braver then you think. What about a giant heart with HP inside of it? As always thanks for being one of the first to read and comment.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 01, 2012:

I can tell you without a doubt you are braver than I am. No way am I doing this; I cringe when I see someone else doing it, so no way.

However, this is a great hub for preparing others for the experience, so nice job my brave friend. :)

bill