Feet are tricky creatures to tattoo. Sure it looks cute when you get a small piece tucked behind your ankle bone or that writing along your instep... or that additional piece that extends from your ankle, across the top of your foot and snakes down to your toes.
Your artist warns you that without proper care it's going to fade. But tattoos are permanent! Right?
Sure they are. Once they're healed. Until then they're very much susceptible to fading and falling out if they're abused in any way. Shoes, socks, sandals, anything that rubs on it can cause healing tissue to wear away quickly taking pigment with it and *poof* it's fading before it's even fully healed. It has to be healed beneath the skin first. Only then is it permanent... and even then, you still have to take care of it to ensure it lasts you many years. Feet, being the lowest of extremities, tend to take the longest to heal. On some people the healing process can take three to four weeks, if not more, to be healed to the point where you wouldn't have to worry as much about shoes and socks. That said, people in frostier climates may do better to wait for late spring or early autumn so that sun and swimming aren't prohibiting your fun and snow isn't giving you frostbite. ;)
If you inspect your own foot you'll see that
1. the skin tissue changes texture here where it transitions from the top of the foot, to the bottom of the foot. Sure, it's still the side of your foot, but be aware, anything put below this line WILL fade- sometimes to the point of nonexistence. And it will do so before it's even healed. This skin replenishes so quickly here that the cells don't have time to hang on to the ink before the basic friction of flexing and walking wears it away. This tissue can also be rather calloused/thick, which makes it more difficult for the ink to hang on.
The Achilles tendon 2. also tends to build up calloused tissue over time due to rubbing on the inside of the back of your shoe. This rough skin can also have a difficult time holding on to ink due to any friction... and sometimes even without friction or irritation.
An honorable mention goes to 3. as this area takes a lot of wear as well due to footwear grasping it rather firmly to keep the shoe in place. Particularly running shoes or boots.
I'm not saying all this because you shouldn't put a tattoo where you really, really want one. Be educated, have realistic expectations, know that a lot of fading can occur even on the top of the foot, especially if you're wearing shoes, socks or sandals that rub anywhere on the tattooed area. Try to baby it while it's healing- as much as is possible. Wear appropriate footwear that keeps the area exposed until the tattoo is totally healed (no more scabbing or peeling). Sometimes you'll get a week into healing a foot tattoo and it will look healed.... it's not. Better safe than sorry. There are a LOT of tattoo artists out there who refuse to guarantee anything on the feet. Speak to your artist if this is a concern of yours.
Also, KEEP YOUR FEET CLEAN! A tattoo is still an open wound and your feet are the closest to the floor.
On top of your regular aftercare, try to:
-Avoid pet hair, dander and/or saliva.
-Avoid chemical floor cleaners and other cleaning products while your floors are drying.
-Avoid puddles, camping and the beach. The beach is dirty! (I always thought this was obvious, but...)
-Oh, and no pedicures until you're totally healed... but it'll be worth it. :)
Ladies: When you go to get tattooed, take along the shoes you plan on wearing during healing. This can help your artist to place the tattoo and ensure that nothing will rub on it while it's healing. If you're planning for your tattoo to cover the top of your foot, try something that's shaped more like a ballet slipper... open on the top. For the sides, try a strappy sandal with straps that are aligned more towards the toe. Your tattoo will need to be placed away from that strap, otherwise it's barefoot for you- as much as is possible. For tattoos more towards the ankle/behind the ankle or over the achilles, something like a mule would work well.