On her article The History and Significance of Chinese foot binding, Emmelyn Mah stated that the process of foot binding generally begins when a daughter reaches the age of five to six, it was believed that at this age, one’s feet were matured, yet still pliable, and therefore, more easily bent for the binding, which was often done by the child’s mother. Before the binding, the child’s feet are soaked in a mixture of warm herbs and animal blood, which were said to soften the feet to facilitate easier binding.
Next, her toe-nails are clipped back as far as possible to prevent ingrowths and possible infections. To prepare the child for the next, most gruesome and painful step, her feet are massaged. Then, ultimately, her four smallest toes are broken and pressed into her sole, and the arch of her foot crushed, thus creating a crevice at the bottom of her foot from where the two broken halves are folded. This is all bound tightly together using strips of bandages that had been pre-soaked in the same mixture of herbs and blood.
As stated on http://www. csuchico. edu, generally when people are referring to foot binding, they are referring to the restructuring of the feet by the breaking of the arch and four smaller toes on each foot for the purpose of achieving small feet for females. Difficult to imagine, but it is the bending of the metatarsals after the four smaller toes have been bound into the plantars. It is somewhat like bending a corner of a paper so that it is tucked under. Then the paper is bent in half, shortening the size.
After the initial binding procedure, usually around the age of seven, the feet would remain tightly bound with long cloth strips until the feet were no longer growing. Idealistic feet for women were three inches in length, which earned the title of san tsun gin lian, or golden lotus or lily. The criteria for the perfect three-inch foot consisted of three features. The first was length, which ideally should be three inches. The second was the cleft between the heel and the sole, which was to be two to three inches deep. Thirdly, the feet should appear to be extensions of the leg, rather than stands for the body