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Footprints in the sand of a beach.


Footprints in the sand of a beach.

Footprints are the impressions or images left behind by a person walking. Hoofprints and pawprints are those left by animals with hooves or paws rather than feet, while "shoeprints" is the specific term for prints made by shoes. They may either be indentations in the ground or something placed onto the surface that was stuck to the bottom of the foot. A "trackway" is set of footprints in soft earth left by a life-form; animal tracks are the footprints, hoofprints, or pawprints of an animal.

Footprints can be followed when tracking during a hunt or can provide evidence of activities.

Some footprints remain unexplained, with several famous stories from mythology and legend. Others have provided evidence of prehistoric life and behaviours.

Footprints in detective work

The print left behind at a crime scene can give vital evidence to the perpetrator of the crime. Shoes have different prints based on the sole design and the wear that it has received this can help to identify suspects.Photographs or castings of footprints can be taken to preserve the finding. Analysis of footprints and shoeprints is a specialist part of forensic science.

Some detective work is relatively immediate, with criminals being tracked by the footprints they left in the snow leading from the crime scene to their home or hiding place. This is usually reported as a humorous story in news publications.

Ancient footprints

Footprints have been preserved as fossils and provide evidence of prehistoric life. Known as "ichnites", these trace fossils can give clues to the behaviour of specific species of dinosaur. The study of such fossils is known as ichnology and species known only by such evidence are known as ichnospecies. The Grallator is one example of a genus that has left no fossils other than ichnites.

The finding of footprints in the limestone beds of the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas show what some people have interpreted as human footprints alongside those of dinosaurs. This sparked the man track controversy, believed by some Creationists to show that humans and dinosaurs coexisted.

Other footprint findings

Footprints in myth and legend

One legend states that these impressions, kept in the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, are the footprints of Jesus.


One legend states that these impressions, kept in the Church of Domine Quo Vadis, are the footprints of Jesus.

The appearance of footprints, or marks interpreted as footprints, have led to numerous myths and legends. Some locations use such imprints as tourist attractions.

Examples of footprints in myth and legend include:

Footprints in popular culture

Jack Nicholson's foot and handprints outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Jack Nicholson's foot and handprints outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

The imagery of footprints has been used in many areas of popular culture. Several poems and songs have been written about them, with the religious poem Footprints being one of the best known.

Prints or impressions of a child's feet can be kept as a memento by parents. Usually this is done using paint. The impressions of celebrity's feet, usually in concrete, may be kept in a collection such as that outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Footprints can be seen in some films when not intended, becoming a goof. When filming scenes in snow, sand or other easily-markable ground it is easy for the signs of previous takes or of crew movement to make it through to the finished film, such as in Touching the Void and Casino. Alternatively, the wrong type of footprints might appear, such as bootprints instead of hoofprints as in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

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