Foot roasting

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Foot roasting is a method of torture used since ancient times. The torture takes advantage of the extreme sensitivity of the sole of the foot to heat.

The Romans immobilized the prisoner and pressed red-hot iron plates to the soles of his feet. The Spanish Inquisition bound the prisoner face-upward to the rack with his bare feet secured in a stocks. The soles of the feet were basted with lard or oil and slowly barbecued over a brazier of burning coals. A screen could be interposed between the feet and the coals to modulate the exposure, while a bellows controlled the intensity of the flame. Variants included placing slivers of hot coals between the toes, or suspending the prisoner head-downward and placing hot coals directly on the soles. The destruction of the Order of the Knights Templars is credited largely to these tortures, which were of sufficient cruelty literally to drive their sufferers insane, although the Templars were also tortured by having the nails slowly torn from their fingers and toes.

Foot roasting remains a popular technique of torture to this day. During the Cold War, KGB torturers made use of metal clothes irons heated red-hot and applied directly to the naked soles or explored the delicate webbing between the prisoner's toes using either a soldering iron or an electric wood-burning pencil.

A form of torture called "star kicking" supposedly began with Countess Elizabeth Báthory, who would place oiled bits of paper or string between the prisoner's toes and light the material on fire. More recently, five inmates in an Idaho jail enjoyed hour after hour torturing a young teenage boy in their cell by winding toilet paper around and between his toes and setting it on fire, muffling his screams and hiding their activities when patrolling deputies walked past.