Remember when your parents wanted to keep the floors in the house looking nice and clean so they'd remind you to wipe your shoes off before you came in?
In this instance however, the focus is more on who or what made these footprints rather than why the floors are dirty. Because, let's face it, when a series of footprints suddenly appear in the form of the deep red color of blood or some other watery/dirty/mucky substance, it is... rather unsettling, to say the least.
It can be especially macabre when the traces are distinguishably done by bare feet in a place where nobody would go barefoot, or when you hear the accompanied sound of the footsteps ringing throughout the area, but you can't exactly make out who or what is lurking nearby until you turn around and come face to face with it.
If the person making the footprints is evil or something similar, the muck that is covering their legs and feet will make them look even more out of place and therefore creepier.
This trope is typically used to increase suspense. Therefore it happens in horror or drama themed works.
Contrast Fertile Feet, where a character's footprints are a sign of life instead of foreboding. where If the footprints appear to have been made by a werewolf or some other sort of beast then it's Human-to-Werewolf Footprints. Compare Detectives Follow Footprints.
- A version happens in the first the Garden of sinners movie with a puppy dog that walks by the main character tracking blood. We then see the body of someone who just jumped off a building and the resulting pool of blood.
- In the opening sequence of Higurashi: When They Cry, Rena walks barefoot on some broken glass and drips blood onto the floor.
- Elfen Lied: Lucy in the beginning of the first episode where she's naked and walks through the pools of blood of the people she slaughtered and in the second episode when she's fighting Bandou. In the tenth episode after she kills Kouta's father and sister, she's seen standing in a pool of their blood.
- This also occurs in Howl's Moving Castle, when Howl turns into his true form and leaves wet footprints across the floor, waking up Sophie.
- Done subtly on the first page of Watchmen when the red-head prophet-of-doom walks casually across the puddle of the Comedian's blood, trailing bloody footprints.
- Played for Laughs in Asterix in Switzerland. After falling in the river, Asterix and Obelix hide from the Romans in a hotel owned by a local sympathizer, but unfortunately end up tracking muddy footprints all over the place. The obsessively neat Swiss isn't happy about the prints, especially when he has to muck up the place even more by walking around in their muddy shoes to convince a Roman search party that he left the footprints himself after going for a stroll.
- One ''Mickey Mouse'' story had him investigate Fish Men attacking a cruise ship and robbing the passengers. He realizes it's a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax by the crew when he notices the footprint trail left by the monsters looks like they started and ended onboard instead of in the water.
- In the Super Mario Bros. comic "Magic Carpet Madness", King Toadstool was gardening when the phone rang. He went to answer it, resulting in this trope. When the Mario Bros saw the footprints, they started pretending that they were free dance lessons.
Princess Toadstool: Haven't you ever heard of a doormat!? Look at our beautiful carpet!
- The Ring did this with Samara after she came out of the television, in the form of water from an old well.
- Played entirely straight in The Last Samurai, when Tom Cruise walks in the Japanese house with his boots on, and he realizes when he sees his host cleaning the muddy footprints behind him that this just isn't done.
- In Constantine (2005), Lucifer appears as a well-dressed man, but his feet are bare and covered in muck. According to the filmmakers, this is because in order to walk upon the earth, he must first taint it — and indeed, the shot heralding him has the muck dripping from his feet to the ground before he reaches it.
- Played for laughs in Scary Movie 2. The characters find a trail of bright red footprints leading down the hallway, prompting one of the male characters to comment "Ew! Someone's on the rag!"
- This happens in the Fathers Day segment of Creepshow.
- In the 1942 film Cat People, there is a trail of muddy animal prints that turn into a human shoe prints.
- Cat's Eye: In "Quitters, Inc.", Dick checks the closet where thought someone was hiding the night before. The boots are gone, and he starts to think he had imagined it, then he notices muddy boot prints on the carpet leading away from the closet.
- Haunted Mansion (2023): The Mariner leaves watery footprints wherever he walks.
- In Parker, Leslie notices that her mother's dog is tracking bloody footprints across the kitchen floor. She has to clean them up without the cop she is talking to noticing.
- The Gravedancers: When Kira's body goes missing, Harris and the other follow a set of bloody bare footprints walking away from the room.
- At the end of Joker (2019), Arthur Fleck leaves a trail of red footprints on the Arkham Hospital hall floor, suggesting that he may have killed the psychotherapist that he was seeing.
- Subverted in Breakfast of Champions. When Kilgore Trout arrives in Midland City, he takes off his shoes and socks, rolls up his trouser legs and wades through the concrete trough of Sugar Creek. He intends to walk into the new Holiday Inn leaving muddy footprints on the front carpet (depicted in one of the author's illustrations) to make somebody outraged and to answer them with a bold artistic statement about "man's first printing press." However, his feet leave no marks on the carpet, having been tightly encased in a fast-drying clear plastic substance (whose molecular structure is shown in the following illustration) that the Barrytron plant, thanks to a Crooked Contractor, has been illegally discharging into Sugar Creek.
- One ghost in the Lockwood & Co. novels manifests as a trail of small, bloody footprints racing up a spiral stairway. They turn out to be the footprints of the murderer fleeing from his dying victim.
- The Saga Of Billy: Atella, goddess of Peace and War, has her boots perpetually dripping with blood.
- The Goodies. In the Kitten Kong episode the Comic Trio follow the huge paw prints of Tinkles the Kitten across London on their three-seater bicycle, and keep running into things because the giant purrball can just step over objects they can't.
- After Jean-Luc and Robert Picard have their fight in their family vineyard in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Family", Robert's wife, Marie, follows their muddy footprints through the house to find them drunk on the family wine in the parlor.
- Murder, She Wrote: In "Shear Madness", Jessica thinks she is alone in a rambling house during a storm. Hearing a noise, she heads upstairs and finds muddy footprints leading into one of the bedrooms.
- The Haunting Hour: In "Near Mint Condition", Mangler runs through some spilt food and Mark and Ted use its footprints to track it from the kitchen to their mother's scrapbooking room.
- Midsomer Murders: In "The Great and the Good", the murderer uses the schoolteacher's boots to plant muddy bootprints on her doorstep as part of a Gaslighting scheme to convince her that she might be the killer. Circumstances intervene to make the bootprints less effective than they might have been, but seeds of doubt are planted in her mind.
- In the First Encounter Assault Recon games, bloody footprints mean Alma's child version (this page's poster girl) is around.
- Silent Hill. Several of the games, if not every one of them. The first game and some of the others actually measure how far your trail of monster-blood footprint is. In Silent Hill 3, there are disembodied bloody footprints accompanied by the sounds of a crying young girl that lead you past a few obstacles and help you find hidden areas. No explanation is given for this.
- Scrying in Clive Barker's Undying will sometimes show bloody footprints, showing you how to get through some puzzles.
- Doom³ pulls off one scare by having bloody footprints appearing out of nowhere as something invisible walks away from you towards a locked door.
- You do this in Second Sight if you step in blood, and the Mooks freak out accordingly, particularly if you're in their line of sight but invisible.
- In Kuon, if your character walks through a pool of blood they will trail bloody footprints for a while afterwards.
- The Footprint Passages in Yume Nikki. This being a Surreal Horror game, there's no explanation, but it's still creepy.
- In Viscera Cleanup Detail one of the small annoyances is that stepping in a puddle of blood, dirty water, or slime will coat your shoes in the substance, leaving behind dirty footprints for a short while.
- This is a puzzle in Detention, where you have to pour a glow in the dark liquid into a puddle to follow ghostly footprints through a maze of doors.
- Exploited by Mortelli in Daughter for Dessert, who uses them to lure the protagonist into the alleyway behind the diner to question him about the break-in at his office.
- Kill Six Billion Demons: Unlike the dapper image he projects while in the dreamworld, the God-Emperor Incubus walks barefoot and tracks grimy water wherever he goes in real life. It appears to be some kind of side-effect of the Black Magic he uses to empower himself, as the grime appears around his feet even after being dunked in clean water during the Discordance and even after he's forced to regenerate himself back after having his skin and meat stripped off his bones.
- At the beginning of Exmortis 2 the player encounters an invisible being that reveals itself to you by treading across the floor with bloody feet.