The unsuspecting heroes run into a huge crater in the ground and take it for a natural formation... until the disturbing realization dawns that this is actually merely the footprint of something really big. For the benefit of the audience, this moment usually comes in the form of a Reveal Shot or Flyaway Shot through which one gets a better look at the colossal size.
A common way of heralding the presence of a giant monster — whether it's a Kaiju, a gigantic ape, a giant man or Giant Woman, or an Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever. The discovery of the footprint crater builds suspense for a future encounter with a monster of truly epic proportions.
Alternatively, on some occasions the footprint might be old news, and whatever left it long gone, but even then the sheer magnitude and Spectacle of the print can still be a source of awe and mystery in the setting. The idea of human Precursors who were once many times the size of modern humans features in a number of real-world myths and religions.
Explorers of the Isle of Giant Horrors are prone to finding one of these. One step removed from That's No Moon, where what seems to be a natural landmark turns out to be the creature itself, or something else, something dangerous. Compare Giant Foot of Stomping and Trampled Underfoot, where we actually get to see the monster making an impression on the characters.
- The first episode of One-Punch Man has Saitama shopping when an enormous crash shakes the supermarket. When he walks out to investigate, he sees an enormous hole which is revealed in an overhead shot to be a giant human footprint.
- In SD Gundam Force episode "Riceballs and the Garden of Wisdom", the Gundamusai arrives at the place where the Garden of Wisdom is supposed to be. There are giant indentations in the landscape, which Captain compares to giant footprints. Princess Relenote reveals that they are footprints. It's never explained what made the footprints, however, not even in the Zako Zako Hour.
- The Ur-Example of the trope is this◊ MAD Magazine cover from 1952, which since then has been referenced several times in various media.
- In Uncle Scrooge issue #1 "Gigabeagle: King Of The Robot Robbers", Louie falls into a large hole and he and his brothers wonder about the weird shape of it. A few panels later they see everything from a ridge and discover that the hole was one of many giant footprints left by Gigabeagle◊.
- In the DC One Million tie-in for Young Justice, Impulse, Superboy, and Robin all argue about which of their predecessors was the best hero, with Superboy and Robin giving blatantly false accounts of their predecessors' involvement in The Death of Superman and Zero Hour: Crisis in Time!. Unable to match these feats, Impulse instead tells the story of how his predecessor fought a giant "Millennium Chicken". Robin and Superboy declare that the story is obviously fake, but the last panel reveals that they're all sitting in a very large chicken footprint.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami: In "Back to the Iceberg", after a giant dragon has attacked the dungeon:
Her armoured boots slipped on wet ice and almost sent her stumbling into an oddly-shaped pool of ice water.
"That's one strange puddle," Jered commented as he peered into depression. "It almost looks like a four-fingered hand."
"Not a hand." Cathy said, paling as she stepped over one of the cracks extending outward from the hole. "That's a footprint."
"What? That would mean that the owner's toes are longer than you are!"
- Fun and Fancy Free: In "Mickey and the Beanstalk", as Mickey, Donald and Goofy make their way to Willy the Giant's castle, Goofy trips into one of his footprints while an oblivious Donald walks over him. Narrator Edgar Bergen and friends take note of this.
Bergen: Perhaps mortal man has never before set foot on this strange land.
(Goofy falls into the footprint)
Charlie: Well, somebody did.
Mortimer: Oh, gosh! Who made them?
Charlie: Well, it wasn't Cinderella.
- The Land Before Time: Littlefoot and his friends fall asleep in what turns out to be one of Sharptooth's footprints. This is made clear in the morning when Sharptooth appears and goes after the young dinos, placing his foot right on the print.
- In Godzilla films, the mere sighting of a footprint-shaped crater by itself (i.e before Godzilla itself appears) is played for suspense and horror, especially for the in-universe characters.
- In the American Godzilla, the footprint is so large and deep that at first the protagonist doesn't even realize that he's standing in the footprint.
- In the 1976 remake of King Kong, one character falls into a large hole in the ground, which turns out to be a giant ape's footprint.
- In Rod Allbright Alien Adventures, Rod and his tagalong cousin find a new, oddly shaped "crater" in a field near his house. Rod, who's aware that aliens exist and visit Earth sometimes, finally realizes what it is, and is still trying to convince his cousin that they're in danger when they're both kidnapped by a very Large and in Charge villain from Dimension X.
- In Animorphs during the dinosaurs special where The Team is transported back in time, the gang finds themselves on an island where a lot of trees have been knocked over. Jake also slips into a large hole. Most of the gang assumes the trees were knocked over by a tornado, only for Ax to ask if a tornado had feet. When they try to explain to him what a tornado is, Ax points out that whatever knocked the trees over had feet and that Jake was in one of its footprints.
- Inverted in Earth Children Are Weird, which is a parody book of The X-Files with the protagonists as children. Young Mulder thinks a deep hole in the ground is a giant footprint, but Young Scully reveals that it's just a hole people are digging to build a swimming pool.
- Dresden Files: Peace Talks: From the end of the excerpt:
I turned and studied it as the sun began to come up in earnest and I could finally see clearly.
I’d been standing in a humanoid footprint.
It was well over three feet long.
Once I looked, I saw that there was a line of them, with several yards stretching between each one and the next. The line led toward the water. The rising lakeshore breeze was already beginning to blur the footprints’ outlines.
- Supernatural episode "The Bad Place" ends with the protagonists jumping into a hole they find in the forest and wonder what this is. Then the Drone of Dread sets in and the camera does a Flyaway Shot to reveal that they are standing in a huge footprint. The owner of the print, a giant King-Kong-type monster, is only revealed in the next episode.
- The Mandalorian has been hired to protect a village, and is using his helmet sensors to track the Fluorescent Footprints of the raiders when he comes across the giant footprint of an Imperial AT-ST. He's not happy given that the villagers neglected to inform him the raiders had such firepower at their disposal.
- Red Dwarf: This trope is reversed in the episode "Thanks for the Memory" when the crew find what they think is a series of giant footprints, but it turns out to be marks in the spacedust where someone had kept on dropping a gravestone they were carrying which just left footprint shaped marks.
- In EarthBound (1994), the first Sanctuary location is Giant Step, so named for the single enormous humanoid footprint left in the top of the mountain. The art style of the game makes it a little uncertain how big the footprint actually is, and it's the only one of its kind. Its presence is never explained, simply left as a Riddle for the Ages.
- In Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire, the reborn god of light, Eothas, possesses a colossal statue and begins a trek across the surface and beneath the seas of Eora. The player follows in Eothas' wake as he leaves a trail of destruction behind him, including colossal footprints many feet deep and big enough to leave permanent tracks on the world map.
- In Bowser's Fury, upon landing in Lake Lapcat, Mario is immediately treated to the sight of Fury Bowser's huge footprints on Fur Step Island.
- Whateley Universe: Referenced in Dorms of Our Lives, Season 4, part 2:
As for Hikaru Myoujin... ho-lee crap. Where most people had a social media footprint, hers was like that one movie with the giant monster where the scientists didn't even realize they were standing in the middle of the print until they zoomed out.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender episode "The Tales of Ba Sing Se" ends with Momo squatting in a depression which turns out to be one of Appa's footprints on zoom out (though Momo already knew that).
- In Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "PDA", after Shake "claims" he lost his PDA in the Adirondack Mountains, the trio travel over there to find large alien footprints in the forest. Frylock decides they should investigate before realizing Shake and Meatwad high-tailed it out of there just before he's subjected to a Giant Foot of Stomping.
- DuckTales (2017): In the episode "The Lost Cargo of Kit Cloudkicker", Huey finds giant, three-hooved footprints and wonders what kind of animal could have made them... promptly before getting attacked by the beast that made the footprints, Rhinokey.
- Parodied in the intro for Gravity Falls, with Dipper excitedly pointing out a footprint about half as long as he is to his sister and great uncle, only for the shot to pan out and show the three of them all standing inside another footprint about a hundred times the size.
- Early in The Scooby-Doo Show episode "The Fiesta Host Is an Aztec Ghost", the Mystery Machine falls into what Velma thinks is a giant chuckhole. Shaggy points out that the chuckhole is actually a giant footprint, but Fred tells him that nobody is tall enough to make a footprint that size.