IT might be said that the eyes are the windows to the soul.

But if you’re celebrity foot reader Jane Sheehan, the clues to a person’s emotional wellbeing and personality traits lie at the opposite end of the body: in the shapes of the toes and the lines of the soles.

Sheehan, a bestselling author who travels the world “reading” feet and running training courses in the art of solestry, believes you can tell everything from how rebellious, manipulative or insecure someone is from the length of their toes to the gaps between them.

She says she has even detected signs of depression from “purply-black toe pads” which signal that someone is “walking more slumped, so cutting off the blood supply to their toes”.

Sceptics may scoff, but Sheehan’s skills are so in demand she once found herself giving ad hoc lessons on a flight between the Hawaiian islands of Maui and Kauai.

“That’s wackiest place I’ve ever done a foot reading,” said Sheehan, whose two-day workshop in Glasgow on Wednesday and Thursday this week is almost sold out.

“Someone I’d met on the island of Maui saw me on the plane and said ‘oh, I couldn’t get to you the other day - can you read my feet now?’”

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Sheehan, who graduated with a degree in marketing and engineering, is more surprised than anyone by her career path.

She was working at an avionics engineering firm in the late 1990s - fully expecting to become an engineer - when a friend’s request of reflexology treatment for her birthday unexpectedly piqued her interest.

“The minute they started working on her feet, they were telling her all about her health and I’m thinking ‘that’s mad - how do they know that?’,”said Sheehan, who lives near the seaside town of Southport in Merseyside.

“Then, when it was my go, every time they touched my big toe I had tears streaming down my face. I had no control over it and it repeated on the other foot.

“When I left there I felt like I was in slow motion - I just had to know more.”

Reflexology is an alternative medical practice involving the application of pressure to specific points on the feet on the premise that this releases “blockages” in other areas of the body which are causing pain or illness.

Critics argue that there is no scientific evidence to back up the theory, but Sheehan said she was struck by the “huge emotional reactions” of patients when she practised on them as case studies during her own reflexology training.

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It led her to explore the theories of foot reading pioneer Imre Somogyi.

Sheehan said: “Imre had interviewed 5000 people about their toe shapes and personality, allocating each of the toes one of the ayurvedic five elements with the theory that if one of those elements is out of balance then it has a corresponding personality effect.

“I studied his toe alphabet and then I started using it on anyone and everyone who would let me and it got to the stage where I’d go to a party and I’d be given a foot before I was given a drink.”

What had started as a “bit of fun” quickly snowballed into a full-time occupation as demand grew.

“It went from being my party trick to my profession almost overnight, because someone asked me to give a talk about it and we had a queue of people in the break asking me where they could learn more, so I took their names and addresses, wrote a course on how to do it, and I’ve been doing that for the past 22 years.”

HeraldScotland: Jane SheehanJane Sheehan

When she isn’t running workshops from California to Australia, Sheehan has found herself giving personal foot reads to the likes of television presenter Fern Britton or at the home of Spandau Ballet star Martin Kemp after he organised a foot reading party for his wife.

More seriously, she also looks for signs of melanoma in nails - a rare form of skin cancer which killed Bob Marley, but is easy to spot and treat if detected early.

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Overall, though, she believes the main draw for clients is curiosity, fun, and the chance for fresh insight into themselves.

“Who doesn’t like hearing about themselves?,” said Sheehan.

“But the other benefit is that if I say something that you know, but you’ve been avoiding.

“If I hold a mirror up to you, you can either think ‘I’m okay with that’, or maybe it’s something you want to change.”

She added: “I feel that we’re born with the feet for our life purpose - the emotions and personality for our life purpose.

“One person’s stubborn is another person’s tenacious in the face of adversity, so I believe when we’re off track our personality is problematic; when we’re on track it’s a positive.

"Our feet are our guidance manual for life, if you like.”

A two-day seminar in foot reading theory and practical workshops will be held at the Theosophical Society, Glasgow on September 21-22. Tickets cost £170