TLC has always been a haven for unique, informative, and sometimes shocking content. With shows like Dr. Pimple Popper or 1000 Lb. Sisters the network always provides viewers with a glimpse into the extreme sides of life. Well, it also gives us a glimpse into the extremities of life. Literally. Like, feet.
If you watch TLC, you’ll know Dr. Brad Schaeffer, the stunningly handsome board certified foot surgeon on My Feet Are Killing Me. Dr. Brad, originally from Pennsylvania, is practicing in Manhattan these days. Dr. Brad, with four seasons down of My Feet Are Killing Me, a show that highlights the journeys of people that have “foot opportunities,” sat with us to discuss his journey as a doctor, his coming out (twice), his supportive ex-wife and family, his current partner of 10 years, and his faith and spirituality.
Be sure to check out episodes of My Feet Are Killing Me. Viewers be warned, if feet aren’t your thing, you might struggle to stomach it sometimes. That said, if you’ve ever watched a home makeover show, you know, the ones where you get the super satisfying reveal at the end, then you won’t be disappointed by the amazing results of Dr. Brad’s work.
You’re in high school, you’re getting ready to pursue college and med school, and you chose feet. Where did your passion start?
Brad Schaeffer: Growing up, I always had foot and ankle injuries, playing soccer and baseball. I was always getting taped up by the trainer and if I had an issue I’d see the podiatrist. I thought it was routine stuff that podiatrists did for a while, then our field moved into a lot of surgical things of interest. I think feet are awesome. I think they deserve a lot of love, and they’re so intricate and delicate. They’re our body’s foundations. Playing soccer and being athletic growing up, I relied on my feet because I was a runner. One of my main things was running. I was a little fast. So I was super passionate about taking care of my feet, my lower body, and it just kind of fell in my lap. I think a lot of people should know how amazing podiatry is and that feet need love too.
You were in The Titan Games. Where did your passion around fitness come from, and for our readers still reeling from the pandemic and how that impacted people’s health and wellness, how do we stay motivated?
BS: As far as The Titan Games is concerned, I wanted to prove myself on that show that I could compete with athletes that gave it their all — not just in life, but in sport. I was super determined as a kid to be the best version of myself. That’s not to say I never had doubt or worries or stresses, not everything came easy to me. I really had to work hard for everything that I did, and I think I did pretty well growing up.
I always had to scrap being a younger guy. I think my scrappiness, my determination, my hard work mentality really came from my family being very blue collar and hard nosed with a lot of things. I never really grew up with the word “quit.” Having a family that really pushed you hard, but not in negative ways, I’d say in very positive ways, made me push myself just as hard in scholastics and sport. That’s continued into my adult life. It’s a stress reliever. If you can be mentally and physically right, I think you can do a lot of things in this world. Mental illness is a huge problem, and whenever I’m stressed out, I try to channel that into something I can do that’s positive, usually that’s working out and getting outta my funk.
You came out publicly during last year’s Pride. Here we are a year later. Can you tell us more about what brought you to that point and how things changed over the past year for you?
BS: I was out 10 years ago. That was my struggle. That was the battle within myself because I’m 39 years old. I think I probably came out when I was like 28 or something like that. I was married to my wife at the time and she’s great. She’s one of my best friends to this day. That being said, it was dealing with ending a marriage to one of my best friends who I loved and adored, just in a different way. It meant not being that cookie cutter version of myself, which essentially was a straight acting Christian athlete that now turned into a doctor. I was in residency at that time and trying to do really everything that society placed me in, which were these certain boxes. Straight up, I placed myself in those boxes too, so it wasn’t really society, but society’s view of what is normal and best. I wanted to fit in. So I got married outta college to this girl and tried to fit her into my messed up boxes. I brought another human being into my messed up world and she didn’t deserve to be there and nor did I. It was figuring out how to break out of my box, hurt somebody that I love, and then tell my family. My family’s cool, but it’s a shock.
As far as me coming out a year ago during Pride, that was nothing considering what I dealt with 10 years ago. That was a walk in the park. I was very comfortable with myself and sexuality. I have a partner of 10 years. My ex-wife’s in a good place. She has two kids. So everything is settled on my end. I got a lot of positive feedback from our community. A lot of people that reached out see somebody different than what’s always portrayed on the news. I tell people this all the time, it’s not one way or another. If you had to draw a cartoon of a gay man, what would your cartoon be? If you had to draw a cartoon of an athlete, what would the cartoon look like? Everyone has a version of what they think someone is. And it’s messed up.
But me coming out was one of the things that a lot of people said “you don’t check all the boxes of a gay man.” I always respond, “well, what is your version of gay man?” I think in our culture we have to show different sides of who we are as people, and not everything needs to be so in your face and politicized.
How did coming out, be it 10 years ago or last year, impact your faith and spirituality?
BS: I grew up Methodist Christian. I wouldn’t say really conservative, because “conservative” can be switched in a variety of different ways, but grew up very Christian from my grandparents, all the way to my parents and myself. I went to a Christian university, Palm Beach Atlantic University. I played baseball there, which was awesome. But everything else was just geared obviously towards being the best Christian person you can be. That comes with it a lot of expectations and a lot of negative connotations too. People can say whatever they want to say, but it can still be messed up in a variety of different ways. That’s not just a stereotype, that legit is happening. As far as my faith is concerned right now, my belief system got pretty shook up during it. It is what it is, I’m cool with it, but I wasn’t cool with it for a very long time.
What can you share about your decision to come out publicly last year? What did it look like with your partner’s support? How did he feel?
BS: I felt like I was getting placed back into the boxes that I just broke out of. When you’re on Season 4+ of TLC’s My Feet Are Killing Me, people are starting to know you a little bit more. You’re doing a little more interviews. I wasn’t super famous or anything, but I was known a little bit, and still am. Now, everything on the Internet was straight. Is he married? Is he dating a doctor on the show? Literally everything. So everyone typecast me as just the straight Dr. Brad again.
I was like, “Man, I have a story to tell and I think that I don’t want to go back into the boxes of this.” And no one was telling me to stay in them. It’s just what everything was said about me. I was not hiding myself. Everything that I said to my patients, friends, everything was open and honest. I never said that I was straight, but that’s just how everything was getting scripted. I wanted to rewrite that at a time when I was still relevant.
My partner is my best friend too, still with him to this day, and he was cool if I did it or didn’t do it. He didn’t feel that I needed to do it. But I did. I feel like I can make a little bit of a change because I am a different version of what everybody else sees. Growing up, I would’ve liked to see an athletic guy, stable, and able to communicate his feelings in a different way. Maybe even Christian. Someone who would go up and talk about this in front of me while I was sitting listening as a young Christian at church or something. I would’ve loved to hear my story. I never really heard that. I saw athletes going up and ripping up baseball bats all in the name of Jesus. And it was cool watching that, but it was a masculine way to show Christianity. It was just weird.
In the spirit of no kink-shaming, for our readers who that have a thing for feet, what parts of a foot fetish should they be mindful of to practice self-safe sex, apart from keeping feet clean?
BS: It’s a good question and I’ll answer it as a doctor. You know, feet have different lovely attributes, traits, and they also have a lot of very disgusting things like fungus and bacteria. Depending on how much you love feet, just watch where you put feet. Fungus and bacteria in places that you don’t want it can be a little gross. So, from a doctor, watch where you put your feet.
I’ve heard it’s not always healthy to get pedicures because you can get infections. What advice do you have on how we can best routinely care for our feet?
BS: As far as our feet are concerned, they do need a lot of love and care and TLC, but when you get pedicures their tools aren’t always sterilized properly. You can get fungus from the instruments and footbeds that they place you in with the water and stuff. They’re not always cleaned properly. I’m not dogging pedicures. I think they’re fine in the right setting, just depends where you go. As far as the foot peels and stuff are concerned, they’re all good too. You just gotta watch because some bacteria on your feet is good. It’s essential. So you really just got to not overdo it with things and make sure you’re going to proper places that sterilize and clean their instruments and baths properly.
How will you be celebrating Pride?
BS: I’ll be doing a variety of different things. We have a quarter share in Fire Island, New York City has a big Pride obviously, so I’ll be bouncing around there. As far as our community’s concerned, I hope everyone just reflects and celebrates.
I feel that we have a long way to go. People say, “Why’d you come out now?” Well, it’s not just what I told you, I just think there is still a long way to go with things and I don’t wanna see us go backward. People need to wake up and realize that our fight is not over for inclusivity, love and respect. Just try to understand your doctor, your son, your neighbor, your parent, the trans community, just understand us and everything would be better. That’s what I’m trying to preach.