Sexing white 2D footprints using convolutional neural networks

Marcin Budka, Matthew Bennett, Sally Reynolds, Shelby Barefoot, Sarah Reel, Selina Reidy, Jeremy Walker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Footprints are left, or obtained, in a variety of scenarios from crime scenes to anthropological investigations. Determining the sex of a footprint can be useful in screening such impressions and attempts have been made to do so using single or multi landmark distances, shape analyses and via the density of friction ridges. Here we explore the relative importance of different components in sexing two-dimensional foot impressions namely, size, shape and texture. We use a machine learning approach and compare this to more traditional methods of discrimination. Two datasets are used, a pilot data set collected from students at Bournemouth University (N = 196) and a larger data set collected by podiatrists at Sheffield NHS Teaching Hospital (N = 2677). Our convolutional neural network can sex a footprint with accuracy of around 90% on a test set of N = 267 footprint images using all image components, which is better than an expert can achieve. However, the quality of the impressions impacts on this success rate, but the results are promising and in time it may be possible to create an automated screening algorithm in which practitioners of whatever sort (medical or forensic) can obtain a first order sexing of a two-dimensional footprint.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0255630
Number of pages15
JournalPLoS One
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2021


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