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Foreign Bodies

What is a foreign body?

A foreign body is something that is in the skin or deeper tissues that should not be there, in the foot this is usually through standing on something barefoot. They can vary some deeply embedded and painful to small, superficial without symptoms.

What causes a foreign body?

A foreign body in the foot is simply caused by standing on something, usually this is barefoot but sometimes things can puncture through socks or footwear. Foreign bodies most commonly found in the feet are:

  • Glass
  • Splinters
  • Stones
  • Hair - particularly pet hairs
  • Sea urchin spines
  • Needles

Who gets foreign bodies in the feet?

Most often it is seen in those who spend time barefoot, such as dancers/performance artists, children and people who live near or spend time at beaches. Also barefoot runners are at particular risk of picking up foreign bodies.

What are the signs and symptoms of a foreign body in the foot?

Sudden pain, usually from walking barefoot. A feeling as if something is in the foot. A non-healing wound which does not seem to be improving.

How is a foreign body diagnosed?

Usually a podiatrist can diagnose a foreign body through the history and presentation of the concern, and examination through a magnifying lamp. On some occasions, if the foreign body is not easily removed or if it is too deep, it may be advisable to go for a scan to investigate the matter further.

Benefits of podiatry for a foreign body in the foot

On many occasions podiatrists can gently remove foreign bodies embedded within the feet. This will remove the object causing pain and allow the area to heal. Although, if the object is deeply embedded in the foot, sometimes it may be deemed necessary for an onward referral for imaging and surgical removal in a secondary care setting.

What would podiatry for a foreign body involve?

Podiatry for a foreign body will start with a full account of the history of the concern, including the events leading up to the pain, and a thorough medical and social history taking. If a foreign body is detected, the podiatrists will clean the area and attempt to remove the foreign body gently in a sterile environment and under a magnifying lamp. If the object is removed, the podiatrists will dress the underlying wound and you will be advised on how to care for the area going forward, you may be advised to return for a follow up to review the area. Sometimes if foreign bodies are particularly fragile or superficial not causing pain, it may be advised to offload the area with suitable padding and wait for nature to take its course and the body will push it out.


A foreign body is something which gets lodged in the soft tissues, it can happen anywhere on the body, but more commonly on the feet, particularly in children or among those who walk barefoot a lot. Many foreign bodies in the feet can be removed by a podiatrist, but those which are not easily removed or failing to improve, will need further investigation and treatment.

To arrange an assessment with one our podiatrists please email or call 0330 088 4222.

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