Puncture Wound: Foot


Sole of foot with puncture wound. Cross section of skin showing puncture wound.

A puncture wound occurs when a pointed object (such as a nail) pushes into the skin. It may go into the tissues below the skin of the foot, including fat and muscle. This type of wound is narrow and deep. They can be hard to clean. Puncture wounds are at high risk for becoming infected. One type of serious infection is more likely if you were wearing a rubber-soled shoe at the time of injury. Bacteria from the sole of the shoe may be dragged into the wound. Symptoms of infection may appear as late as 2 to 3 weeks after the injury. Be sure to watch for symptoms of infection and call your healthcare provider right away if any them appear.

X-rays may be done to see whether any objects remain under the skin. Your may also need a tetanus shot. This is given if you are not up-to-date on this vaccination and the object that caused the wound may lead to tetanus.

Puncture wounds can easily become infected. 

Home care

  • When you sit or lie down, raise the foot above the level of your heart. This helps reduce swelling and pain.

  • Don't put weight on the injured foot if it hurts to do so or if you were told to keep weight off the injury.

  • Your healthcare provider may prescribe an antibiotic. This is to help prevent infection. Follow all instructions for taking this medicine. Take the medicine every day until it is gone or you are told to stop. You should not have any left over.

  • The healthcare provider may prescribe medicines for pain. Follow instructions for taking them.

  • You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain, unless you were given a different pain medicine to use. 

  • Follow the healthcare provider’s instructions on how to care for the wound.

  • Keep the wound clean and dry. Don't get the wound wet until you are told it is OK to do so. If the area gets wet, gently pat it dry with a clean cloth. Replace the wet bandage with a dry one.

  • If a bandage was applied and it becomes wet or dirty, replace it. Otherwise, leave it in place for the first 24 hours.

  • Once you can get the wound wet, you may shower as usual but don't soak the wound in water (no tub baths or swimming)

  • Check the wound daily for symptoms of infection. These include:

    • Increasing redness or swelling around the wound

    • Increased warmth of the wound

    • Worsening pain

    • Red streaking lines away from the wound

    • Draining pus

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised. 

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Any symptoms of infection (listed above)

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38.ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Wound changes colors

  • Numbness around the wound

  • Decreased movement around the injured area

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