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There are two main factors that cause me to get thorns in the feet when hiking barefoot:

  • Usually, the forest ground consists of many layers - grass, beneath it rotten leaves, beneath it grass roots, but still aerated. Thorny plants can be hidden beneath the grass and fully invisible.

  • One can't always look down where he is stepping, therefore encountering from time to time raspberries or blackberries.

When I hit a thorn, it usually hurts quite a lot in the first moments. However, my feet are dirty from walking and seeing the thorn is difficult. Furthermore, even if I locate it, it is usually embedded deep enough to make removal difficult.

How can I identify which thorns are dangerous in the long therm and should be removed promptly (instead of leaving it inside the foot)? How to determine if the painful thing that hit my foot is a plant's thorn, that will dissolve in the body in a few days, or is a tiny piece of stone/glass, that, if not removed, will embed there and hurt indefinitely long?

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1 Answer 1

Generally, thorns will not dissolve in the body. Very small ones may work their way out, but they may not. Treat them and any other sharp objects as possible sources of infection.

The first thing to do is check to see how badly the skin is broken. A baby wipe can be enough for this. If you can see an entry wound, then you should be able to find whether the object is still inside. If you can see it, and can get it with a pair of tweezers, then now is a good time to remove it. If you can't get it with tweezers it may be worthwhile waiting until your next evening stop, as extraction using a needle will break the skin more so you want to do it in a cleaner environment if possible, as well as let the skin heal overnight.

Once extracted, a big wound should have a plaster affixed over it. Waterproof plasters are a hiking essential - but you will need to fix them to clean, dry skin in order to work. Treat them as a buffer to stop infection.

If you cannot see a wound, then you may just want to check a bit further down the trail for swelling, redness etc.

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The thing is, I usually get a couple of tiny thorns a day. Digging them up and patching the wound would mean going back to wearing shoes. On the other hand, If I wait until the evening, I have hiked many hours over the thorn and it is so deep that I would need to dig the skin with a needle. Maybe I am walking in the wrong way, wrong technique? –  Vorac Sep 9 '13 at 9:06
    
If they don't cause you discomfort during the day I would probably wait till the evening, but yeah - needling them out does take a bit of effort. I actually wish I could still hike barefoot, but the skin on my feet has long since softened so I envy you even the annoyance of thorns! –  Rory Alsop Sep 9 '13 at 9:10
    
I actually think that the hardness of the feet is built and lost year-wise, so it is not too late for anyone. Thank you for the idea of tending to the feet in the evening and letting them heel overnight. I will be waiting for other answers in the lines of "thorns larger than x are likely to cause an infection if not treated". Because very tiny thorns do not cause problems for me, it's the worry that I'll ruin my feet, stuck in the middle of the forest. –  Vorac Sep 9 '13 at 9:19

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