Man experiences intense pain from nail that slid between his toes

Mind Hacks reports that a nail penetrated the shoe of a 29-year-old construction worker, causing great pain. But the hospital workers discovered that the nail had passed harmlessly between his toes.

201001221503A builder aged 29 came to the accident and emergency department having jumped down on to a 15 cm nail. As the smallest movement of the nail was painful he was sedated with fentanyl and midazolam. The nail was then pulled out from below. When his boot was removed a miraculous cure appeared to have taken place. Despite entering proximal to the steel toecap the nail had penetrated between the toes: the foot was entirely uninjured.

Mind Hacks says this is related to "somatisation disorder, where physical symptoms appear that aren't explained by tissue damage."

Hard as nails


  1. I had almost the exact opposite experience. Twice!

    No, wait, the second time it hurt like hell. The first time it went right between my metatarsals and I was having too much fun to pay much attention to it. The second time it got stuck in the bone of my heel and I had to pull it out with a claw hammer. Lesson learned: Don’t do demolition work in the dark by yourself.

  2. Fentanyl and Versed for a nail in your toe is crazy overkill. Many of us have impaled ourselves on nails and made do with a tetanus shot and a couple of aspirin.

  3. What stosh machek said.
    It’s certainly possible that “somatisation” was at fault, but my money’s on possibility number 2: guy shoots a nailgun through his empty boot, puts it on, and runs off to the ER asking for Demerol.

  4. Bah, wimp. I broke my arm when I was ten, and didn’t complain. After a month, my mother noticed I was having trouble opening things like doors and drawers. At the hospital, the doctor re-broke it and re-set it without any sort of pain killer – not even an aspirin.

    1. That’s nothing. I’ve been walking on a broken leg for years. As a matter of fact, I broke my other leg just now – for fun!

  5. I can tell you exactly what would have happened if I’d treated this man prior to transportation to a hospital(if needed). I would have cut the boot laces and used my EMS shears to cut away the boot to expose the injury. – what! -there isn’t one? -then released him back to work minus a boot.

    I have to agree w Mind Hacks – I believe this man thought he was in excruciating pain. Of the thousands of people I’ve treated, I knew many were seeking drugs or didn’t want to go to work or school that day – or seeking attention, but I’ve yet to run into an incident like this, where it appears you have a very painful injury, but don’t. I’d wouldn’t be surprised if I’d felt phantom pain in the same situation.

    1. @Invenetorjack
      Good thinking, Jack! This way, when you poke fun at him, you’ll be a mile away and he wont be able to chase you without his shoes!

  6. Wait, he complained of intense pain despite there being nothing wrong with him? Did they screen him for fibromyalgia? :)

  7. You probably would have then been sued to oblivion and found your EMS sheers non functional as they tried to cut through steel.

    1. No, the nail entered proximal to the steel part – in other words, closer to the body than the steel toe. We use proximal or distal – meaning closer or further from a point of reference to the body. And, even el-cheapo EMS shears can cut through the toughest boot leather without moving the extremity it’s attached to. Plus, I’d be extra careful, I’m not going to cause any extra pain if I can help it.

  8. Once i encouraged Amanda Palmer to drop-punt a very large, very dead cactus that was behind a dumpster.

    Instead of flying into the air as expected, the cactus remained on the toe of her boot, all the momentum of her kick perfectly absorbed as the cactus spines slid in, effortlessly penetrating not only her vintage-german-combat-boots, but piercing through her entire foot and out the other side of the boot. Her foot was effectively locked inside the boot ironmaiden style. She began screaming in agony, and also crying tears of sorrow, for she feared that if she went to hospital they’d cut off and destroy her boot.[ala TOM HALE’s comment] Her wailing quickly drew a small crowd of good Samaritans. Once they determined the screaming was not due to domestic violence, they offered to smoke us up. (we both declined)
    Instead I requested they physically immobilize Amanda to prevent her squirming.
    The cactus spines had all snapped off flush with the surface of the boot and could not be grasped with fingers.
    Luckily, i always carry a Leatherman, and with it, i was able to cleanly extract all the spines.
    In the decade since, i’ve harbored an increased respect for all cacti, living and dead.

    (I will gladly accept any merch Leatherman wants to send my way.)

      1. Life.(for better or for worse) She still considers the incident my fault.
        If you doubt, ask her on twitter.

  9. I would have attributed this to Fear, he was afraid that the nail had pierced his foot, he expected it to (it was strong enough to go through his boot for heaven’s sake), he couldn’t visually check that it wasn’t, and so his mind assumed that it was, and reacted accordingly

  10. This exact thing happened to me! I was walking around my property, felt something at my toes, looked down and saw the nail protruding from my shoe, and was in sudden agony. Once I got the shoe off and saw that I was not injured, the pain disappeared. I suspect it is very akin to the “rubber hand” mental trick that was previously mentioned on BB.

  11. It may be a miracle; man injures foot (nail through foot), someone prays about it & God allows the nail to be removed with the foot uninjured. To the believer: its a miracle, to the non-believer: the nail miraculously goes between the toes. So miracle either way ;-)

  12. I’ve had the exact opposite happen. Stepped on a nail that went through my shoe and foot and didn’t feel a thing until I looked down. -The Wile E. Coyote gravity effect. It seems the feet are far enough away from the brain that visual recognition is more reliable than nerve endings.

  13. He could have also confused heat with pain. Jumping onto a nail like that, the nail would have been heated up by friction as it ran through his heavy boot in an instant. The flare of heat touching his skin between his toes could easily have been confused for bloody pain, and by the time the nail cooled the mind would have already been convinced that damage had been done.

  14. Clearly enough, the case is a (not-so-)every-day occurrence of the Schrödinger’s cat paradox; man with foot in nailed shoe presents a metastable state: removal of shoe collapsed the system to uninjured condition (since it allowed observation), while removing the nail alone did not suffice.

    … I love it when Quantum Physics can be applied to everyday life.

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