Calluses, those thickened areas of skin that form in response to repeated friction or pressure, are one of the most common foot issues, affecting almost everyone at some point in their lives. While these toughened patches of skin develop as a natural defense mechanism, it doesn't mean we have to put up with them! We explored the physiology behind calluses and some medically validated tips on how to treat and prevent them
Before delving into treatments, it's helpful to understand why calluses form. Your foot anatomy and gait can make you more or less prone but typically, they arise from repetitive actions that cause friction or pressure on specific areas of the feet, often the ball of the foot, the toes and the heels. Wearing flip flops or sandals, long distance walking or running, and start/stop sports like tennis, basketball or pickleball are common culprits. The good news is, there’s plenty you can do to treat them.
Podiatrist Tips for Callus Care:
1. Gentle Cleansing and pumicing: Washing your feet daily with mild soap and warm water in the shower and gently pumicing the callused area for 30 seconds with a stone or foot file will begin to exfoliate away the extra layers of thickened skin. Supplementing with a weekly Epsom salt soak will accelerate the process and help keep the emerging skin healthy and free of infection.
2. Moisturize Regularly: Keeping your feet well-hydrated is one of the most important, yet often overlooked steps when it comes to callus care. Apply a rich, moisturizing cream that’s made specifically for the feet will help to soften the callused skin, making it easier to exfoliate. Moisture is also critical to prevention, as well moisturized skin is smoother and more flexible, thus more resilient to friction.
3. Choose Footwear Wisely: Opt for shoes that are supportive and well-fitting. If they’re rubbing on your heels or the sides of your forefoot in the store, it’s only going to get worse when you’re wearing and walking in them! While it’s hard to avoid flip flops and sandals in the warmer months, just make sure you switch into sneakers before walking, biking, hiking or traveling long distances.
4. Orthotic Inserts and Spacers: Sometimes the anatomy and bone structure of our feet simply makes us more prone to calluses. In these instances, orthotic inserts, insoles, or toe spacers can be a helpful way to redistribute pressure and alleviate friction on certain parts of your feet. Consult with a podiatrist to determine the most suitable products for your specific needs.
5. Avoid Cutting or Trimming: Resist the temptation to cut or trim calluses at home. It may seem like a quick fix, but when it comes to calluses, slow and steady definitely wins! Gentle removal over a period of weeks is the best way to avoid infection and keep calluses from coming back.
Caring for calluses can take time, but with a little patience, good hygiene, moisturization, and thoughtful footwear choices calluses are one of the most treatable foot issues. If symptoms persist or calluses are severe, make an appointment to see a podiatrist. They can evaluate your foot, your footwear and offer additional advice.