Calluses are unpleasant, and they feel like they can sneak up on you. One week, your feet feel fine, and the next, it’s like they’re covered in dry, uncomfortable puff pastry.
Why do calluses happen, and what can we do to prevent it? Here are five reasons they can happen, along with foot care instructions on how to prevent calluses from forming in the first place.
Let’s start off by describing what a callus actually is in order to better understand how they form.
Harvard Health states that “a callus is a yellowish, flat, hard layer of dead skin,” which can cause “pain, difficulty grasping an object,” or discomfort while walking.
Calluses form naturally from dead layers of skin that have been subjected to lots of friction or pressure.
Under normal circumstances, outer layers of skin shed naturally. Our bodies shed between 0.03 grams and 0.09 grams of skin every hour, according to one study.
With a callus, the body’s normal mechanisms for shedding skin are interfered with. This is because the cells formed under a callus adapt to friction and grow in a more compact formation. The small size and compactness of the cells make them tougher, to the point where normal friction and air exposure won’t rub them away. The resulting buildup of dead skin cells can feel hard, like dried leather or plastic.
Providing feet with moisture — meaning lotion, oil, or some other type of water entrapped within a barrier lipid — allows your body to shed skin cells like normally. With extra moisture, the small skin cells within a callus loosen up. Then, the friction that helped build the callus can actually allow it to be gradually stripped away — but exfoliating and soaking definitely helps! (More on that later).
When it comes to why calluses form, “the number one culprit is sandals,” writes Atlanta area provider Piedmont Healthcare. “Open-toed shoes and flip flops allow the feet to slide around, creating friction that leads to dead skin buildup.”
Another issue with sandals is that they expose your feet to the open air, which dries them out. While having sweaty feet can result in problems of its own, wearing shoes and socks can, in most circumstances, allow the body enough moisture to prevent calluses caused by normal walking. There are, of course, exceptions since shoes that move around too much or that constrict too much can also cause calluses.
While there’s nothing wrong with letting your feet get some sunshine in your favorite pair of sandals, remember to treat them kindly at the end of the day. Moisturize them, and give them a good scrubbing with a clean loofah, pumice stone, or another exfoliant.
Also, give your feet a break from sandals occasionally and put them in a good pair of cotton socks, especially if you’re going to be walking or hiking a lot that day.
Tight shoes constrict your feet, causing pressure and friction that can lead them to develop calluses. Loose shoes can do the same thing, provided they move around enough to generate friction.
Make sure your shoes are sized correctly and take a break from heels if the pressure causes your toes to pinch. Have a pair of nice, comfortable, and supportive tennis shoes or ankled boots ready to give your feet the ample support they need to avoid developing skin conditions.
Some skin needs a little help to shed naturally, especially in areas of our body like our feet that see lots of wear-and-tear. A simple way to help the body out is to have a gently abrasive scrubber, loofah, or stone available in the shower. However, lots of people have trouble keeping these things clean, so make sure to let yours dry out and to regularly sanitize them. You should also replace them every 1 – 2 months.
If you’ve got a serious case of calluses, a good soak may be in order. You can fill a basin with warm water mixed with Epsom salts, ¼ cup of vinegar, and a teaspoon of any hydrating oil of your choice, such as coconut or avocado oil. It also doesn’t hurt to add a few drops of essential oil!
There are lots of situations that can lead to calluses, from being forced to walk at your job too much to sitting too much in a way that puts pressure on your feet. Other people have to make repetitive foot motions, such as if you drive for miles on end every day.
If your regular routine seems destined to give your feet a layer of calluses, they may need special attention beyond the above care recommendations. Consult with a podiatrist to see if there’s special footwear, socks, inserts, or lotions for your unique situation. These can help you keep your feet hydrated while avoiding conditions that allow calluses to form.
Schedule an appointment with a podiatrist in Salt Lake City to get tailored advice on the state of your calluses, how to treat them, and how to prevent them from coming back. With over 20 years of experience helping Utahns with their feet, Elizabeth Auger is ready to help you find comfort and relief!
Call (801) 396-9743 to book an appointment, 24/7, including ones for the same day call!