Calluses: Smoothing Out the Rough Edges

There are a lot of rough edges in life that need softening. From teaching manners to our kids to straightening out jagged lines in a photo with a good editing software, we work to keep things smooth and attractive. That even applies to our feet, but in spite of our many efforts we end up with hard, dry calluses—rough skin that could use a little soothing.

The Big Buildup

Wherever your feet are pressured, they respond by adding new skin cells to protect the tender tissues underneath from damage. The more pressure and irritation, the more skin is built up. As the outer layers are pushed farther away from the blood supply, they begin to dry out, toughen up, and die. This buildup of dead, dry skin is the callus. It is your body’s way of protecting itself, but in the end it can cause even more problems.

Let’s say that you have a bunion, and a patch of dry skin builds up on the outer edge of your big toe. Sure, it protects underlying tissue from the pressure of the shoe, but it also makes your toe even wider, so it presses on the side of your footwear even more than before. Callus buildup on your heels can become so dry that it cracks, opening the vulnerable tissue underneath to infection. Every step you take can split the fissure a little more, and that can be really painful. You can see that it is best if you can avoid forming these dry areas altogether.

The Root of Dry, Rough Skin

The best defense against calluses is to eliminate their cause, which involves checking your shoes. Every pair you wear should be comfortable and not rub against or slip around on your feet. They should also support your particular foot structure adequately, so that your foot is encouraged to stay straight and stable as you walk. This might mean extra arch support to prevent pronation, or avoiding tight shoes or heels that put pressure on the wrong parts of your feet.

The next thing is to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids throughout the day. This helps keep your skin from drying out. On hot days, when you perspire more, getting adequate fluids can also keep you from becoming lethargic, dizzy, or lightheaded—all of which could contribute to an accident that could harm your feet.

Use a pumice stone to rid your feet of calluses.Getting Rid of Calluses

Practicing proper foot hygiene can go a long way toward eliminating areas of tough skin. Start by washing your feet with a mild soap and water each day. If you soak them for a few minutes, you may be able to use a pumice stone to slough away the dead cells while the callus is still soft. Dry carefully, especially between your toes, and follow up with a good basic moisturizer.

At night, you can try a heavier moisturizer and cover with a thin pair of socks to let it work while you sleep. Make sure you don’t moisturize between your toes. That’s the one area that can’t tolerate too much dampness. The warm, moist skin can promote fungal infections. It may be best to alternate sandal days with sock-and-shoe days, so your skin has a chance to recover from the drying effects of exposure to the air, but not stay so moist that fungi can thrive.

Don’t ever try to cut away calluses yourself. If yours are severe, set up an appointment at Atlantic Foot & Ankle Associates and let our expert podiatrists carefully trim away the dead skin buildup. Call our Port Orange office today at (386) 788-6333, or choose one of our other locations nearer to you. More foot care information is available in our free book—Best Foot Forward—and on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Stux via