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Foot Calluses: How to Remove Them?

Foot Calluses: How to Remove Them?

Tight shoes, prolonged standing, long walks... these are all factors that promote the development of calluses. These skin growths can be painful and particularly unpleasant when they are located on the feet, affecting daily activities. How can they be removed? The answer is provided in this article.

Published February 16, 2024, by Manon, Scientific Editor — 5 min read

What are calluses?

Whether it's a long hike, prolonged standing, or wearing ill-fitting shoes on a daily basis, there are many reasons that can lead to an unsightly and sometimes painful thickening of the skin on the feet. This is referred to as calluses , also known as corns. They primarily appear on the sides or soles of the feet, as well as on the heels and sometimes even the toes.

Characteristic of calluses, this hardened skin is a natural defense mechanism of the stratum corneum. Indeed, it gradually thickens to protect the feet from friction, pressure, and other repeated aggressions. When these frictions are less recurrent, they cause simple blisters or small open wounds.

Leading to a yellowish discoloration of the skin, or even redness if irritation and itching are felt, calluses can be painful. Their appearance is often accompanied by a diffuse burning sensation and can cause sharp to acute pain. In fact, if they are really thick, they can be crushed under the weight of the body, thus making walking uncomfortable.

How do they appear?

As previously discussed, calluses form on areas of the foot subjected to regular hyperpressure. This can come from shoes, daily or sports activities, or possibly a unique characteristic, such as a deformity because this can lead to changes in the distribution of weight and pressures on the feet.

To protect the outer layer of the skin, skin cells known as keratinocytes produce more keratin. This phenomenon is called plantar hyperkeratosis and is the cause of these skin outgrowths. The stressed parts of the foot thicken in order to better withstand aggressions.

How to remove calluses?

There are various remedies available for removing calluses:

  • Gentle exfoliation.

    Firstly, soak your feet in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes to soften the skin. Magnesium sulfate, also known as Epsom salt, can be added to the water. This salt, rich in magnesium, is widely used because it has the ability to promote osmosis, a process by which water is drawn out of skin cells to balance the salt concentration. This can help to soften the upper layer of the skin, including calluses.

    After a foot bath, use a pumice stone, a file, or a foot brush to gently remove dead skin and calluses by making soft, circular motions. Do not press too hard to avoid damaging the skin. Finish by applying a moisturizing cream to maintain the skin's suppleness.

  • Use topical treatments containing keratolytic agents.

    Keratolytic agents help to remove dead cells present on the skin's surface and gently exfoliate the skin, thereby reducing calluses. For instance, you might consider treatments based onsalicylic acid which promotes the skin's natural exfoliation process, allowing for calluses and thickened skin to shed more easily. Salicylic acid also has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the irritation and discomfort associated with calluses.

    This characteristic was confirmed by a study that demonstrated the application of a solution containing 1% cantharidin and 30% salicylic acid activated the enzyme serine protease, which facilitates the breakdown of connections between cells (desmosomes), thereby promoting exfoliation.

  • Consult a podiatrist.

    If calluses are thick, painful, or do not improve with home treatments, it is advisable to consult a podiatrist. They can perform a more precise sanding of the calluses.

How to prevent the formation of calluses?

The prevention of calluses involves daily actions aimed at reducing friction, excessive pressure, and skin dryness.

  • Avoid wearing shoes that are too narrow.

    The daily wearing of narrow shoes exposes the feet to regular friction, promoting the development of calluses. Instead, choose well-fitted, comfortable shoes that are suitable for the activity you are performing.

  • Regularly hydrate your skin.

    Dry skin exhibits heightened sensitivity and is more likely to form skin outgrowths in response to pressures exerted during walking or friction caused by wearing narrow shoes. Therefore, it is important to regularly moisturize the feet to prevent the formation of calluses.

  • Use of orthopedic insoles.

    Specially designed insoles can help redistribute weight and reduce pressure on certain areas of the foot, thereby preventing the phenomenon of hyperkeratosis, which is the cause of calluses.

  • Avoid excessive activities.

    If you engage in activities that cause excessive pressure or repeated friction on your feet, try to take regular breaks to relieve the pressure.


AKDEMIR O. & al. New alternative in treatment of callus. Journal of Dermatology (2011).


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