How to Get Rid of Calluses For Smooth, Soft Feet
Corns and calluses can make wearing shoes a miserable experience.
If you’re sick of the pain caused by these unsightly bumps and thickened areas, read on to find out which home removal methods work fastest and best.
What Are Corns and Calluses?
Corns and calluses are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop when your skin tries to protect itself against friction and pressure. They most often develop on the feet and toes or hands and fingers. Corns and calluses can be unsightly.
If you’re healthy, you need treatment for corns and calluses only if they cause discomfort (or you don’t like the way they look).
For most people, simply eliminating the source of friction or pressure often helps corns and calluses eventually disappear.
If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor blood flow to your feet, you’re at greater risk of complications from corns and calluses. In those cases, you should see your doctor for advice.
You may have a corn or a callus if you notice:
- A thick, rough area of skin
- A hardened, raised bump
- Tenderness or pain under your skin
- Flaky, dry or waxy skin
Corns and calluses are not the same thing. Corns are smaller than calluses and have a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin.
Corns tend to develop on parts of your feet that don’t bear weight, such as the tops and sides of your toes and even between your toes. They can also be found in weight-bearing areas.
Corns can be painful when pressed.
Hard corns have a nucleus (cone shaped center or root) whose tip or point can penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin.
Hard corns are most often found on the baby toe or on top of toes.
Pain is usually directly associated with pressure from footwear or from the walking surface, and pain is usually relieved by removing the footwear.
Soft Corns usually seen as areas of white moist skin between the toes.
These develop as a result of a bony bump (most often between the 4th and 5th toes) pressing against an adjacent toe.
They may not be painful at first but may develop into open sores that are very painful. Soft corns may start out looking like athlete’s foot.
Calluses are rarely painful. They usually develop on the soles of your feet, especially under the heels or balls, on your palms, or on your knees.
Calluses vary in size and shape and are often larger than corns.
Causes of Corns and Calluses
Pressure and friction from repetitive actions cause corns and calluses to develop and grow. Some sources of this pressure and friction include:
- Wearing ill-fitting shoes. Tight shoes and high heels can compress areas of your feet. When footwear is too loose, your foot may repeatedly slide and rub against the shoe. Your foot might also rub against a seam or stitch inside the shoe.
- Skipping socks. Wearing shoes and sandals without socks can cause friction on your feet. Socks that don’t fit properly also can be a problem.
- Playing instruments or using hand tools. Calluses on your hands may result from the repeated pressure of playing instruments, using hand tools or even writing.
Are You Prone to Corns and Calluses?
These factors may increase your risk of corns and calluses:
- Bunions. A bunion is an abnormal, bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe.
- Hammertoe. A hammertoe is a deformity in which your toe curls like a claw.
- Other foot deformities. Certain conditions, such as a bone spur, can cause constant rubbing inside your shoe.
- Not protecting your hands. Using hand tools without wearing gloves exposes your skin to excessive friction.
Best Home Remedies For Corns and Calluses
The good news is that in most cases, corns and calluses can be successfully (and inexpensively) treated at home.
These are the products and methods recommended by podiatrists and dermatologists:
Epsom salts can help soften calluses in preparation for other treatments, such as manual exfoliation with a pumice stone or foot file.
Try adding a handful of Epsom salts to a bath or basin of warm water, then soaking the affected skin for 10 minutes.
Pumice stones are light, porous stones that many people use to exfoliate dead skin and calluses.
These stones work best after a person has softened the skin. An easy way to do this is to soak the callused area in warm water for 5–10 minutes before using the stone. Adding Epsom salts to the water may improve results.
Once the skin has been softened, use gentle circular or side-to-side motions with the pumice stone to remove dead skin cells.
You might need to exfoliate for several days in a row to get the results you want.
I recommend the Beauty by Earth Lava Exfoliating Pumice Stone
This natural volcanic lava pumice stone is twice the size of most others, and has excellent reviews.
A foot file is another efficient tool for exfoliation. A file usually has a metal grate and a rubber or plastic handle.
The Oneleaf 2 Piece Foot File Set is a popular choice with excellent reviews.
This set features a practical design which allows you to customize exfoliation to your needs:
- The microplane foot rasp allows you to reach curves and hard to reach spots.
- The dual sided foot file smooths away the last of the hard skin.
As with pumice stones, it is best to soften the callused skin in warm water before using a file. Many people use foot files while in the bath or shower.
After filing down the callus, using a moisturizer can help keep the skin soft.
Electric Foot Files
An electric foot file is the most efficient method of filing down corns and calluses at home.
Once only available at the beauty salons and podiatrist’s office, electric foot files for the home user have proliferated (providing plenty of choices).
Amopé was the first to offer electric foot files to the mass market, and I believe they’re still the best.
They have several models available, but to deal with corns and calluses, I recommend the Amopé Pedi Perfect Extra Coarse Foot File With Diamond Crystals.
Reviewers rave about this model, with one happy purchaser stating that it changed her life!
I can’t promise you that it’ll be life-changing, but I do recommend the Amopé Pedi Perfect Extra Coarse for fast and easy exfoliation for those that prefer not to go the manual route.
Video: Review of the Amopé Pedi Perfect Extra Coarse
The box includes:
- 1 Electronic Foot File
- 1 Extra Coarse Roller Head
- 4 AA batteries
- 1 Cover
Replacement heads are also available. This Amopé foot file is meant to be used dry (don’t immerse the unit in water).
As an alternative to manually exfoliating the skin, you can also remove dead skin cells with exfoliating creams.
Products that work on calluses usually contain ingredients such as salicylic acid, urea, or lactic acid.
You’ll likely need to apply these daily to encourage the exfoliation of built-up skin cells. Over time, the skin will soften, and the calluses may become less noticeable.
There are plenty of choices for exfoliating creams marketed for calluses.
I have a couple of recommendations in this area, and I think these are good to use on a regular basis, to keep calluses, corns and dry, cracked skin at bay.
Dr. Foot Callus Cream is both cosmetically elegant and highly efficient.
It features lactic acid, an excellent exfoliator, and other nice-to-have, moisturizing ingredients including aloe vera, jojoba oil, almond oil, urea, vitamin E, natural fruit extracts and cooling menthol.
In addition to urea, this cream is formulated with safflower seed oil, chamomile flower extract, tea tree leaf oil, and aloe vera.
Baking Soda Paste
Baking soda paste can be an alternative to commercial exfoliating creams.
To prepare one, mix 2 tablespoons of water with enough baking soda to form a paste, then add a few drops of lime juice.
Apply the paste to callused areas, and cover them with socks, gloves, or a gauze bandage. Repeat this application nightly until the callus is gone.
This method is kind of messy, and isn’t my first choice of treatments.
Skin Softening Creams
Try applying heavy moisturizing creams or petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to callused areas and leaving it on overnight. This can help soften the calluses and prevent the skin from drying out.
Wearing cotton socks after moisturizing can also help protect the area and lock in moisture while sleeping.
This is a really effective method of locking in moisture.
Tip: look to the baby department for the best ointments!
I prefer petroleum jelly alternatives. They’re more cosmetically elegant, have higher quality skin conditioners, and are just more pleasant to use.
Burt’s Bees Baby Multipurpose Ointment (face and body baby ointment) offers a great value for the 7.5 ounce tub.
It contains some really nice skin protectants, including coconut oil, shea butter, sweet almond oil, jojoba butter, and lavender and vanilla for a natural scent.
Corn and Callus Remover Pads
These are bandages, pads or cushions that include a layer of exfoliating treatment (usually salicylic acid).
These products work quickly (often just a few days), and are a good choice for dealing with well-defined, specific areas of your feet.
Two really popular choices are both from Dr Scholl’s:
The nearly invisible pads also provide cushioning to protect from shoe pressure and friction while you treat.
Reducing the friction or pressure responsible for the callus can encourage the area to heal naturally.
Callus pads are a type of cushioned bandage that can protect or prevent calluses.
They come in a range of sizes and shapes, and many have been designed for the feet.
If the callused area is on your hands, wearing protective or padded gloves may also help protect calluses and allow them to heal over time.
Should You See Your Doctor?
People with diabetes, particularly those with peripheral neuropathy or peripheral artery disease, should avoid treating their own calluses and consult a doctor or qualified podiatrist, because you would have a higher risk of skin and nerve injury.
It may be a good idea for anyone with severe or persistent calluses to consider speaking to a doctor or podiatrist.
Can Calluses Be Prevented?
Calluses result from excessive pressure or friction on the skin, so taking steps to address the underlying cause can help reduce the chances of calluses returning.
Ways to prevent calluses include:
Keeping Your Feet Clean and Moisturized
Washing the feet with soap and water every day, then drying them thoroughly and applying a moisturizing cream.
Avoid Tight or Poorly-Fitting Shoes
Wearing shoes that fit properly, as overly tight or very high-heeled shoes can increase friction. Also, avoid shoes with a tight toe box or that rub against the feet uncomfortably.
Use Pads and Inserts at Pressure Points
Using gel pads or foam inserts in the shoes to prevent excess pressure on the skin.
If you wear heals on a regular basis, try these Brison Ball of Foot Cushions.
The set includes 6 soft gel pads that fit all shoes and most feet sizes.
The ergonomic design provides excellent cushioning to reduce pressure and eliminate slipping.
They’re made of soft, durable eco-friendly medical grade silicone which won’t stick to the skin or develop an odor. They also have nearly perfect reviews.
For Your Hands: Wear Protective Gloves
Wearing protective gloves when performing activities that can lead to calluses, such as gardening, using tools, lifting heavy objects, or riding a bike.
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Goldstein BG, et al. Overview of benign lesions of the skin. http://www.uptodate.com/home.
Calluses and corns. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/cornification-disorders/calluses-and-corns.
Corns and calluses. American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society. http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-big-toe/Pages/Corns-and-Calluses.aspx.
American Academy of Dermatology. (n.d.). How to treat corns and calluses.