A hard callus on your foot can be uncomfortable. So if it's bothering you, what can you do to get rid of it?
Calluses are thickened layers of skin that form when skin tries to protect itself from friction or pressure. They might look like hard, raised bumps with skin that's dry, flaky or waxy.
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Calluses can develop on your feet from wearing tight shoes or ill-fitting socks, or by skipping socks altogether, according to the Mayo Clinic. The hardened skin is your body's way of protecting the area from further friction or pressure, explains Brad Schaeffer, DPM, a foot and ankle surgeon at Central Park SOLE in New York City.
Most calluses aren't painful, Dr. Schaeffer says. In fact, it's perfectly fine to ignore them if they aren't bothering you.
But they should be removed if they start to hurt, and that can often be done at home. Here's how, plus when to get help from a podiatrist.
1. File Away the Skin With a Pumice Stone
A pumice stone's rough, abrasive texture can shave away hardened skin, Dr. Schaeffer says. Try the Maryton Foot Pumic Stone ($7.99 for a 4-pack, Amazon). It's the best callus remover you can use at home.
Here's how to do it:
- Soak the area in warm water first to soften the skin, which will make the callus easier to get rid of. Five to 10 minutes should do the trick, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) notes.
- When you're ready to file, gently rub the pumice stone on the callus using circular or sideways motions until you've taken off the dead skin. Stop as soon as you reach a layer of skin that's soft and healthy. Continuing filing can end up irritating your skin, Dr. Schaeffer says.
- Once you've filed away the callus, apply a gentle moisturizer to keep the area soft and supple. You can also place a piece of moleskin over where the callus used to be, to help prevent it from coming back, the AAD says.
2. Use an OTC Moisturizer or Callus Dissolver
This is a gentler approach than filing, but still an effective callus removal tactic.
When applied daily, moisturizers containing skin-smoothing ingredients like salicylic acid, ammonium lactate or urea can soften callused skin over time.
"I'm a big fan of urea cream to help exfoliate the callus skin away," Dr. Schaeffer says.
Try Ebanel 40% Urea Cream + 2% Salicylic Acid ($15.95, Amazon). In addition to its exfoliating ingredients, it contains green tea extract and aloe to soothe and soften irritated skin.
Apply a dab of Vaseline as a base layer first if the cream is irritating to your skin, per the Mayo Clinic.
When to See a Podiatrist
A foot doctor can use a scalpel or surgical blade to trim away your callus if you're having trouble removing the excess skin at home.
It's especially important to have a podiatrist tend to your calluses (before attempting any at-home care) if you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor blood flow, because even a minor cut could become seriously infected, Dr. Schaeffer says. The doctor can take off the callus without damaging your healthy skin, helping you avoid complications.
You should also see a podiatrist if your callus is painful, red, inflamed or pus-filled, which could be signs that the callus is infected, the Cleveland Clinic notes.
How to Prevent Calluses on Feet
Once you've gotten rid of your callus, there are some things you can do to keep it from coming back or from getting more. The AAD and the Mayo Clinic suggest to:
- Wear comfortable shoes with socks. They're the simplest place to start, Dr. Schaeffer says. The ideal shoes should have a wide toe box that allows you to comfortably wiggle your toes. If the arch of your foot makes it tough to get a comfortable fit, consider adding an insole (like Dr. Scholl's Orthotics for Sore Soles, $11.79 on Amazon, or one of these doctor-recommended picks) or asking your podiatrist about custom orthotics. "Proper support is key," Dr. Schaeffer says.
- Try a protective covering. Have a spot on your foot that's prone to friction? Felt pads, nonmedicated corn pads (like Comfort Zone's Corn Cushions, $4.97 on Amazon) or even bandages can keep the area protected.
- Keep your toenails trimmed. Long nails force your toes to push up against your shoe, which can cause a callus over time. Here's how to trim toenails to avoid ingrowns.
- Use moisturizer on your feet. Hydrated skin is less prone to callusing. Simple Vaseline ($6.81, Amazon) will do the trick, Dr. Schaeffer says.
More questions about those pesky foot bumps, answered.
Do calluses on feet go away?
Yes. Calluses aren't usually permanent. Most of the time, they'll go away once you take away the source of pressure or friction that's causing them, the AAD says. (Often, that's an ill-fitting shoe.)
Is it OK to cut off calluses?
A podiatrist might use a scalpel or surgical blade to cut away a callus. But you shouldn't try to trim or snip one at home, because it could cause a cut that could end up infected, the Mayo Clinic notes.
If you want to remove a callus at home, a pumice stone or a callus-dissolving cream are safer options.
Does Vaseline get rid of calluses?
Vaseline alone won't get rid of calluses, Dr. Schaeffer says. But regularly applying Vaseline or another moisturizer can help keep the skin on your feet hydrated, which may help new calluses from forming.
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.