A callus is an area of thickened skin that develops on the soles of the feet. Calluses form to protect the skin from injury or damage caused by excessive pressure and friction.

Calluses are a natural defense mechanism; they help cushion the feet and allow people to function without discomfort. However, calluses can become very painful if left untreated. The best way to deal with calluses is to eliminate the source of pressure or friction that causes them to develop.

Causes of calluses

Calluses are caused by too much pressure concentrated on a specific area of the foot. The pressure stimulates the skin to thicken in order to protect itself.

Some of the causes of callus formation include: 

  • Age (and subsequent loss of fat cushioning on the underside of the foot).
  • Flat feet. 
  • Footwear that it too tight. 
  • High arches. 
  • Inappropriate footwear (narrow-toed and high-heeled shoes). 
  • Misalignment of the metatarsal bones. 
  • Obesity. 
  • Overly long metatarsal bone. 
  • Toe deformities.

Callus symptoms

A callus looks like a thickened area of skin with no distinct border. Calluses feel hard and dry and may or may not be painful to the touch.

At first, calluses may cause no discomfort. Over time, they can begin to cause painful symptoms, including difficulty walking and discomfort while wearing thin soled or high-heeled shoes. Eventually calluses can become discolored due to bleeding in the area beneath the thickened skin. If left untreated, the thickened skin can separate, leading to infection.

Callus treatment

Treatment of calluses should begin with a thorough diagnosis of the source of the pain. In most cases, calluses can be addressed with conservative measures like orthotics. Orthotics help keep weight evenly distributed when walking and running by taking pressure away from hot spots on the feet. This gives calluses plenty of time to heal.

It is best to avoid cutting or trimming calluses at home; this can lead to infection. Surgical treatment of calluses is always the last resort. If problems with calluses persist, see a physician to discuss possible solutions.


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