How to Soften Dry, Callused Feet

July 19, 2022
Margaret Fisher
By: Margaret Fisher | by L'Oréal
Callused Feet?

Taking care of your feet isn’t always as simple as slathering on a foot cream after a shower or booking the occasional pedicure. Like other rough, dry parts of your body, taking care of the skin on your feet requires a bit of attention. If your feet are dry and callused, you may  have to go beyond basic pampering to see relief. 

The good news: You can help reduce dryness and gradually minimize the look of calluses in the comfort of your own home. Below, we’re sharing what you need to know about calluses, including what causes them to form in the first place, and the proper steps you can follow in order to take care of dry, callused feet.

What Are Dry, Callused Feet?

A callus is a thick, hardened portion of your skin that’s comparatively rougher than the rest of your skin. Calluses can form on areas of your body such as your hands or knees, but commonly develop on the soles of your feet. According to the Mayo Clinic, calluses may vary in their shape and size, and they shouldn’t be confused with a corn, another type of hardened skin that’s small in size and takes the shape of a bump.

Although they may sound unpleasant, calluses are very rarely painful. The Cleveland Clinic states that, should the thickness of a callus increase to a certain point, it runs the risk of becoming sore. Generally, though, calluses are seldom uncomfortable.

However, dry calluses on your feet are not exactly the most pleasing thing to look at (and don’t feel all too great when you touch them, either). But before we get into how you can prevent calluses or how to address those that have already formed, let us explain how they can appear in the first place.

What Causes Dry, Callused Feet?

If you have calluses but aren’t quite sure why, we have the answers. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), calluses are a result of friction on the skin — they are actually your body’s natural attempt to protect the skin underneath them. External aggressors such as poorly fitting shoes are a common cause of calluses on feet. Constantly using tools or playing instruments can cause calluses to pop up on your hands. How much pressure you put on your feet, such as the way in which you stand, may also serve as a catalyst to a callus formation.

How to Prevent Dry, Callused Feet

There are a number of ways you can prevent calluses from forming. For starters, you can make sure you’re moisturizing your feet regularly. We realize it may not be the most noticeable area of your body, thus making it easy to forget, but it’s important that your skin receives hydration from head to toe. Since calluses form in conjunction with dry areas of skin, maintaining a healthy level of hydration in the skin of your feet is one of the keys to keeping them at bay.

Another preventative measure you can take is getting shoe inserts. Since getting calluses stems from the friction the skin on your feet is experiencing, putting an extra barrier between it and the shoes you’re wearing could prove extremely beneficial. The Mayo Clinic also states that wearing shoes without socks can also lead to callus-causing friction on your feet, so make sure to cover up!  

How to Get Rid of Dry, Callused Feet

Now that you have a better idea of what’s behind your dry, callused feet, here are eight simple steps on how to take care of them, according to the experts:

1. Soak In Warm Water 

Start off by soaking your feet, just like you would at the nail salon. The AAD suggests doing this for 5-10 minutes or until the skin softens.

2. File With a Pumice Stone

If you can’t make it to the salon for some foot exfoliation, you can do it yourself at home. One at-home exfoliation item you can invest in is a pumice stone. Simply dip the pumice stone in warm water and use it to gently file the calluses. Move the stone in circular or sideways motions to remove dead skin. The AAD notes that it’s important not to take off too much skin, as it could lead to bleeding and infection.

3. Apply Ultra-Thick Moisturizer

If your feet are dry and callused, they’re in desperate need of a moisturizer. And not just any old foot cream, but a formula that’s extra thick and emollient. We love the CeraVe Healing Ointment because the rich texture works to soothe and protect dry, callused skin.

cerave healing ointment

4. Use Tactics to Amplify Moisturizing

You may notice your feet don’t seem to be soaking up moisturizer as well as they should. If that’s the case, board-certified plastic surgeon, SkinCeuticals expert, and consultant, Dr. Forrest Roth, says that in order to help ensure better penetration of moisture, you can do an Epsom salt soak beforehand. After using the Epsom salts, don’t rush to dry off; applying moisturizer directly to damp skin will help trap more moisture.

5. Protect With Pads 

After calluses are formed, they can continue to be irritated by movement and activity. To help prevent that, the AAD recommends placing moleskin around the calluses as padding. The Mayo Clinic mentions that you can also use non-medicated callus pads to help cushion the skin and decrease friction. 

6. Wear Well-Fitting Shoes

It’s likely that your shoes were part of the problem in the first place, which is why the AAD recommends wearing shoes that are the right fit — not too loose or too tight. In addition to your shoes, the Mayo Clinic warns to switch your socks to a comfortable fabric that can wick away moisture well. Ensuring both your socks and shoes have a cushioning effect on your feet is also important to keep in mind. It will lessen any friction taking place between the skin of your feet and the material surrounding it, alleviating callus formation.

7. See a Specialist 

In most cases, an at-home plan should be enough. The AAD reveals that most calluses gradually go away when the friction or pressure causing them stops (another reason to toss those too-tight shoes). However, if the calluses are painful or you believe there may be an underlying health issue, both Dr. Roth and the AAD say to see a podiatrist for an expert opinion.

Photo: iStock

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