Why do calluses keep coming back? To answer this question, we need to step back a moment and see what calluses are.  Calluses are thickened skin that the body puts down to protect the body parts from wear and tear.

The palms of your hands and the soles of your feet have calluses on them more than the back of the hands and the top of your feet because you use palms to handle items of various sorts. The feet have calluses to protect from wear and tear as you walk.

Calluses are good when they protect hands and feet, but when calluses get too thick in one area, they can cause pain, cracking and other issues like ulcers and infection. Thickened calluses are an issue that needs to be dealt with.

Callus removal is usually done by using a pumice stone, a power grinder of some sort or some other abrasive material. Especially if you have loss of sensation in your feet, you will want to do this gradually because you won’t know how much you have cut off until it is too late.  If you take too much off, bleeding and infection can occur!  Loss of sensation can come from diabetes and with diabetes, it takes longer for wounds to heal.

If you can’t see your feet or can’t take care of them because of arthritis or some other condition, getting a family member or a foot care nurse to take care of your feet is a good plan to help keep you safe and free of thicker calluses and any complications from treating them.

The use of knives to remove calluses should be left to foot care nurses and doctors. People doing “bathroom surgery” have caused a lot of woe, pain and infection to themselves.  For those reasons, the advice not to do this has been out there for over 50 years.

Moisturizing the feet is another way to help keep feet healthy – especially when weather turns cold. Putting lotion on them at night is a way to keep the sole of the feet softer.

Abnormal callus formation is a concern when they keep coming back thick enough to cause pain or other issues. There are three normal causes for these calluses to reappear:

  • The first is an issue with a shoe – lining or insole in particular. Check the inside of the shoe where the callus appears. For example, the insole inside the shoes can slide forward and become wrinkled. This wrinkle can be enough to cause callusing. Removing this wrinkle in the insole can solve the problem.
  • The second is still with the shoe. If the calluses are on the side of the foot – either the big toe or the little toe, this suggests that the shoe is rubbing on that spot. Those shoes may be too narrow and a wider shoe will not cause the calluses to come back.
  • The third reason is if there is some issue with your foot. Do you have a bone prominent in the ball of your foot for example? If so, that is causing the callus to form. Canadian Certified Pedorthists are able to help remove pressure from that spot and redistribute it to the other parts of the foot so that the thickened callus does not come back.

There are other medical conditions that can cause calluses that are much less common, but need to the addressed as well. Psoriasis, Hyperkaratosis and Pachyonychia congenita are ones that show up on this list. If someone has these conditions, Pedorthists will recommend specialized treatments.

If you have questions about calluses or anything else with your foot or shoes, your local Canadian Certified Pedorthist can help you out.

Written by Jim Pattison, C. Ped (C)