How to slow down or stop callous growth on feet
March 26, 2009 9:10 AM   Subscribe

How do I prevent or slow down the forming of callouses on my heels?

It's annoying to have to frequently scrape callouses off my heels, and if I don't, they eventually crack painfully.

How do I slow down or halt their growth? Is it a matter of shoes, socks, ointments, etc? Can they be caused by fungus?
posted by randomstriker to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You get a pumice stone, soak da feet, and scrub with da stone and end the scrub with some nice sesame oil. . Smooth feet. No callouses. Guaranteed.
posted by watercarrier at 9:13 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have always had this issue, and was even taken to a doctor for it by trying-to-be-helpful parents.

If there is any way to stop them forming, no doctor I have ever talked to knows about it. There is prescription medicine though. And if you have the kind of calluses that laugh off things like pumice stones, a company called Microplane makes some more serious products.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:22 AM on March 26, 2009

I use a pumice stone on my feet at the end of every shower, instead of the whole pedicure soak type routine which I don't have time for. And yeah, a little moisturizer helps on the bad days. Put moisturizer and socks on and wear them to bed.
posted by lizbunny at 9:25 AM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is it an option to get professional pedicures once or twice a month? (Or fish pedicures?)
posted by juliplease at 9:26 AM on March 26, 2009

Might seem fluffy but can you get regular pedicures? They can be found in inexpensive salons (make sure they are safe and bring your own tools if you can) and if you have them once a month or more often, that can help reduce callouses. An ex-bf swears by them.
posted by urbanette at 9:27 AM on March 26, 2009

The Ped Egg (As Seen On TV!) got a good review from Consumer Reports.
posted by torquemaniac at 9:33 AM on March 26, 2009

Get a pedi and watch how they do it. One thing I noticed right away after getting my first pedis last summer was how my feed did not hurt anymore from all of the dry cracks.

Then buy a pedi razor. Pumice stones are nothing compared to these (although pumice stones are an important part of your arsenal). Change the blades frequently.

Slather Vaseline on your feet at night and wear socks to bed to protect your bedding. You can also get prescription cream with 50% urea. I hate using it, but it helps a lot. I can't remember the name, but the tube is huge and will last a long, long time. You can also get urea creams OTC.

You really have to keep the regimen up faithfully, but you will notice a difference!
posted by jgirl at 9:36 AM on March 26, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all suggestions on callous removal techniques (most of which I already practice), but please note that I am asking for help on preventing or slowing formation of callouses.
posted by randomstriker at 9:48 AM on March 26, 2009

Vaseline and urea cream, as above.
posted by jgirl at 9:57 AM on March 26, 2009

Regular moisturizing could help, but it is possible your callouses are exacerbated by a fungus. I always had very thick, cracked skin on my heels, until I took Lamisil for a toenail fungus infection about 5 years ago. Ever since then, my feet have been much smoother and softer, and I still abuse them (ie, barefoot all the time) as much as I ever did.
posted by ferociouskitty at 9:59 AM on March 26, 2009

Callouses form on the foot when there is enough traction, weight and friction applied repeatedly. There is no way to avoid getting callouses unless you give up walking. It's part of life and its a protective shield against stepping on sharp objects. What you can prevent is the cracking and pain - and that is through the routine of removing the dead skin accumulation and using a good oil rubbed in daily/nightly and maybe using a cushioned insole in your shoes which will lessen the impact on the foot and slow down the formation of the callouses.
posted by watercarrier at 10:02 AM on March 26, 2009

I have callouses the likes of which need a belt sander to remove and this is what I've found to prevent them: really good shoes and socks. Callouses form because your feet need them - to prevent damage because of chafing etc. Remove the potential for damage and you remove the chance of callouses. Keep your feet happy, warm and hydrated and they will be callous free. I'll add that you should do what I say, not as I do, because I almost never wear socks and live in my Chucks. Except in the winter when I live in boots and my callouses disappear.
posted by elendil71 at 10:05 AM on March 26, 2009

Do you walk a lot in shoes made for running? When I do this, I have terrible heel pain and form heel callouses almost instantly (within a day or two).

Athletic walking shoes are hideously ugly, but they are designed for the constant heel-striking of walking. There are also dressier walking shoes, like Rockports, etc.
posted by peep at 10:13 AM on March 26, 2009

My pedicure chicks tell me that the razors are okay occasionally if you've got some serious callous to remove, but that using them routinely is just creating more callous.

I don't want to have to sit down and scrub my feet every morning with a pumice stone, but I can work in a quick end-of-shower rub across the most-prone-to-callous edges with one of those flat oval things with the handle (what is this called?).

Nthing moisturizer.

If regular socks aren't cushioning and minimizing friction enough, you can check out socks made specifically for people with diabetes, who can develop foot ulcers very easily.
posted by desuetude at 10:17 AM on March 26, 2009

I cut them off with a sharp knife or scissors. I honestly had no idea there was a special razor-thing people bought to do this. Personally, I mainly get callouses on the backs of my heels and the balls of my feet. I started wearing shoes with better padding (I went from steel-toed boots that'd been resoled three times to padded steel-toed hiking shoes by Wolverine), and the ones on the balls of my feet are much slower to form since.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 10:27 AM on March 26, 2009

If you are wearing casual shoes, buy a $10 pair of gel shoe inserts then fit and insert them properly. When you shower, make sure you wash your feet, I mean crank that heel up there and wash it good. You can pumice the dead skin away if you like, but I prefer a loofa. Then, every evening use a high quality moisturizer like Eucerin on your feet - not a lot, just enough to get good coverage and rub it in. Finally, and I kid you not, go to WalMart and buy a Ped-Egg and use it occasionally on your *dry* feet. Leave the razors to the pros. It's really hard to make yourself bleed with a Ped-Egg and it's very effective for even moderate callouses. Unless you are a hobbit or are wearing horribly fitting shoes, I can pretty much guarantee you that you'll have soft lovable feet in no time. My wife and I both have to do this because we're on yoga mats every day and have some wrangy, nasty feet if we don't care for them.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:04 AM on March 26, 2009

Don't know how bad yours are (almost certainly not as bad as mine), or how far you're willing to go, but if you are serious, here are my recommendations based on 30 years of trying everything recommended above and much, much more.

In order of importance:

1. Never go barefoot.
2. Always wear closed shoes with socks. No flip-flops.
3. At night, soak your feet in warm water, then apply Eucerin Intensive Repair Foot Creme, then put socks on.
4. Every morning in the shower, exfoliate using a pumice stone (not a razor or metal rasp).
5. Afterward, apply a prescription steroid ointment such as desoxymethasone.

I also found that when I started taking iron supplements, I experienced dramatic improvement in my callouses.
posted by HotToddy at 11:07 AM on March 26, 2009

Avoid contact with nylon, rayon and other artificial fibers.

If I wear anything but cotton or wool socks, or if I walk around barefoot on nylon wall to wall carpet, especially in the winter when the air is drier, my heels get pretty cracked. Walking barefoot on hardwood, tile, sand or grass doesn't seem to be as big a trigger.

So you may be able to form nice, healthy callouses that don't get as cracked if you just don't let artificial fibers dry them out.
posted by maudlin at 11:15 AM on March 26, 2009

My podiatrist recommended over-the-counter AmLactin lotion, which has lactic acid that softens the calluses as they are forming. I have found it to be very effective on my feet; I get cracks on my toes in summer which is super painful, and regular use of the lotion keeps the calluses small (thin?) enough that they don't crack. It's sticky though so you'll want to put socks on over it. Scrub with a pumice stone first for extra effectiveness.

It's also good on rough cuticles or finger skin (I have a spot on my finger, where the yarn drags across it as I am knitting, that is very dry and rough).
posted by librarina at 11:57 AM on March 26, 2009

1. A few times a week, plug the bathtub during a shower so your heels soak for a few minutes while you wash everything else.

2. The soaked callouses will soften and turn whitish. Use a pumice stone- I like the synthetic ones the best- to sand off the callouses. The ones you've already accumulated will take a few rounds of this to be removed, so don't belt-sander your feet the first time. Think of scraping off half of what's there, and eventually in a few weeks it'll be back to normal.

3. After pumicing, rinse your feet and pat dry. Rub in a generous amount of a heavy-duty moisturizer (Eucerin, perhaps) and then a layer of Vaseline. Then put on thick cotton socks right away to massage all that product into your skin.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:07 PM on March 26, 2009

My callouses used to be worse than they are now, but I am not sure what changed that improved things. Some possibilities:
- I don't drink these days - maybe that dehydrated me more?
- I haven't scraped or scrubbed or cut them in a long time - I could see that aggravating as much as helping, and it being something of a vicious circle...
- I take a Folic acid supplement with one of my medications; I am not always good about keeping up on vitamins or other supplements but this one is prescribed to make up for a side effect so it is very regular.

I don't think I've changed moisturizing habits, diet, exercise, amount of walking, etc.
posted by mdn at 1:14 PM on March 26, 2009

Following this post a while back, I got a Ped Egg. Although I've used various other barbaric methods, I would never use a rasp, and I've found that the pumice stone and microplane aren't great. The Ped Egg, however, is just enough to get either small amounts or big callouses without a lot of effort. The sandpaper at the end really does the best finishing job.

If you use it once a week or so, it should work well for preventative maintenance. Do NOT use it when your feet are wet, though.
posted by Madamina at 1:20 PM on March 26, 2009

You also might want to consult a podiatrist to see if your calluses are actually caused by having an uneven gait or pronation of the foot. If I do not wear orthotics in my shoes I get calluses in an uneven pattern or definitely worse than before.

Nthing about the techniques for removing calluses. My particular routine though is:

1) razor the large ones;
2) ped egg/rasp/sand to a finer finish;
3) scrub feet with apricot facial scrub material -- basically exfoliating the whole foot;
4) moisturize with Lush's pied de pepper;
5) wear socks after moisturizing
posted by jadepearl at 1:41 PM on March 26, 2009

If you can, take regular barefoot walks on the beach... all those little grains of sand do a great job of scrubbing away dry skin and callouses, but you'll want to be sure to rinse and use moisturizer afterward to make up for the drying action of the sea salt.
posted by taz at 2:00 PM on March 26, 2009

Seconding jadepearl on going to a podiatrist or pedorthist if it's actually your foot that's causing the problem rather than callouses themselves. I love the pedi razor at pedicures, but I've also heard not to use it regularly (especially if you're diabetic -- not sure why, but my aesthetician always asks if I have diabetes when she's about to use it on me).
posted by pised at 3:31 PM on March 26, 2009

Treat your feet nicely. Don't clean them so much that the natural processes can't keep up. Don't remove more skin than your feet think they need for protection, protect them better instead.
posted by Idcoytco at 3:56 PM on March 26, 2009

I wouldn't worry about it, if they are not cracking/bleeding. The use of cream and everyday use of socks will help prevent them from forming quickly.

I get wicked bad callouses in the summer (sandles + no socks), but in the winter (always socks) just thicker with no cracking.
posted by jkaczor at 5:54 PM on March 26, 2009

Stop eating wheat. I was surprised when one of the benefits of trying the paleolithic diet turned out to be the complete disappearance of foot calluses. I walk a good deal, including in Tevas and flip-flops in the summer, and they've never come back.
posted by zadcat at 6:27 PM on March 26, 2009

I'd go barefoot. You think we evolved to wear shoes and socks. Guess the hippies got to me one year. Walk barefoot, even in the city, nasty feet, pair of flip-flops for "no shoes, no service places". It will suck for a month or so, then you'll be walking on hot asphalt and broken glass and going "hmmmmmm". Enough toughness, enough abrasion, no shoes and you learn to walk again.
posted by zengargoyle at 11:45 PM on March 28, 2009

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