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Calluses

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Overview

What Are Calluses?

A callus is an area of thickened, hardened skin on the underside of the foot, usually found in the weight-bearing areas (i.e.: the balls of the feet and bottom of the heel). Callus formation is part of our skin’s way of providing extra cushioning in areas exposed to prolonged friction and pressure, in order to prevent pain and blisters.  They are similar to corns and are formed by the same processes and causes.

Calluses are normal and usually harmless; almost everyone has them to some extent.  However, if they get too thick, they can cause pain and make walking difficult. An overgrown callus can also crack, fissure, and get infected.  

The most frequent cause of problematic calluses is shoes that don’t fit properly:  Ill-fitting shoes put excessive pressure and force on certain parts of the foot.  Calluses commonly form at the balls of our feet by the base of the toes, which is responsible for bearing most of our body’s weight.  

Calluses typically cover a larger area than a corn, and the thickened skin is evenly distributed through the callus (conversely, the thickened skin in a corn is concentrated in its center).   Calluses also usually form on the weight-bearing underside of the foot, whereas corns often form between or on the tops of toes.  

Symptoms

What Are The Symptoms Of A Callus?

A callus  looks and feels like an area or patch of hard, thickened skin.  They are rarely painful and vary in size and shape.  Most calluses do not cause any symptoms and often go unnoticed.

Signs that a callus may require a foot specialist’s attention are:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Foot pain and irritation in the area of the callus
  • Brown, red or black discolouration by the callus (this is due to bleeding under the surface of the callus)
  • Cracking of the skin around the callus.

Causes

What Causes Calluses to Form?

Calluses form as part of our skin’s natural defence mechanism to protect itself against blisters and pain. Repetitive or prolonged friction causes the outer layer of skin to thicken.  This provides extra cushioning for the skin so that it can withstand the friction and pressure to which it is exposed.  For example, gymnasts and weightlifters form calluses on their hands so that they don’t get blisters when they grip and hang from bars.   

Similarly, calluses form on our feet to help them withstand the weight of our bodies and friction on the soles of our feet when we walk.  They are caused by the rubbing action between our feet and the inside of our shoes.  Without calluses, we would get painful blisters on our feet all the time.  However, if they get too thick, they can cause problems and complications.  

Recurrent calluses and complications can be caused or contributed by:

  • Ill-fitting footwear repeatedly rubbing against your feet  
  • Wearing shoes without socks
  • Biomechanical abnormalities: These can lead to increased pressure in certain areas.
  • Bunions
  • Bony prominences on the feet
  • Occupations or activities that require prolonged periods of standing or walking
  • Loss of fat pad (the cushion on the bottom of our feet):  This occurs more often in elderly people
  • Diabetes

Treatment

How Do I Treat Calluses?

Most calluses do not require medical attention.  However, if you have diabetes or any other condition that causes poor circulation in your feet, you should promptly consult a chiropodist to avoid complications.  You can also see a foot specialist if your callus is causing you pain, irritation and discomfort, or affecting your ability to carry out daily activities.  

A licensed chiropodist will safely remove your calluses using chemical and/or mechanical therapies. See our Callus and Skin Care Services page for more information about how we can treat your calluses. 

If you have recurrent calluses, shoe inserts or custom orthotics may be indicated.  These will address any biomechanical abnormalities affecting your gait that may be contributing to the formation of callus.  

Never try to cut or shave away your callus with a sharp object.

To schedule an appointment with our licensed Chiropodists (foot specialists) to treat your calluses, use the booking form below or call 416-769-FEET(3338).

Our Toronto foot clinic is open Monday-Friday 9am-6pm, Saturdays 9am-4pm. You do not need a referral to become a patient at our Foot clinic.

Risk Factors

Certain risk factors may increase your chances of developing calluses:

  • Wearing shoes that are too loose or too tight
  • Wearing shoes without socks
  • Foot deformities and medical conditions that alter the bone alignment in your feet.  (i.e.:  Bunions, hammertoes, bone spurs, etc.)
  • Biomechanical abnormalities that affect the gait and cause excessive pressure in parts of the feet.
  • Prolonged weight bearing activities 
  • Smoking

Prevention

How Do I Prevent Calluses?

To prevent or reduce your susceptibility to developing calluses, you can:

  • Wear shoes that fit correctly and comfortably:  Our foot clinic can help you find a proper-fitting shoe that accommodates bony deformities and provides extra support and cushioning  
  • Moisturize your feet regularly
  • Exfoliate your feet
  • Correct any biomechanical abnormalities with orthotics: An orthotic will correct faulty foot mechanics and redistribute your bodyweight appropriately.  This relieves the stress and pressure placed on callus-prone areas.  A chiropodist or foot specialist can assess and prescribe a custom orthotic that specifically accommodates your unique needs. 
  • Get periodic medical pedicures:  Our licensed chiropodists provide medical pedicures to address any developing concerns or abnormalities with the feet.  In addition to properly and safely removing any thickened formed calluses, a medical pedicure also strengthens the skin on the feet, which reduces the risk of developing future issues.

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