A callus, or thickening of the skin, is usually caused by repeated and excessive friction and can lead to burning and pain. The most common location for a callus is on the ball of the foot, but it can also be found on the hands. Most calluses are harmless, although they may be annoying, and can be treated with minimally invasive techniques and treatments.
Check with your doctor first to rule out other causes of thickened skin, such as warts and cysts, or to see if an abnormality is the cause of the callus, which would be visible on an X-ray. For normal calluses, a podiatrist will pare down thickened skin using a scalpel and may prescribe a patch or cream containing 40 percent salicylic acid. You may also need an antibiotic ointment to reduce the risk of infection. If an X-ray does turn up a deformity, the doctor can prescribe custom-made padded shoe inserts, known as orthotics, and in rare cases, surgery could be required to properly align the bone.
Self-help and Prevention
Soak your feet in warm, soapy water and gently file down the hardened layers of skin using a washcloth, an emery board or pumice stone you can buy from the drug store. Be careful not to take off too much skin or go too deep, which could cause bleeding and infection.You may find you need to repeat the soak/filing process once a day for several consecutive days. Don't cut the callus yourself, especially if you have diabetes or experience numbness and tingling in the foot. Use over-the-counter foot pads to cushion the callus area inside your shoes, but use caution with medicated pads that contain salicylic acid, which can irritate healthy skin and lead to infection in some people. If you do choose a salicylic acid product, be sure and only use it on the callus and not the surrounding areas. For an overnight treatment, mix equal amounts of Whitfield's Ointment and hydrocortisone cream and apply to your foot before bed. Place a plastic bag over the foot and then a sock, leave it in place until morning, then rub off as much callus as you can with a coarse towel or firm brush.
Apply moisturizer to your feet daily to keep your skin soft. Don't go barefoot and choose properly fitting socks made of a polyester-cotton blend that wick moisture away better than cotton. Wear shoes with a low heel (about 3/4 to 1 inch high) that allow you to wiggle your toes. Make sure your shoe is the proper length, with a thumb's width distance from the end of your longest toe to the end of your shoe.