In the realm of foot health, calluses on the sole of your foot are a common concern that can cause discomfort and hinder your daily activities. However, fear not, for understanding and treating this issue is within your grasp. LMD Podiatry, led by board-certified Dr. Lauren Dabakaroff, offers advanced foot and ankle care, providing state-of-the-art diagnostics and same-day appointments in a friendly environment. With a focus on your foot health, Dr. Dabakaroff utilizes her Mount Sinai training to offer surgical and non-surgical solutions for an array of conditions, including calluses. By familiarizing yourself with the causes, symptoms, and treatment options, you can proactively address a callus on the sole of your foot, enabling you to regain comfort and maintain an active lifestyle.

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Understanding Calluses

Calluses are areas of thickened skin that form as a result of repetitive pressure or friction on a particular area of the foot. They are a natural defense mechanism of the body to protect the underlying tissues from damage. While calluses are generally harmless, they can cause discomfort and pain if not properly treated. It is important to understand the causes, types, and symptoms of calluses in order to effectively manage and prevent them.

What is a callus?

A callus is a thickened area of skin that usually occurs on the sole of the foot or the palm of the hand. It develops when there is repetitive pressure or friction on a particular area of the skin. Calluses are composed of layers of dead skin cells that have built up over time. They can vary in size and appearance, often having a yellowish or grayish color and a slightly raised surface. Calluses are different from corns, which have a central core of hardened skin.

Causes of calluses

There are several common causes of calluses on the sole of the foot. One of the main causes is wearing ill-fitting shoes that do not provide proper support or cushioning. High heels, tight shoes, and shoes with thin soles can increase pressure on certain areas of the foot, leading to the development of calluses. Other causes include walking or standing for long periods of time, engaging in activities that involve repetitive motions, and foot deformities such as bunions or hammertoes.

Types of calluses

Calluses can be categorized into two main types: plantar calluses and non-plantar calluses. Plantar calluses occur on the sole of the foot, particularly in high-pressure areas such as the heel or the ball of the foot. They are often caused by excessive friction or pressure from walking or running. Non-plantar calluses, on the other hand, can develop on various parts of the foot, such as the sides or the tops. They may be caused by factors such as tight footwear, abnormal foot mechanics, or certain underlying medical conditions.

Symptoms of a Sole Callus

Physical symptoms

A sole callus typically appears as a thick, hardened area of skin on the bottom of the foot. It may have a rough or uneven texture and can sometimes be accompanied by a yellowish or grayish discoloration. The affected skin may feel dry or rough to the touch. In some cases, a callus may also have a slightly raised surface. The size of a callus can vary, ranging from small, localized areas to larger, more widespread patches of thickened skin.

Pain and discomfort

While calluses themselves are not usually painful, they can cause discomfort or pain if they become excessively thick or if pressure is applied to them. Walking or standing for long periods of time may exacerbate the discomfort. In some cases, a callus may also cause a burning sensation or tenderness. If left untreated, a callus can lead to other foot problems, such as corns, blisters, or ulcers, which can be more painful and difficult to manage.

corn callus on bottom of foot

Diagnosing a Callus

Medical examination

To diagnose a callus, a medical professional will typically conduct a physical examination of the affected foot. They will assess the size, appearance, and location of the callus, as well as any associated symptoms. A thorough examination may involve inspecting the foot visually, palpating the affected area, and evaluating the individual’s gait and foot mechanics. The medical professional may also inquire about the individual’s medical history and any relevant lifestyle factors, such as footwear choices or occupational activities.

Dermatologist consultation

In some cases, a dermatologist may be consulted to further evaluate and diagnose a callus. Dermatologists are specialists in skin conditions and can provide insight into the underlying causes of a callus. They may perform additional tests or examinations, such as a skin biopsy, to rule out other conditions or to determine the best course of treatment. Consulting a dermatologist can be particularly beneficial if the callus is persistent, painful, or if there are any concerns about the appearance of the skin.

Treatment Options

Home remedies

There are several home remedies that can help alleviate the discomfort and reduce the size of a callus. One common method is to use padding or cushioning on the affected area to reduce pressure and friction. This can be done using over-the-counter callus pads or moleskin patches. Moisturizing the feet regularly can also help soften the callus and prevent further thickening of the skin. Applying a thick moisturizer or using a foot cream containing urea can aid in the exfoliation of dead skin cells. Gentle exfoliation using a pumice stone or a foot scrub can also be effective in reducing the size of a callus.

Medical treatments

For more severe or persistent calluses, medical treatments may be necessary. One common medical treatment is the use of salicylic acid treatments. Salicylic acid is a keratolytic agent that helps dissolve dead skin cells and soften the callus. It can be applied in the form of creams, patches, or solutions. Prescription medications, such as topical corticosteroids, may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation and alleviate discomfort. In rare cases where the callus is causing significant pain or mobility issues, surgical intervention may be considered to remove the thickened skin.

Preventive measures

Taking preventive measures is crucial in managing and preventing calluses. Wearing properly-fitting shoes that provide adequate cushioning and support can help reduce friction and pressure on the feet. It is recommended to choose shoes with wide toe boxes, low heels, and cushioned insoles. Practicing good foot hygiene, such as keeping the feet clean and dry, can also help prevent calluses. Regularly inspecting the feet for any signs of calluses or other foot problems can aid in early detection and prompt treatment.

foot corn callus

Home Remedies for Callus Relief

Padding and cushioning

Using padding or cushioning on the affected area can help relieve pressure and reduce friction. Over-the-counter callus pads or moleskin patches can be applied to the callus to provide a protective barrier. These pads can be easily found at most pharmacies or drugstores. They are usually self-adhesive and can be trimmed to fit the size and shape of the callus. By reducing the direct contact of the callus with footwear or other surfaces, padding and cushioning can alleviate discomfort and promote healing.

Moisturizing the feet

Regularly moisturizing the feet is important to keep the skin hydrated and prevent excessive dryness, which can contribute to the development of calluses. Moisturizers or foot creams containing urea or lactic acid can be particularly effective in softening the callus and promoting the exfoliation of dead skin cells. These ingredients help to hydrate the skin and enhance its natural exfoliation process. It is recommended to apply moisturizer or foot cream to the feet after bathing or showering, when the skin is most receptive to absorption.

Gentle exfoliation

Gentle exfoliation can help reduce the size and thickness of a callus. This can be done using a pumice stone, a foot scrub, or an exfoliating foot mask. Before exfoliating, it is important to soften the callus by soaking the feet in warm water for approximately 10 minutes. This helps to loosen the dead skin cells and makes them easier to remove. Care should be taken to avoid excessive scrubbing or rubbing, as this can cause irritation and further damage to the skin. After exfoliating, it is essential to moisturize the feet to maintain their softness and prevent further dryness.

Medical Treatments for Calluses

Salicylic acid treatments

Salicylic acid is a common treatment option for calluses. It is a keratolytic agent that works by dissolving the protein bonds that hold dead skin cells together. This helps to break down the callus and soften the thickened skin. Salicylic acid treatments can be applied in the form of creams, patches, or solutions. Depending on the severity of the callus, prolonged use may be necessary to achieve the desired results. It is important to follow the instructions provided by the healthcare professional or the product packaging when using salicylic acid treatments.

Prescription medications

In some cases, prescription medications may be prescribed to treat severe or persistent calluses. Topical corticosteroids, such as hydrocortisone creams, can help reduce inflammation and alleviate discomfort associated with calluses. These medications work by suppressing the immune response and reducing the production of inflammatory substances. It is important to use prescription medications as directed and to follow up with the healthcare professional to monitor the progress of the treatment.

Surgical intervention

In rare cases where the callus is causing significant pain or mobility issues, surgical intervention may be considered. This typically involves removing the thickened skin and any underlying structures that may be contributing to the development of the callus, such as bony prominences or corns. Surgical procedures for callus removal are usually performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis. The specific technique and approach may vary depending on the location and extent of the callus. After surgery, proper wound care and follow-up appointments are important for optimal healing and prevention of complications.

foot corns and calluses

Preventive Measures to Avoid Calluses

Proper footwear

Wearing properly-fitting shoes that provide adequate cushioning and support is essential in preventing calluses. It is important to choose shoes that have wide toe boxes to allow for natural foot movement and to prevent crowding of the toes. Low-heeled shoes or flat shoes are recommended to minimize pressure on the front of the foot. Cushioned insoles or orthotic inserts can help absorb shock and reduce friction. It is also important to replace worn-out shoes and to avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or too loose.

Foot hygiene practices

Maintaining good foot hygiene is important in preventing calluses and other foot problems. This includes regularly washing the feet with mild soap and lukewarm water, paying special attention to the areas prone to callus formation. After washing, it is important to thoroughly dry the feet, especially between the toes, to prevent moisture buildup. Applying a moisturizer or foot cream to the feet, focusing on the areas prone to calluses, can help keep the skin hydrated and supple. Keeping the toenails properly trimmed and avoiding excessive trimming or cutting of the callus can also help prevent further complications.

Regular foot exams

Regularly inspecting the feet for any signs of calluses or other foot problems is important in preventing complications and ensuring prompt treatment. It is recommended to perform self-examinations of the feet on a regular basis, checking for any thickened or hardened areas of skin. Early detection of calluses can allow for timely intervention and prevention of further complications. Seeking professional help if any abnormalities are noticed, such as persistent pain or the formation of open sores, is important in ensuring proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

When to Seek Professional Help

Persistent pain

If a callus on the sole of your foot is causing persistent pain that does not improve with at-home remedies or over-the-counter treatments, it is advisable to seek professional help. Persistent pain may be a sign of an underlying foot condition or an abnormality that requires further evaluation and treatment. A medical professional, such as a podiatrist or a dermatologist, can provide a thorough examination and recommend appropriate treatment options based on the specific cause of the pain.

Difficulty walking or standing

If a callus on the sole of your foot is causing difficulty walking or standing, it is important to seek professional help. Difficulty walking or standing may indicate that the callus has become excessively thick or that there are other foot problems that need attention. A medical professional can assess the severity of the callus and provide appropriate treatment options to alleviate the discomfort and restore normal mobility. They may also recommend modifications in footwear or lifestyle practices to prevent further complications.

Signs of infection

If a callus on the sole of your foot shows signs of infection, it is essential to seek immediate professional help. Signs of infection include redness, warmth, swelling, tenderness, or the presence of pus or discharge. An infected callus can lead to more serious complications if not promptly treated. A healthcare professional can evaluate the extent of the infection and provide appropriate treatment, which may include antibiotics or other interventions to eliminate the infection and promote healing.

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foot corns and calluses

Complications of Untreated Calluses

Ulcers and open sores

If left untreated, calluses can lead to the development of ulcers or open sores. Thickened and hardened skin can put excessive pressure on the underlying tissues, leading to breakdown and the formation of ulcers. These ulcers can be painful, difficult to heal, and prone to infection. Individuals with diabetes or poor circulation are particularly at risk for developing ulcers as a result of calluses. Prompt treatment of calluses can help prevent the progression to ulcers and reduce the risk of serious complications.

Infections and abscesses

Untreated calluses can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi, increasing the risk of infection. The thickened, dry skin of a callus provides an ideal environment for microbial growth. Bacterial or fungal infections can cause redness, swelling, tenderness, and the formation of abscesses. In severe cases, an untreated infection can spread to the deeper tissues, leading to cellulitis or even osteomyelitis. Proper hygiene practices, regular inspection of the feet, and timely treatment of calluses can help prevent infections and abscesses.

Chronic foot pain

Chronic foot pain can be a complication of untreated calluses, particularly if they become excessively thick or if there are underlying foot deformities or conditions. The pressure and friction caused by a callus can lead to changes in foot mechanics, joint alignment, and soft tissue structures. Over time, this can result in chronic foot pain, discomfort, and difficulty with walking or performing daily activities. Treating calluses promptly and addressing any underlying foot problems can help prevent chronic pain and maintain overall foot health.


Understanding calluses on the sole of your foot is crucial in effectively managing and preventing them. Calluses are thickened areas of skin that develop as a result of pressure or friction. They can cause discomfort and pain if not properly treated. It is important to address the underlying causes of calluses, choose appropriate treatment options, and take preventive measures to maintain long-term foot health.

Home remedies such as padding and cushioning, moisturizing the feet, and gentle exfoliation can provide relief from calluses. Medical treatments such as salicylic acid treatments, prescription medications, and surgical intervention may be necessary for severe or persistent calluses. Preventive measures, including wearing proper footwear, practicing good foot hygiene, and regular foot exams, can help avoid the formation of calluses.

Seeking professional help is advisable if there is persistent pain, difficulty walking or standing, or signs of infection associated with a callus. Untreated calluses can lead to complications such as ulcers, infections, and chronic foot pain. Understanding the causes, treatment options, and preventive measures can promote long-term foot health and wellbeing.

In conclusion, taking the time to understand and properly manage calluses on the sole of your foot can lead to improved comfort, mobility, and overall foot health. Whether through at-home remedies, medical treatments, or preventive measures, addressing calluses and their underlying causes is essential in maintaining healthy and pain-free feet.

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