Calluses, or thickened skin, result from on-going friction or pressure on a particular area of skin. On the foot, calluses (hyperkeratosis) commonly occur on areas subjected to pressure and impact: the heels, balls of the foot, and the big toe. Calluses cause irritation and pain as the thickened skin continues to be exposed to pressure or rub against footwear. Although the skin is affected, the bone beneath it is what actually causes the problem. Corns and blisters can also result from friction and pressure on the feet and toes.
Some calluses are painful and sore; the nerves are inflamed and fluid-filled sacs form underneath the callused area. Orthotic inserts and properly fitting footwear can prevent and alleviate calluses. Cortisone injections can provide rapid pain relief of inflammation and pain. For cases of heel callus formation resulting from a metatarsal bone deformity, surgery may be necessary to correct the bone and lessen the pressure.
To reduce calluses, soak affected feet in warm, soapy water, then rub the skin with a pumice or appropriate foot file; apply a thick moisturizing cream afterward to keep the skin soft. There are over-the-counter callus removers (always check with a doctor before using any medication; these particular treatments contain chemicals and can cause burns). Podiatrists also have methods for reducing calluses.