The formation of calluses is caused by an accumulation of dead skin cells that harden and thicken over an area of the foot. This callus formation is the body’s defence mechanism to protect the foot against excessive pressure and friction on the underlying bone. Calluses are normally found on the ball-of-the-foot, the heel, and/or the inside of the big toe. Some calluses have a deep seated core known as a nucleation which may become a corn. This particular type of callus can be especially painful to pressure. 


Calluses develop because of excessive pressure at a specific area of the foot. Some common causes of callus formation are high-heeled dress shoes, shoes that are too small, obesity, abnormalities in the gait cycle (walking motion) causing foot function abnormalities, flat feet, high arched feet, bony prominences, and the loss of the fat pad on the bottom of the foot (more probable with increasing age).

Treatment and Prevention

Many people try to alleviate the pain caused by calluses by cutting or trimming them with a razor blade or knife, the use of harsh buffers or use of over the counter pharmacy products with high concentrations of salicylic acid. This is not the way to properly treat calluses; it may be very dangerous and can worsen the condition resulting in unnecessary injuries. Diabetics especially should never try this type of treatment. 

To relieve the pain caused by callus formation, a visit to a Podiatrist is required for the removal of such callus through a process known as surgical debridement.  Such removal of hard skin is painless but does not cure the cause. A cure or reduction in duration and amount of callus formation can only be achieved be limiting excessive pressure through redistribution of foot pressure equally throughout the foot with the use of a custom prescribed orthotic. An effective orthotic transfer’s pressure away from high pressured areas to allow the callus to heal. In some instances, a Podiatrist may apply an impression within an orthotic to offload a specific area identified to be a high pressure area causing callus formation. Women should also avoid wearing high-heeled shoes while advice for sensible footwear for both men and women needs to be followed.