Calluses are not exactly the most attractive feature of an athlete’s foot, but they do serve an important purpose, especially if you run very long distances. They’re also helpful for those who walk barefoot outdoors regularly, play an instrument, hike, or use their hands for labor work.
Before the invention of shoes, calluses played an important role in foot protection and body mechanics. They were like nature’s shoes.
Now that we wear shoes throughout the day and to recreate, calluses aren’t quite as important as they once were, but does that mean we should get rid of them?
What is a Callus?
Calluses are thick, hard layers of skin that develop when the foot experiences frequent friction or pressure in the same spot.
On the feet, calluses typically develop on the bottom of the feet, at the tips of the toes or on the sides of the feet, caused by friction in the shoe. They’re especially common with people who have bunions because the bone protrudes into the side of the shoe.
Calluses generally are not a problem, unless they begin to cause pain.
Benefits of Calluses
Many athletes, musicians, or laborers appreciate calluses because they offer some cushioning and allow the person to perform their craft or sport without pain.
Calluses can provide a level of protection against blisters, hard surfaces, and the elements.
They can also offer foot protection while walking barefoot or wearing minimalist and zero drop shoes without compromising tactile sensation, or your foot’s ability to feel and respond to the ground.
Should I Scrub Calluses away if I’m a Runner?
If summer is just around the corner and you may be feeling pretty mortified to sport sandals with your ugly calloused feet, but is it a good idea to scrub them away if they project your feet?
The answer is that it’s ok to sand them down, but just not fully away. When calluses build up and become too thick, they can crack and lead to bleeding, pain, and possible infections.
If you hit the nail salon for a pedicure, just ask them not to scrub the callus fully away. Pay attention while the esthetician is working and tell them to stop once they reach your preferred point.
How to Prevent Calluses from Getting too Thick
Of course you know we’re going to tell you to wear a foot-shaped shoe that allows for full toe splay to help prevent calluses from building up too thick!
Traditional footwear tapers at the toe box, forcing your toes to smush together, which can lead to calluses at the tips of the toes and on the sides of the feet.
If you have calluses all over your foot, that could be an indication that your shoes do not fit properly. Confirm your size by heading to your local shoe store and have your foot professionally sized. Foot size changes as we age, so it’s completely normal to go up a size!
Another way to prevent build up is by wearing moisture-wicking socks, which prevent friction. Thicker socks can help add some cushion, but just be aware that you may need to increase your shoe size to accommodate the added bulk.
At home, you can regularly use a pumice stone to keep your calluses at bay. Just be sure to scrub them toward the end of your shower, when your skin has had some time to soften and don’t saw away the whole callus. Just file away the rough top layer. Follow up with a moisturizing foot cream to keep the skin supple.
Scrubbing too hard or too much can cause bleeding and cuts and lead to infection.
If you really need to tame the beasts, it’s best to see a podiatrist to have them whittled away by a pro.