How to Get Rid of Foot Calluses: DIY Remedies and Treatments

8 min read

There are two main ways to remove foot calluses. One is to scrub the callus off after soaking the affected area.

The other way is to apply baking soda, salicylic acid and other chemicals. This can get rid of corns and calluses without exfoliation. 

Hi! I’m Dr. Karim Maghraby. I’m a medical doctor and physician scientist (M.D., M.Sc.). I spent hours researching foot calluses and their removal to write this article. I hope you find it useful.

Below, I’ll cover how to get rid of foot calluses. I’ll explain how you can soften and remove foot corns. I’ll also discuss a little-known  way to remove calluses slowly and without exfoliating them.

Last but not least, I’ll explain when you need to see a foot specialist to get help for your callus. 

Disclaimer: This guide was created for educational purposes. It neither offers nor replaces medical advice. Learn more here.

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Table of Contents

The Fast Way to Get Rid of Calluses

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Step 1 - Soak your feet

To get rid of calluses, start by soaking your feet for 20 minutes. This will soften the callus up and make it easier to remove. It’ll also prevent skin tears and other foot problems (1,3,4).

If you want to get the most out of your foot bath, you can add the following before submerging your feet:

  • Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar helps separate layers of thickened skin. Some calluses will come right off after a warm vinegar bath. Mixed one part vinegar to four parts of warm water and don’t soak for too long.
  • Castor oil. Mixing 5 tablespoons of castor oil in a warm water bath. It will hydrate the skin and make the callus easier to remove using pumice stone or file.
  • Epsom salt. Most people don’t know this, but epsom salt isn’t just a muscle relaxant. It acts as an exfoliant too, removing layers of dead skin. This makes the callus easier to remove completely afterwards. As with vinegar, smaller calluses sometimes come off after a good epsom salt bath.
  • Tea tree oil or lemon juice. Teat tree oil has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. Add a little to warm water before a foot bath to prevent infection and accelerate healing. Be mindful to not soak your feet too long, as tea tree oil is strong and can irritate the skin. If tea trea oil is unavailable, fresh lemon juice works too.

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Step 2 - Remove the callus

Now that we’ve softened the feet up, it’s time to remove the callus. There are a few different ways to do this. The first way is…

Pumice stone is good for dry, cracked heels. Be careful when using it A large-grain pumice stone can pull at a callus instead of exfoliating it. This can tear skin and lead to new callus formation.

Foot files come in all sorts. Some are metal. Others use a sandpaper surface. A third category is electric; this is what podologists use. 

A small-grain sandpaper-type foot file is best for most people. If you can get a good electric one, that’s also good. 

A nail file is another way to work on calluses, especially thick ones. They’re a fast, precise way to get rid of a callus or hard corn.

Whichever you go with…

1. Remove one callus layer at a time. If a foot callus has more than 2 layers, do not try to remove all of them in one sitting.

2. Use gentle, circular motions. NEVER use excessive force. You might tear the callus right off, which you don’t want. 

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Step 3 - Treat the affected area

We’ve now removed some or all of our callus. But that doesn’t mean our work is done just yet. We want to treat the affected area to keep the skin soft and moisturized. This will prevent future callus formation. It will also soften corns and stop them from hardening further.

Take some foot cream, shea butter or coconut oil. Gently massage it into the affected area. Try to do this daily for the next few days. This will stop the skin in the affected area from hardening again. It will also help the area heal faster. If you haven’t removed the callus completely, you’ll be able to continue removing it faster this way.

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Step 4 - Prevent the formation of new calluses

To prevent new corns and calluses from forming, keep your skin moisturized. Apply coconut oil, shae butter or a quality cream that contains either regularly.

If you see developing corns or calluses, get some salicylic acid. Apply it three times a day using a soft cotton ball or pad. Salicylic acid helps dissolve keratin in thickened skin over calluses and stops them from growing. If a callus is just starting to form, applying the acid will reverse its growth.

The Easy Way to Get Rid of Foot Calluses

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Step 1 - Get baking soda or salicylic acid

Liquid salicylic acid is a powerful callus remover. So is baking soda.

If you’re using baking soda, take a few tablespoons and mix with enough water to form a paste. Add a drop of tea tree oil or fresh-squeezed lime juice.

If you’re using salicylic acid, use a weak solution. 1-2% is plenty strong. 

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Step 2 - Apply to affected area

Apply your paste or acid to the affected area. You can use clean hands or, for salicylic acid, a cotton pad. 

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Step 3 - Cover with sock

Now cover the treated foot with a wool or cotton sock. Leave the sock on a few hours.

This method works best when you can leave the sock overnight, letting the soda/acid work into the skin for hours.

How to Get Rid of Foot Corns

foot corn :Select focus with shallow depth of field.

You can use the callus removal methods above to get rid of foot corns. 

You could also try the following. They don’t involve exfoliation and will get rid of most corns. 

Exfoliating creams

Some creams exfoliate the feet by removing layers of dead skin. I’ve seen some very popular Korean and US-made ones. You leave them on your feet for 15-20 minutes, then remove them. Dead skin cells then come off on their own, usually over the next 12-48 hours.

These products are a good way to remove foot corns. They can also remove the top layers of a foot callus. The important thing is not to exfoliate skin mechanically after using an exfoliating cream first.

Foot cream with urea or ammonia lactate

Urea and ammonium lactate both soften the skin. They can quickly moisturize a dry heel, cracked foot skin, etc. They’re also good for reducing corns and smaller calluses. When used on callus pads, they can result in pain reduction.

Natural oils

Many foot corn treatment guides suggest applying coconut oil. The truth is, it doesn’t matter which specific oil type you use. Olive oil, coconut oil, shea butter – these all soften the skin and stop it from hardening.

For a simple fix, apply olive oil to the affected area, then cover with a thick cotton sock. This helps with all kinds of conditions, and will quickly stop a soft corn from hardening.

When Not to Remove Foot Calluses

If a callus is growing over a cyst or wart (e.g. a plantar wart), don’t try to get rid of it. These are not your usual pressure-induced calluses. They require special treatment and precautions from a medical professional (1).

Don’t try to treat a callus if you suffer from a peripheral artery or nerve disease (such as Diabetes). You have a much higher risk of injury or infection and should see a doctor (4).  

Do not treat your own calluses if they are infected. If you feel pain when treating a painful corn or callus, stop immediately. Contact a doctor before proceeding.

Last but not least, do not attempt to treat your calluses if you have brittle, weak or dry skin. The same applies to bony, rigid protrusions or misaligned bones (2,3).

FAQ

How do Calluses Form?

Callus formation happens when skin is exposed to repeated friction or pressure. This prompts the body to respond by increasing the thickness of the skin over the affected area. The end result is an irregular patch of hard skin. This skin protects you against pressure but can painful and fragile.

Calluses can also form because of other medical conditions. For example, plantar fasciitis can make you shift your weight to the same part of the heel repeatedly. This can cause skin in that area to harden.

Where do calluses usually form?

Calluses are usually found under the ball of the foot and under the big toe. Plantar calluses are less common but still common.

Are calluses dangerous?

Calluses aren’t necessarily unhealthy or dangerous. They mean your body is working as intended; thickening in areas that need protection from friction and pressure.

Having said that, a mistreated callus can get infected and lead to complications. In that sense, it can be dangerous.

In conclusion

There are two main ways to remove a callus. One is to soak the area, then exfoliate it. The other is to use baking soda and salicylic acid to slowly get rid of the callus. 

Foot corns are easier to get rid of. A lot of the time, keeping them moisturized with olive, argan or coconut oil is enough. 

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Writer:

Dr. Karim Maghraby

Last Updated:

April 26, 2022

DR. KARIM MAGHRABY

Dr. Maghraby is a medical doctor and published physician scientist. He’s an avid runner and a user of sports compression gear.