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What is a Heel Callus?

Allison Boelcke
By
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A callus is thick, raised layer of hard skin that develops as a defense mechanism against frequent rubbing or pressure in a process known as hyperkeratosis. The condition tends to occur most often around bones on the hands or feet, especially underneath the heel. A heel callus can be due to bone structure of the foot or incorrectly fitting footwear.

The physical appearance of a heel callus can vary depending on the severity. When the skin goes through hyperkeratosis, it develops a patch of dead skin which can more easily handle pressure. The callus will generally be a different color and have a much harder texture that will not flake off like normal skin. It can be a small area of the heel or expand across the entire bottom of the heel, and may feel tender or very painful.

A heel callus is caused by irritation or constant rubbing against a shoe or the ground. The irritation can be a result of shoes, socks, or hosiery that does not fit correctly and makes the heel either move too much inside a loose shoe or chafe against the bottom of a shoe that is too tight. It tends to occur most often from high heels or shoes with tight, pointy toes. Heel calluses are also more likely to occur in people who have flat feet without a bottom arch or people with too much of an arch shape. Obesity may contribute to the development of heel calluses due to the foot absorbing the impact from excess weight.

Since a heel callus is the result of improper shock absorption or friction, it can be treated simply by a person switching to a more supportive, better fitting shoe that is more equipped to withstand the pressure, especially for someone who is constantly on his or her feet. To minimize the pain from a callus, a person can apply a callus removing product that is designed to safely penetrate and soften the dead skin or gently scrub off the callus layers with a file specifically designed for calluses. A person can also use thick moisturizing cream twice a day to make the callus feel smoother.

Heel calluses are usually bothersome and not typically dangerous on their own, but they can have serious complications if a person tries to physically remove them. Slicing off a heel callus with a knife or other sharp object can be dangerous because it is difficult to cut through just the dead skin and not accidentally reach the normal skin beneath it. An improperly removed callus can result in severe cuts, which can lead to infection.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Allison Boelcke
By Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke, a digital marketing manager and freelance writer, helps businesses create compelling content to connect with their target markets and drive results. With a degree in English, she combines her writing skills with marketing expertise to craft engaging content that gets noticed and leads to website traffic and conversions. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
Discussion Comments
By pechis53 — On Dec 30, 2012

I used the ped egg solution for my heel callus, and it worked perfectly -- beautiful heel snow. The problem is that now a white skin is covering the rim of my heels. The white color appears when I wet my feel (bath, etc.) or wear shoes that are closed shoes. When they dry out, the color disappears. Is that a fungus? What can I do?

By anon293627 — On Sep 26, 2012

I have extreme pain from a heel callus. I have had it surgically removed twice, but it came back. I am in so much pain I am afraid I will have to stop working. I do not know what to do.

By anon175825 — On May 13, 2011

Thanks for the note on flat feet, it helps explain my sudden heel pain after finally addressing my nasty calluses.

I also unfortunately stepped on a small object, but I wish I had gone lightly with the trimming medially, maybe just using a stone, to retain some useful defense and support of the heel.

It seems that a bone spur was just waiting for this opportunity to make its presence known, and the cosmetic improvement has not prompted my wife to massage my feet as I anticipated.

By anon108387 — On Sep 02, 2010

Follow up to my earlier reply about using the "ped egg" -- if you have diabetes do not mess around with your feet. See a doctor!

As far as what I've read about causes, poorly fitting shoes, open heeled shoes, obesity, etc. I can't speak to any of them. I run, walk when I play golf three times a week, hike, and am generally on my feet a lot. I don't wear high heels (I'm a guy) and a very close personal friend is a podiatrist.

I've asked him how I can prevent them. He told me he sees bed ridden patients who get them thick on their heels, and his views were that with some people it could be genetic.

I started getting them thick on my heels when I was about 13. I'm 45 and it's only been within the past two years they got so bad the cracks made it difficult to walk. I hit them with that egg about once every week or 10 days and keep them at bay.

By anon108386 — On Sep 02, 2010

I get very very thick calluses on both my heels. If I let them go too long they will crack and become extremely painful. I have tried everything including the razor type callus removers which work well but I have overdone it a little.

My suggestion is a "ped egg" sold at walmart and most drug stores. it sells for around $10.00 and works great. (I assumed it was another in a long list of things I've tried that were not equipped to handle the level of deformity on my heels.) They work best when you get out of the shower. Once you do this, sleep with petroleum jelly on them with socks on.

By pharmchick78 — On Aug 17, 2010

@copperpipe -- Well, as with all callus removal, you should use the proper tools.

I'm not sure if they make callus removers specifically for heels, but if they do, then get yourself a heel callus remover, treat the callus with a good soak and come callus remover lotion, and carefully shave it off.

As long as you don't cut too deep, you shouldn't run any real risk of infection.

By CopperPipe — On Aug 17, 2010

What are the best tips for heel callus removal? I have a pretty thick one on my right heel, but I'm afraid that when I remove it that it will be painful, or that I will somehow cause infection.

Does anybody have any tips for me?

By zenmaster — On Aug 17, 2010

If you're really prone to getting calluses on the heel, then you might want to try heel pads.

They can reduce the friction and heat that gets put on your heel from walking, and can also reduce sore heel pain, especially in those who are overweight.

You can find heel pads in pretty much any drug store, but if you have severe heel pain or calluses that are just out of control, an orthopedist can prescribe special heel pads for you.

Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke, a digital marketing manager and freelance writer, helps businesses create compelling content to connect with their target markets and drive results. With a degree in English, she combines her writing skills with marketing expertise to craft engaging content that gets noticed and leads to website traffic and conversions. Her ability to understand and connect with target audiences makes her a valuable asset to any content creation team.
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