A toe callus is an area of thickened skin on the toe. Calluses form in response to friction and pressure, and can be accompanied with corns on the toes, a closely related formation of thickened skin. There are a number of options available for treating a callus if it becomes uncomfortable or unsightly; podiatrists would like it noted, for the record, that cutting away calluses is not recommended.
There are a number of ways in which a toe callus can form. One of the most common is as a result of wearing shoes which are not properly fitted. Footwear which is too tight, which puts strain on an area of the foot, or which does not facilitate easy walking can cause a callus to develop on the toe. Gait abnormalities and frequent walking, biking, rock climbing, or other athletic activities can also promote the development of a callus.
Once a callus starts to form, it should be addressed as quickly as possible, before more layers of thickened skin develop. Soaking the foot in hot water and salt or hot water and baking soda and following with a pumice scrub can help to remove the thickened skin without breaking the skin or hurting the foot. Many drug stores carry pumice stones which can be used to scrub the feet, and they can also be purchased at stores which stock beauty supplies. An emery board or foot file can also be used.
Certain hand creams can also help with a toe callus, as can foot creams. Creams designed to soften hard skin will help break down the callus. One of the best ways to use such creams is to apply the cream before bed and pull a pair of socks on over the feet to give the cream plenty of time to work.
There are also commercial toe callus products like medicated pads and wipes. These are generally not recommended, as they can be hard on the skin. Likewise, corn and callus pads for the shoes can actually make the pressure worse, rather than better. Instead, a custom-fitted sole insert can be used to relieve and redistribute pressure safely.
If a callus keeps recurring, it may be a good idea to meet with a podiatrist. The doctor can evaluate the foot, talk with the patient about habits, and check out the patient's footwear. Using this information, a recommendation for some lifestyle recommendations which will prevent toe callus formation can be made. For example, the patient might be able to resolve the problem by having shoes resoled, or by purchasing new shoes.