Callus: Definition, Formation & Treatment

Instructor: Danielle Haak

Danielle has a PhD in Natural Resource Sciences and a MSc in Biological Sciences

You're probably familiar with the term calluses, even if you don't quite know what they are. Read on to learn what a callus is, how it forms, and how you can treat it. Then take a short quiz on the definition, formations, and treatments.

What's a Callus?

Have you ever found a tough or hardened chunk of skin on your hands or feet? Chances are you've experienced a callus before. A callus is just a hardened path of skin that develops in places that experience a lot of friction or pressure. The most commonly affected areas are hands, fingers, feet, and toes. They may not be that pretty to look at, but you really only need treatment if the area is painful. A callus will gradually go away on its own if the source of pressure or friction is removed.

The black arrows point to calluses on the bottom of this foot and toes.
foot calluses

The black arrows point to calluses on the palm of the hand.
hand callus

How Does a Callus Form?

Calluses aren't usually painful, and they tend to form on the soles of your feet, on the palms of your hands, or even on your knees. They will naturally vary in size and shape based on the affected area. Some of the most common causes of callus formation are wearing tight shoes or loose shoes, not wearing socks, or repeated motions such as playing an instrument or using hand tools. Tight shoes cause portions of your foot or toes to compress and rub against the shoe. In contrast, loose shoes may slide around, also causing parts of your foot to rub against the shoe repeatedly. Likewise, if you skip wearing socks, not only will your shoes probably smell worse, you'll also cause extra friction on your poor feet! Finally, any type of repeated motion is capable of causing calluses. Guitar players may get calluses on their fingers, and people who work with their hands may get callused palms, especially on the pads right under their fingers.

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