Calloused and cracked skin

What is calloused skin, and how does it form?

Calloused skin is yellowish skin that is thick and brittle. It forms to protect the skin and body against severe strain (pressure or abrasion). The top layer of skin changes when it is subjected to pressure: The healthy skin cells die off and lose their elasticity. This thickens the skin, which becomes increasingly calloused under sustained pressure. The extent and thickness of the calloused skin differs depending on the pressure. Apart from the fact that this layer of skin is perceived as unaesthetic by both sufferers and observers, it can also be painful and involve health risks.

In principle, calluses can form wherever the skin is under particular stress and is frequently stretched or subjected to frequent pressure: Craftsmen and weightlifters often suffer from calloused skin on the palms of their hands, for example. The feet, heels and toes are affected by far the most frequently, however. Calloused skin is more likely to form when people wear tight shoes or stand for long periods of time. Patients who suffer from foot malpositions, such as fallen arches or splay foot, are particularly susceptible to calloused skin because the position of the weight exerted on the foot is not normal.

What does calloused skin on the feet look like?

  • Yellowish, thickened and stiff layer of skin
  • Appears in places that are subjected to particular pressure, such as heels and toes
  • Rough and brittle to the touch

Cracked skin: unsightly, painful and dangerous

If calloused skin is not treated systematically, unpleasant side effects can occur: A corn is one example of how an area of horny skin can exert pressure on the more sensitive tissue underneath, causing severe pain. However, there is also the risk that cracks will appear (also called “rhagades”). The dry, stiff and calloused skin loses its flexibility – it is no longer able to move with the rest of the body and therefore cracks. These cracks can be up to one centimetre deep on the heels. It is easy to imagine that such deep cracks can be painful, burn and even bleed. However, the biggest danger is posed by the risk of infection: Rhagades create a gap in the body’s defence system; bacteria and fungal spores can penetrate the healthy tissue underneath and cause inflammation. Deep cracks are a considerable risk for people with diabetes.

The right care for calloused feet

Minor calluses often disappear by themselves when the abrasion ceases. A silicon pad inserted between the toes is just one solution that reduces the pressure in particular when a corn is developing, which allows the skin to regenerate by itself. Calluses on the heels or toes can normally be softened and removed by repeated footbaths and using pumice stones – it isn’t absolutely necessary to consult a specialist for this. The situation is different for diabetics, though: There is a disproportionately high risk of injury during self-treatment, and so diabetics should consult a foot specialist and thus ensure that they receive the correct treatment. 

Cracks generally take a long time to heal because inflexible calloused skin does not grow back together; the cracks in the skin become deeper and deeper with movement. The first task for foot care professionals is to remove the calloused skin using specific equipment and skin care products. Then the skin needs to regain its elasticity and resistance in order to prevent against inflammation. If deep cracks in the skin on the feet have already become inflamed, you must definitely consult a doctor. 

With the right care, and by protecting your feet against pressure with suitable shoes, you can prevent against new formation of calluses over the long term, and keep your feet supple, healthy, and looking good.

Reducing calloused and cracked skin

Areas of skin that are prone to calluses and cracks need regular care and a sufficient amount of time. Allpresan products that reduce calloused and cracked skin make your feet soft and supple again.