What is hard skin, and why does it build-up on my feet?
Our skin is designed in such a way that areas which are put under high pressure or friction, respond by thickening to protect our feet.
Keratin is a protein found in our skin, it accumulates on the surface of the skin when under pressure, forming a thick protective layer called callus, this has a yellowish colouring to it.
Pressure on our feet can come from weight gain, for example in pregnancy, or an increased level of activity. This increased pressure, will encourage the hard skin to keep coming back.
Our gait, in other words the way we walk – contributes to the way pressure is distributed on our feet. A podiatrist is well placed to assess gait pattern and foot function, and is able to diagnose, treat and manage any abnormalities in the foot that may be an added cause for pressure. A biomechanical assessment is used to assess foot function.
The thickening in the layers of the skin can feel tight, itchy and cause pain when you walk. The skin can dry out and crack, especially around the heels.
Wearing open heeled footwear like flip flops a lot of the time during the summer, can cause cracked heels. If the crack in the heel is not treated promptly and appropriately, there is a chance of picking up an infection in the skin.
For people who have diabetes, continuous build-up of hard skin can cause wounds to form underneath the callus, if not treated and managed by removing the hard skin, and cushioning the affected area adequately. It is advisable to visit a podiatrist to have the hard skin paired away.
Corns are thickened dense areas of hard skin, that can sometimes develop on the feet. They can be more painful than calluses. Corns can appear over areas of bony prominences when under pressure. If they are painful enough to need cushioning, see a podiatrist to have them removed.
If I gave you one top tip, and told you this one tip will massively improve the hard skin on your feet within a few days… you’ll be damned sure to do it every day, won’t you?
Well, there’s a simple self-care routine you can adopt at home, to really help reduce the build-up of unwanted hard skin and corns on your feet…
Moisturising your feet with an urea-based cream every day, will do just the job.
You didn’t think it would be as easy as that, well it is, it goes a long way to help break down the hard skin and hydrate the skin.
That and other things like, gently filing any areas of hard skin with an emery board weekly, and making sure you wear shoes and socks that are cushioned, supportive and well suited to the shape of your feet.
By following this simple self-management tips regularly, you’ll be sure to see a significant improvement in your feet…
Your feet are bound to look, and feel great!
Urea is a keratolytic, which means it breaks down keratin and also adds moisture to the skin.
Using one with a strength between 10-25% will do the trick.
There are a number of brands widely available, Dermatonics, CCS, Flexitol, Scholl etc…Dermatonics is one I recommend to my patients regularly, and also use myself.
Dermatonics Hard Skin Removing Balm contains 25% urea, it is light and non-greasy; you don’t have to use too much of it – which means it lasts longer. It smells great, and leaves your feet feeling soft and supple. Great for diabetic feet too.
Good moisturising creams are a great way of hydrating the skin, allowing the skin to heal.
The best time to apply cream to your feet is immediately after you’ve had a bath or shower; make sure to dry your feet properly before you put on the cream.
Your skin is able to absorb the cream much better, after a bath or a shower, because it becomes more porous when moist.
Filing off the layers of dry skin on your feet weekly, means the hard skin won’t build-up overtime.
If you choose to soak your feet before you file the hard skin, this is okay, but only do so once a week, for no more than 10 minutes – obviously wash them every day. Soaking your feet too often, can strip the skin of its natural oils, making the skin dry out.
After soaking your feet, dry them properly with a clean towel, making sure to dry well between the toes – this ensures the skin doesn’t get too soggy and split. It also reduces the chances of you developing Athlete’s foot.
Suitable shoes must:
It is important to wear good fitting shoes that will accommodate the shape of your feet – rounded toes = rounded toe-box and so on…
If you have a bunion or a hammer toe, it is always good to wear shoes that are wide and deep enough in the toe-box, to allow space for your toes to wriggle freely – and in addition, eliminates pressure on any bony prominences.
Constant rubbing of tight shoes on bony lumps and bumps, causes hard skin and corns to develop in those areas. Conversely, if the shoe is too loose, it can rub and chafe. Have your feet measured if you are unsure of your size.
Always wear the right shoe for each activity. If you are a keen walker, you’d want a good pair of lace -up walking boots, you definitely won’t be going on long walks in slip-on shoes, because this style of shoes, will offer your feet no support.
Wearing socks that are made of natural fibres allow the feet to breathe – natural fibres such as cotton, wool and bamboo are great for your feet.
Socks with materials such as polypropylene wick away sweat, reducing moisture levels, thereby reducing any chances of rubbing and subsequent development of areas of hard skin.
Socks add an extra layer between the skin and the shoe, preventing blistering and chafing of the skin
So, there you go, with all bases covered, moisturising every day, filing weekly and wearing the correct footwear and socks, your feet are sure to feel like heaven in no time.
If you’re struggling to keep on top of the build-up, pop into your local podiatry or chiropody clinic for a good going over, and get your feet back into shape.
To find out about treatments offered at the clinic, call now on 07988 916 198 or book online.
To find a list of HCPC registered podiatrists and chiropodists near you, check out the NHS website here.