- What causes hard feet?
- How to remove hard skin & make your feet soft
- How to prevent cracked, dry feet
A quick glance around during sandal season should tell you all you need to know - most of us don't give our feet enough TLC.
Overgrown toenails and chipped polish are just the beginning. Dead skin corns and cracked heels can leave us with truly ugly looking feet - no wonder so many of us are embarrassed to get them out.
Although we often feel judged for the condition of our feet, solace can be found in the fact it has little to do with personal hygiene. If you want to know how to remove hard skin and get soft feet once and for all, you've come to the right place!
Editor's Note: This post was originally posted in August 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in November 2018.
What causes hard feet?
We don't expect to wear shoes every day and them show no sign of wear, so why do we expect our feet to stay in perfect condition? It's easy to forget that we rely on our feet to do, well, pretty much everything. From walking to the sofa to running a half marathon, everywhere we go, our feet come with us.
All that movement takes its toll on our soles, and that's without factoring in other elements.
What causes hard skin on feet?
The main cause of hard skin on feet (correctly known as a foot callus) on the soles of our feet is intermittent pressure. This means that anyone who moves is more likely than not to experience foot calluses at some point during their life.
For people that move more - such as runners, hikers and long-commuters - foot calluses become even more likely.
There are certain factors which increase the chances and severity of foot calluses, including:
- Being overweight
- Having naturally flat feet
- Having high arches
All of these result in uneven pressure on the soles of our feet.
What causes corns?
Corns are much smaller than foot calluses. They are small lumps of hard, dead skin with a central core, and usually found on top of or between toes (particularly the 4th and 5th toes). They can be rather painful, especially if left untreated.
Corns are caused by friction, and are often a result of ill-fitting shoes that repeatedly rub against the skin.
What causes cracked heels?
Cracked heels are perhaps the most unsightly of all. They occur when heels become dry, hard and rigid. When pressure is put on the feet, the skin can't give or expand, which causes it to crack.
Causes of dry skin, leading to cracked heels include:
- Lack of moisturising
- Long baths
- Scrubbing feet dry
How to remove hard skin & make your feet soft
Whilst the removal of corns is best left to a doctor, cracked heels and calluses can be treated at home.
Follow our foolproof method to get silky soft feet in just five steps.
1. Try a foot soak
All foot treatments should start with a foot soak. This helps to soften the skin, and make it easier to remove.
Your foot soak should be carried out in a basin or bath of warm water. Additional ingredients can be added to the water to make it even more effective at softening feet.
Why not try adding:
- The juice of a lemon - citric acid aids in the removal or dead skin cells.
- A cup of white vinegar - rich in acetic acid which helps with skin removal and healing cracked feet.
- A generous sprinkling of Epsom salts - great skin healing properties.
- A cup of honey - known for its natural moisturizing benefits.
2. Remove dead skin on feet
Time to tackle that unsightly hard skin. Post foot soak, it should be softer and much easier to remove. Grab a pumice stone, and rub it over the soles of your feet in circular motions.
Be gentle on the arch of your feet, as there should be no foot calluses here, and instead, direct your attention to the soles and balls of the feet. Scrub away until the skin feels soft and smooth. If at any time your feet become sore or sensitive, stop.
3. Treat cracked heels
If your feet are looking really worse for wear, they may need additional treatment. DIY foot 'masks' will be able to penetrate deep into cracks and fissures and give them the nourishment they need. There are various, natural, at home treatments you can try. Here are some of our favourites:
- Vaseline - slather the substance onto feet, being sure to massage it well into cracked heels. Tie a bag around each foot and leave to soak for an hour.
- Oatmeal - mix 1 tbsp of oatmeal with a few drops of jojoba oil and massage onto feet. Leave for 20 minutes before rinsing and drying with a towel.
- Rice flour - mix 3 tbsp of rice flour with 3 tbsp honey and 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar. Mix ingredients and apply to feet. Leave to work its magic fo 15 minutes before rinsing.
- Coconut oil - massage into feet, pop on a pair of clean, cotton socks and leave to soak overnight.
4. Renourish skin using a moisturiser
Now all that nasty dry skin has been removed and cracked heels have been treated, it's time to apply a layer of moisture to soothe and soften the newly exposed cells.
Make sure feet are clean, then massage a thick layer of foot cream into the skin. It's best to use a specialised cream, as these are much richer than body moisturisers and will penetrate the skin more deeply.
5. Repeat your at-home pedicure regularly
By now, your feet should be looking and feeling a whole lot better. The care doesn't end there though. Often, one treatment enough isn't sufficient and the above steps should be repeated until your feet have completely recovered.
How to prevent dry, cracked feet
As with most things, the prevention of calluses, cracked heels and corns is much easier - and less unpleasant - than trying to treat them.
Try the following to prevent ugly feet:
1. How to correct your gait
If you've been unfortunate enough to have been born with flat feet, it may be worth going to see a specialist, such as a physio or a podiatrist. They will be able to provide you with insoles to put into your existing shoes which will even out the pressure put on the soles of your feet, preventing the build-up of hard skin in the future.
2. Foot moisturiser
As they're often hidden in shoes, we tend to neglect our feet much more than other body parts. This is a big mistake, and will only encourage feet to become cracked and dry skin to develop.
Not only should feet be moisturised every day, but a specialist foot cream should be used. These are much thicker and contain ingredients that will nourish and soothe your tired feet, preventing foot calluses and cracked heels.
3. Wear shoes that fit
Ill-fitting shoes are one of the main causes of corns. As a general rule, if a shoe feels too snug, it's probably a bad idea.
If you really must have that pair of red patent brogues, be sure to stretch them out sufficiently before wearing them or visit a shoe smith who will be able to do this for you.
Comfortable feet are happy feet. Treat them well, and they'll look and feel much better for it.
What are calluses?
A callus is where a piece of skin on your foot has thickened or hardened because of friction. A callus can appear even if there is little to no rubbing.
How do you prevent calluses?
You can prevent calluses by wearing comfortable shoes. You can try adding insoles to make your shoes more cushioned.
What causes hard skin on feet?
There are a number of reasons why you might develop hard skin on your feet. These can include being overweight, having flat feet or high arches, or wearing uncomfortable, ill-fitting shoes.
Why are my feet swollen?
You should see a doctor if you often experience swelling in your feet. It could be a sign of an underlying health problem. If your feet have swollen temporarily, it could be caused by the heat, your alcohol intake, or footwear.
Here's to silky soft feet, all year round. Why not treat yourself to a spot of nail varnish too? How do you keep your feet soft? Let us know in the comments below.