- What causes hard feet?
- How to remove hard skin & make your feet soft
- How to prevent cracked, dry feet
Wondering how to get soft feet FAST? 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!
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Editor's Note: This post was originally posted in August 2015 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in July 2020.
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 get soft feet (5 ways to get rid of hard skin)
Whilst the removal of corns is best left to a doctor, cracked heels and calluses can be treated at home.
Learn how to soften feet in just 5 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. The fastest way to get rid of hard skin on feet is by using a pumice stone.
Post foot soak, the skin should be softer and much easier to remove. Grab the 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
Want to know how to make your feet soft? 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 for smooth feet:
- 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 for 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. Be sure to repeat our DIY pedicure every couple of weeks to prevent rough feet.
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.
To soften our heels and feet we should be moisturising them every day with a specialist foot cream. 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.
When should you see a podiatrist?
You should seek advice from a doctor or podiatrist if your feet do not improve after trying these home remedies. If you have broken skin, rashes or wounds of any kind, do not attempt our home remedies.
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.
Thank you so much, since being In a wheelchair for some reason my feet are dreadful, very hard skin on the heel and also toe nails like concrete, I am going to try of these, thanks so much
Hi Tracey :) Oh it's our pleasure. Sorry to hear you've been having problems with your feet - we hope they improve soon!
hello. I'm mastuh OSCG 8845 and I have a question. what can you use to get rid of calluses if you do NOT have a pumice stone nor a filer?
Hi Mastuh. Calluses must be treated as stated in the article. Hard skin, however, can be removed by using a rough flannel in circular motion after soaking. I hope this helps.
I have dry feet and i do my feet as much as possible can cos i am always on the go can you help
Hi Jonathan. If you're struggling for time to care for your feet, why not try the old method of rubbing cream on them then wearing socks overnight? It will give them a deep, nourishing treatment and you will wake up with silky soft feet.
Hello Stephanie I have problem feet I have a corn on my right foot just below me big toe, & on me left foot well I don't know what it is, it's on the bottom of me foot on the part that you stand on when yer heels are off the floor, it's sore & the size of a 10p piece, I dig it out it's like layers of skin once i'v done that it eases a little bit. What do you think it is Stephanie ? I'v had it for about 3-4yrs now I think ! i'm 53 & wanna start taking more care of meself more please could you let me know what it possibly is & how I can treat it. Hope you can help me Regards Shirley.
Hi there Shirley. Thanks a lot for your comment :) It's great news that you're wanting to start looking after yourself more - we hope to help you with that! I would personally recommend going to see your GP about this. Corns can be extremely painful if left. A cream/cushion from the pharmacy along with filing should help remove it. However, the sore on your foot sounds much more serious and I'd definitely book and appointment to get it looked at properly. I hope that helps! Thanks, Steph
Get to podiatrist. My mom was diagnosed w stage 4 melanoma because a problem similar to yours. Good luck n get to podiatrist.
I have dry feet cos on them all day and i try to do them when i have time
Hi Jonathan. All that standing can quickly get on top of your feet! If you try and give them a quick bit of TLC every few weeks or so, they'ree look and feel much better for it.
Ma'am, can foot cream also work when it comes to making feet soft? I ASK because I want very soft feet & I am male with somewhat rough feet but I want my feet SO soft that it feels like velvet.
Hi Mastuh. If you want soft feet, a foot cream is definitely the thing to go for. Apply it once a day before going to bed and it a week or so you should have much softer skin :)
Is there anything else besides a flannel and pumice stone for cracked heels?
Hi there. Have you tried using nourishing foot cream?
Thanks,very useful information given.
To the person who said they wonder whats wrong with foot. That you peel around the corn or whatever it is. I want to say, it may be a plantar wart which grows inside bottom of your foot. For this, you need a podiatrist to cut it out and put treatment to kill wary virus.
I had a plantar wart on my foot and I got rid of it by putting nail polish on it. It took about a week of keeping the nail polish on it and reapplying since it was on bottom of foot. I'm glad I did not throw away money on a Dr. visit!!
That's an interesting idea, Julie!
And nail polish does work. Use it on my elderly and/or diabetic clients since its non evasive and painless.
While this might have worked for you, it's important to note that self-treating a plantar wart with home remedies like nail polish can be harmful and may delay proper treatment.
Hi stephanie, ive tried your method but my heels are not soft; instead it feels like ive rub the heels but havent soften in the end. What can i do in this case?
Hi Sheena, What did you try?
Really very useful article you explain amazing upcharnuskhe tips. Thanks for sharing.
We're glad you found it useful Preeti!
Hi Steph I work on high heels and I stand for 9 hour in these heel as a result of this I've developed hard skin on heel and my toes, weekely I remove the skin but keeps coming back what can I use and what kind of heels should I buy?
Hello Njabs! Wearing heels regularly will definitely make the skin on your feet harder. You could try a foot file, like the ones made by Scholl, to remove the hard skin. I'd also suggest regularly using a foot cream to keep them moisturised. You can cover your feet in the cream, put on some fluffy socks and go to sleep to allow it to work its magic! As for heels, you could try insoles to cushion your heels and toes. If you can reduce the height of your heel or find a shoe with a higher platform to heel ratio, that will help too.
Hi - My feet are cracking and peeling in the arches/bottom of my feet. I was putting curash on them as I thought that would help with the moisture as I have my feet in socks and shoes all day. What do you suggest Thanks
Hi Wendy! We'd suggest you try the tips in our article above. We hope they help!
ccs swedish formula, Fantastic, work a week in enough Job done.! Mary .
We'll have to give this a try! Thanks for the recommendation, Mary!
Should we be using coconut oil when the forests are being decimated and orangutans are becoming an endangered species?
Hi Annette! Are you thinking of palm oil - not coconut oil? The environmental impact of harvesting coconut oil is actually very low. If you want to avoid palm oil, you should check the ingredients list of bread, shampoo, makeup, margarine, crisps, chocolate, non-dairy substitutes, soap, biscuits, cooking oil, cleaning detergents and ice cream. It's frightening how many products use the stuff.
Thanks for the tips girls. We all need reminding that its not just about our complexion and our hands. I'm a bit adhock with my foot routine but my husband suffered seriously bad cracked heels on his feet at one time. He now uses a punice stone on them when having a shower and then applies Nivea cream to the soles and heels of his feet before bed which has made them a lot softer and far less painful. Would just point out that sometimes people mistakenly think they have corns on their toes and bottoms of the feet when they are actually veruccas which need completely different treatment. A pharmacist can generally confirm what you have so no need to book a doctors appointment.
Great tips! Thanks, Susie.
Great suggestions but my once soft (& non-problemsome) feet became worse after I used a battery powered roller gifted to me. Has anyone else found this? Stockings 'snag' as soon as I put them on - even after moisturising.
I have one of those rollers. Love it! Never use on wet feet, only dry. It took away the snags of skin left by a pedicure person that loved using a cheese grater! These are bad, and makes for many dry feet problems. I use a really good foot cream after, Vicks Vapo Rub under toenails ( prevents fubgus) and my feet are perfect. Remember not to use the gritty stone that comes with the machine, but the smoother one. Very happy
Thanks for sharing!
is there any specific foot cream that will be more useful for my hard heel?
Any foot cream should do the trick! It's all about regular treatment.
I suffer from very dry feet and lately been using coconut oil to moisturize. If I don't air my feet at night I feel uncomfortable. Having socks or feet under the blanket while sleeping makes it worse. Will coconut oil still work if I don't wear socks? Why are my feet still super dry? Mainly in the winter, I'm assuming it's the dryness from the heater. I just purchased a humidifier. Any other suggestions? Thanks!
A humidifier could definitely help. The winter weather really dries out the air - and our skin! The main reason we suggest putting socks on is because the socks heat up the oil and keep it close to the skin so that it works with maximum impact. It also stops your bed sheets from getting covered in products from your feet. You could give it a go without the socks, but it might rub off.
Hi there. Thanks for a great article! My problem is with toenail fungal infection. I have tried so many treatments, including laser treatment which cost me a fortune, but nothing is working. Have you or anyone got a foolproof method of treating this problem. It’s so ugly, not to mention painful at times. Thank you for your comments.
Hi Jen. For this specific problem, as you've tried many treatments with no success, we'd advise you speak to your GP.
Hi Jen, I guess you can try onycosolve spray this has worked for me.. On foot/nail fungus..
@Jen - I am using Vapour Rub on my big toenails for fungus, and it seems to be working. I rub them with it twice a day and they look much better. This was after reading on here tips/uses for Vick’s Vapour Rub. I’m using Sainsbury’s own brand which is cheaper and just as good.
While some people may report success using Vapour Rub for treating toenail fungus, there is limited scientific evidence supporting this approach. Therefore, it is important to approach such remedies cautiously and consult a healthcare professional before trying them.
hie thank.u so much im definately goin to try this .for years now l nvr wear open shoes tryin to cover my ugly dry feet
Hopefully, these tips will help your feet to look fabulous!
Hi I have never had any problems with my feet up Until I went away on holiday in the sun and it was so nice I wore sandals most days but since I’ve been home I have noticed my skin is hard and cracked at heals and I have used all the pedeggs and got a foot bath and the new pedicure set and what would I use to get them back to soft and healthy looking again 🙁
Hi Tacy! Have you tried any moisturisers? Cracked feet are caused by a lack of moisture and too much pressure on the feet.
i have been in e village the soil is so sandy so i thought maybe thats the cause of my rough skin under the feet now i know to take all that away thanks to u.
Good to hear, Princess!
Great article!! I’m definitely going to try your remedies. Thank you!!
Thanks, Cynthia! Let us know how you get on.
Thank You, Very cured treatment for FOOT CALLUS . From chlidhood i have been corn in my foot skin but it doesn't give me pain i.e i am left it as it is .my both feet have callus and one corn.Now i am happy to applying these treatment.Thank you so much.
You're very welcome, Vishal!
I noticed my wife has corns/callus on the TOPS of her left foot (4th/5th toes). We ordered a rechargeable callus remover from Amazon in the hopes of preventing any further concerns. We will see how useful the remover is. This was a very informative article. Any tips or points I need to know? Thanks.
Do let us know if the remover works for you. We're glad you enjoyed the article and we hope the tips help - alongside the remover.
hey dear! my feet are very ugly especial on the top of toes and side of the feet its even hard for me to wear sandals, i tried so many things like Avon and home remedies but i can see any different, what else can i use please help so desperate Regard sipokazi
Hi Sipokazi! Do you have any ideas what the problem could be?
its a daily struggle with my feet. If I do all this every day, my feet stay smooth, but if I skip even just a couple days the hardness and dryness comes back so fast!
We understand the struggle, Ruth!
My son feet has being so hard, & even get me worried if it can be soft again, I will be Great full to God & knowing u ppl.
I've had calluses on the tips of my toes for years I just thought I was a good hard worker but now that I've turned 50 they really hurt when I get out of my shower I can peel the whole callus off and I also have very thick nails feet and hands !can I submit pics
I'm sorry to hear that, Scott! Have you tried anything to treat them?
hi. for the foot soak, do we add in all those ingredients at the same time (i. e. lemon, vinegar, epsom and honey) or pick just one?
Hi Kana. The intention is to add them all at the same time however, you can pick 1 or 2 if you don't have all of them available to you.
I don’t know if it can work on cracked feet, but what I do to keep my feet soft is apply foot cream when I wear running shoes, soft winter boots and just before sleeping with socks. I recommend you to use a cream of your preference and liking, but if you don’t have the money to buy some then I have a “home hack”. Get a bowl, grab your conditioner (I prefer coconut) and pour it until it feels the bottom of the bowl or until you want, add small amounts of water and begin mixing it until you have a goopy white substance. Tho, you have to apply it multiple times because it dries quickly, it’s also useful to use it as hand cream, body cream or a after shave remedy. I hope this helps!!
Hi Lunar! I'd never thought about using conditioner as a moisturising cream. That sounds like a good idea.
Hi, How to reduce foot inflammation?
Hi there! Do you know what the cause of the inflammation might be?
I have always, always taken very good care of my feet and moisturize twice daily. This summer my feet suddenly became very hard, the skin tough and cracked and my feet hurt terribly. I’m hoping some of these remedies work because when your feet hurt, everything hurts!
That's very true, Kimberly!
Get a water softener, there are different types out there. You could use Kerasol cream or Dr.Teal’s foot cream, available over the counter.
Thanks for sharing, Barbara!
My son has the opposite, his feet are damp all the time, he showers and dry his feet, but after a few minutes they sweat and clammy , and when he is in work his socks are soaking wet, you could wring them out, they do not smell but make his shoes/trainers damp all the time He works VALETING car etc.. So the shoes might get wet, but even when her is not working his feet are wet and clammy, any suggestions, he can change his socks while in work twice a day! When he worked in construction he ended up having Trench foot as his feet were soaking all the time, any suggestions please
Hi Anne! I feel like this could be the cause of an underlying condition. I would suggest your son goes to the doctor to see if there is anything they can diagnose or prescribe.
I don't know if it's natural but my leg is dry and ugly
Hi Omah! Could you please explain what you mean here? What have you tried so far?
What can I do to make the calluses disappear.
Hi there! What have you tried so far?
Hi! I have fairly flat feet and had issues with walking in the past, as I child I would walk everywhere barefoot. I’m not sure if this is the reason why but my heels, toes and top of my feet are very hard. It it not a callous and I have been doing the following steps above for a week now. They are still hard? What else could I try?
Hi Emily! If none of the above has worked for you and your feet are causing you discomfort, I'd suggest seeing a GP.
Hi thanks for all the wonderfull tips. I have always, taken very good care of my feet and moisturized with camphor cream every night before bed time, suddenly i developed an allergic reaction. Ive tried a lot of different foot creams but after a few days my heals on the outside starts to itch, it drives me crazy. What do you suggest i try?
I'm not sure why you might have developed an allergic reaction all of a sudden, Hermien. Are you experiencing any other symptoms? It could be something like Eczema. If the problem persists, I would speak to your GP.
Since I happy worked as a house maid cleaner my heels are really badly cracked so will try your advice
We hope it helps, Pauline!
Hi! I have foot ulcer and the skin around it is so thick and hard. It's been there for quite a while and been trimming it now and then. What can I use to soften the skin of my foot?
Hi Salome! That doesn't sound good. I'd recommend seeing a GP if it's a persistent problem.
Hi, I know it's in part Ot but last june I wore the wrong shoes, leftover gym shoes which were too short, which subtly, during a long stroll bruised my big toenails, especially the left! The hematoma then stabilized and in part reabsorbed, but it persisted. I usually went often for open toe sandals when in shorts and bare legs, during summer. I thought about painting my toenails black as well when doing my fingernails, to hide it ^_^, this time, but I couldn't really keep my fingernails painted most of the time, both for nail health and cause it's far from my everyday style, though I love it. So I though about wearing sandals anyway, cause it's nothing to be ashamed of or to hide, but I needed to buy and shop or thrift new ones this (actually last) year, as I'm far from compulsive shopper, quite the opposite, but just bought some new low cut loafers and a few shoes which I wore both with shorts and pants. Now, fortunately the nail has slowly pushed most of the ematoma outside, but I wonder if this summer it will be cleared? I'm gonna take new sandals anyway, but have you some tips I missed to clear it faster safely? I was afraid I'd have had to have my nail taken off tbh haha!
Hi there! I suppose you'd want to encourage the nail to grow. We have an article on how to grow your nails, which might be applicable to your toe. You can find it here: https://experthometips.com/how-to-get-long-nails
Thanks for the response I didn't expect it! The hematoma cleared right now last week! Finally ^_^ Gonna give it a look anyway as it can come useful, thank you again. And I won't ever repeat such mistake in shoe fitting.
We're glad we can help!
My heels are flaky and red with a brown discouloration. My skin on heels is h even aswell. What should I do about this? Ive been using school cream but all it does is soften my callus not take skin off and if ur use pumice it can make my callus bleed or get sore since it is quite close to skin
Soak your feet in warm water and use a soft foot scrubber or pumice stone to exfoliate dead skin cells gently. Next, apply a thick moisturizing cream and wear socks made from natural fibres to help keep your feet moisturized.
Your tips are wonderful, I only wish that I had all of these before I developed ulcers, I have had them on my ankles and now on my left leg, I have a district nurse who sees to all my leg problems, but I have reoccurring calloses on my feet due to pressure I have no choice realy, I also crooked toes due to unfitting shoes in my past life, there are useful things today to stop all that from happening, but in the 50's there was not any.. I now use some very good trainers with memory foam inside, I only wish they were on the market when I was younger, but my crooked toes were because of my parents not checking my feet regular during my early days has a child...
Thanks, Carole! It's a shame we didn't have the knowledge back then.
Hi there, My feet are dry and heels can be cracky every now and yhen. My main concern is the discoloring to a yellowish colour.can you pleass recommemd the best doctor been to a few...and did not help
Hi Thuli! Have you seen a chiropodist? A specialist in foot health may be able to suggest topical or oral medications, moisturising treatments, or lifestyle changes to improve the condition.
A chiropodist is the best place to start treating foot problems and like anything else it's regular treatments that make the difference. For dry foot skin and cracked heels I've found castor oil better than anything else... again treatment needs to be regular. Nail fungus: try 50/50 dilution of 5% hydrogen peroxide applied twice a week. It was the only thing that worked for me after more than 10 years of trying everything else (including prescription cream). You can get more info on a google search. Good luck and stick with it! :)
It's essential to seek medical advice from a qualified healthcare professional for foot problems or conditions, including dry skin, cracked heels, or nail fungus. They can diagnose the problem and recommend appropriate treatments based on your needs and medical history. Additionally, it's essential to follow any recommended treatment plan and maintain good foot hygiene to prevent further issues.
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