Hyperkeratosis: What Foot Calluses Can Mean for You

Thickened skin can appear on the hands and feet or anywhere that excess rubbing occurs. Calluses, a type of hyperkeratosis, are formed when improperly fitting shoes are worn, and the heel or sole skin is rubbed.

What is Hyperkeratosis?

Human skin contains a protein called keratin that can become overgrown as the boy responds to additional pressure or irritation. When the skin becomes hard and thickened, it is called hyperkeratosis. There are many types of hyperkeratosis, including calluses, corns, warts, and more.

Hyperkeratosis can also appear when the body is fighting an infection or due to overexposure to the sun. It can be caused by chemicals or inflammation as well. By building up the protective layer of skin, the body fights the intrusion or health threat.

How Can I Prevent Hyperkeratosis on My Feet?

Like many other foot ailments, the best way to prevent hyperkeratosis is to wear properly fitting footwear. Shoes that do not rub excessively on heels or soles can help to avoid the thickened skin that can cause calluses and corns.

Ill-fitting footwear can cause painful corns that continue to thicken and develop more layers of skin until they are unbearable and require treatment. If footwear is changed, sometimes corns will recede on their own. If they do not, a corn removal procedure may be necessary to relieve the pain and discomfort.

Calluses on the soles and heels can help protect feet from thorns, rocks, and similar injuries when walking barefoot. However, they can also mask underlying problems. Hyperkeratosis is not generally a harmful condition unless it is a symptom of a more significant issue.

Sometimes hyperkeratosis is present at birth, and it can be hereditary. However, it can also be an early symptom of skin cancer when it appears later in life. Other forms of hyperkeratosis that can be painful and uncomfortable are eczema and psoriasis.

What Kinds of Hyperkeratosis Grow on the Feet?

The most common types of hyperkeratosis on feet are corns and calluses. Unless they are a symptom of an underlying condition, they are not usually a cause for concern. However, an overgrowth of hard, tough skin can be embarrassing for some people, even if it is not dangerous to their health.


Usually present on the heels or soles of the feet (called plantar hyperkeratosis), calluses are normal and generally not a cause for concern. If calluses are causing discomfort or become cracked and at risk for infection, you may try the following at-home remedies to reduce the calluses.

  • Avoid going barefoot and wear comfortable shoes that fit you well.
  • Soak your feet in warm, soapy water to soften the hard skin.
  • Use a pumice stone or file to remove dead skin during or after soaking or bathing.
  • Moisturize skin to soften and prevent continued callus growth.


While calluses generally present in an even thickness, corns often develop with a hard center and slightly softer outer ring. Corns often appear between the toes and can become painful. You can treat corns similarly to calluses. 

If you are concerned about thickened skin on your feet, it may be time to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist. Best Foot Doctor will listen to your concerns and help identify the best treatment plan for your hyperkeratosis. Please contact us today to make an appointment.

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