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Are calluses good for feet?

The journal Nature published a few months ago a study by the Harvard University and the University of Liverpool where the benefits of having calluses on feet.


In said publication, several conclusions:


  • The Calluses they have a beneficial effect on the feet of those who they walk barefoot, since they do not compromise sensitivity or gait, while footwear can reduce the ability to perceive stimuli.
  • Research has indicated that padded shoes reduce sensitivity and alter the force transmitted from the feet to the joints.
  • On the contrary, the shoes with thin, stiffer solessuch as moccasins or sandals, would be more like the feeling of walking barefoot, which causes thick calluses in people who generally move without shoes.

Victor Alfaro, CEO of Podoactiva and an expert in podiatry and biomechanics, details in this post several reflections about this job.



Photo-montage taken from the analyzed article: "The advantages of having calluses on the feet" of El País



As is known, the Calluses they are nothing more than the skin response to increased pressure held in one area of ​​the foot.


When walking barefoot, the skin hardens to generate a layer of protection for the foot.


One of the statements that are based on this published work, and that seems to have generated some controversy, is that the thickness of the calluses does not alter the sensitivity in the sole of the foot.

This statement needs to be qualified because would not be literally true. It is important to point out that when we talk about sensitivity in the foot, we cannot refer to sensitivity in general since there are two types: Superficial sensitivity and deep sensitivity.




If we talk about the superficial sensitivity we refer to sensitivity to touch, sensitivity to pain and sensitivity to temperature. Each of them is measured by different sensors. The increase in calluses can affect these types of superficial sensitivity since it generates a kind of "armor" based on layers of keratin which have precisely the function of defending the skin from pressure.

As we have already commented, the callus It is nothing more than the skin's response to continuous pressure.


As our ancestors walked barefoot, logically the skin generated a harder layer to protect itself.



In it we find the perception in the sole of the foot of pressure or vibration. This type of sensitivity is very important since it has a lot to do with our stance. Different signals arrive in our brain that inform it of this. Some of these sensors are the feet, the sight and the temporomandibular joint.


This deep sensitivity will not be affected by callosity and it is true that pressure sensitivity is best detected on a surface that has some degree of rigidity. If the surface under our feet is very soft, those pressure sensors that exist on the sole of the foot are "activated" with more difficulty.


This coupled with walking on a very soft sole increases instability, is what makes it more advisable to use soles that have some stiffness. But it is very important that this sole allows the flexion movement of the fingers at the end of each step. If the sole does not allow this flex, walking will be affected.


The ideal is a sole with a certain rigidity but that allows flexion in the last part of the step (in the area where we flex the fingers).


In addition to the issue of sensitivity, there is another reason that makes it very important that children do not abuse excessively soft soles: the bones. For our bones to grow healthy and strong it is necessary to have an intermittent level of impact (which is what we do when walking). If that level of impact does not exist, the bone that is generated is of poorer quality.


Last year Podoactiva published a study in collaboration with Dr. Casajus that showed that the quality of the bone was worse in the group of children who always played on softer surfaces (artificial grass) compared to those who played on dirt surfaces.


It should be noted that it is very important dismiss the idea that a shoe with a very soft sole is beneficial for children, because is not like that; and that it is very important that perform barefoot activity to improve their muscles and proprioception.




Sensitivity in the foot two fundamental missions:


  • Protect us from possible harmful agents (a surface that is too hot, a sharp object, etc.)
  • Capture the information to maintain our position.


If sensitivity is impaired as is the case, for example, with diabetic neuropathy, special care must be taken since we can generate foot injuries more easily.


In diabetic patients with years of evolution it can decrease both superficial and deep sensitivity. This can generate problems such as suffering, for example, a burn because the patient did not detect that the water was too hot and your foot temperature “sensors” have failed to inform you not working properly.


In the same way, if by our way of stepping we generate a pressure point in a certain area of ​​the foot, in that area a callosity, in other words, el callus is the skin's response to an area of ​​pressure. They are layers of keratin that form one on top of the other to protect that area.


When there are too many layers, pressure increases and pain is generated.



This stimulus makes change the way you step so as not to put more pressure and that the pain encourages you to make an appointment with your podiatrist to solve it. Now, if that sensitivity to pressure is affected (as can happen in diabetic patients), our brain will not have the information about the increase in pressure or the pain, so that callus can go on to become an ulcer. In the article "Diabetic foot" We tell you all this pathology.


As we see, maintaining sensation in the foot is very important and that is why in podiatric clinics a test called “neuropathic screening” in which it is assessed if there is any type of decrease in both superficial and deep sensitivity.



As a general conclusion and to respond to the title of the article…


We cannot say that calluses are good or bad, they are simply the skin's defense against sustained pressure.


If a person always walks barefoot, they will generate their own "sole" based on layers of keratin and that sole will harden their skin on the sole of the foot to make it more resistant and protect it from aggression. That is, we can say that it would be a natural defense in those people who walk or play sports barefoot on a regular basis. In this particular case they would have a beneficial effect.


Now, most calluses we find them in specific areas and in patients who usually wear shoes most of the day.


If that callus appears in specific areas of the sole of the foot, this can be a very precise indicator of an inappropriate way of stepping.



Finally, in the article “Corns on the feet or calluses. What are they, how to treat them and how to prevent them” we tell you the types of calluses (hardness y helomas), as well as treatments to eliminate them and tips to prevent their appearance.


The important thing is to learn to listen to our feet, and unless we do a lot of activity barefoot, in most cases, calluses must be interpreted as a wake-up call. My advice is to go to a podiatric clinic and look for the best correct solution.


Victor Alfaro

Expert podiatrist in Biomechanics

Podoactiva General Manager

First team podiatrist Real Madrid CF

COE collaborator

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