Calluses, Ingrowns and Pain—Oh, My

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By Debra Bourque

Safely managing painful calluses and ingrown nails can be quite a challenge. But, having a thorough understanding of these conditions, their symptoms and causes and knowing your management options will reduce risks and produce optimum results.


Also known as tylomas or hyperkeratosis, these are a natural defense mechanism, a protective thickening of the skin in areas of excessive friction or pressure and may be painful if they develop on pressure points.CallusCallusCourtesy of Debra Borque


  • Thickened hard skin
  • White/yellowish in color (if any other color, there may be an underlying problem)
  • Lacks defined edges
  • Loss of sensation on callus
  • Dry, flaky skin may have cracks
  • Appears on pressure points and areas of excessive friction/rubbing
  • Pain and discomfort


  • Friction/pressure from rubbing and unbalanced weight distribution
  • Loss of fat pads and thinning skin due to aging
  • Improper and poorly fitted footwear
  • Bunions and digital (toe) deformities
  • Dropped arches
  • Gait/abnormal walking patterns
  • Physical disabilities


  • Use soap-free soaks/cleansers
  • Use a nonaggressive skin/callus softening product
  • Gentle callus reduction (not removal, as this would be considered a procedure): reduce between ½ and ⅔ depending on the cause and service recipients’ circumstances
  • Stay within your scope of practice (know your boundaries)
  • Do not use blades of any kind
  • Recommend properly fitted footwear
  • Wear socks with shoes
  • Gentle exfoliation/scrubs specific for foot care (see side note)
  • Recommend orthotic insoles/arch support to offload additional pressure
  • Use a daily moisturizing skin care product with technology and ingredients specific for foot care
  • Schedule regular maintenance service (rebook)
  • If the callus is any other color besides the normal white/ yellowish, DO NOT touch as this could be an indication of a dangerous underlying problem
  • Anything beyond the normal callus, refer the client to a medical doctor for treatment

For an in-depth look at corns, ingrown nails, involuted nails and pincer nails, check out Nailpro's May 2022 digital magazine

About the Author

Debra Bourque is the founder and director of education for SAFE, the School of Advanced Footcare Education. As a licensed professional who has specialized in foot care for over 24 years, she has earned several certifications in advanced foot care education, including a Bachelor of Science in podology and most recently a Certified Foot Care Specialist. She has also been a brand manager, an industry educator and platform speaker who has worked with distributors and manufacturers for several years, providing education and training to licensed professionals throughout the country. Debra was the executive director and head of education for the International Pedicure Association, and she truly believes, through education, we can “ensure safety every step of the way.”

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