Prev Next

Playing Footsie

By Amalah

(First of all — look! One of our own beloved AlphaFoxyMamas got some good press for doing some good things. Way to go, Jessica!)
Dear Amalah,
If anyone can save my feet, it’s you. I used to have wonderful, perfect feet. After a trip to the desert courtesy of my Uncle Sam, my perfect feet have deep, cracking calluses on the heels and on my toes. Over a span of three years, I have YET to find a product that will cure the cracking calluses and return my feet to their previous perfection. I have tried straight Vaseline, Mederma (Hey, it helped my stretch marks a little), various lotions from various places. I even have what looks like a cheese grater to sand off the calluses (it doesn’t hurt, really), but the cracks in them go too deep to sand off all of the callus. I’m skeptical of the “miracle callus remover” stuff I see on the internet, and I’m definitely not going to use one of those callus shaver thingys – I’m too klutzy and I’m not explaining that in the ER. My shoes fit fine, and I don’t wear shoes in the house, so I know it’s not that. I just want my pretty feet back. I have no idea what else to do short of go to a doctor, which to me seems silly since they don’t hurt, they’re just UGLY. And I’d like to have nice feet by summer. Please tell me how to save my poor feets Amalah!!
Bad Feet in Austin

Baby doll, you need to go get yourself a pedicure or 20. Seriously, think of all the money you’ve spent over the last three years on all those various lotions from various places and then think about how many pedicures you could have gotten instead. There are definitely things you can do at home to treat your calluses, but it sounds like you could really use a professional kickstart to the process. Some hardcore foot soaking and pumice-stoning by someone who deals with this stuff all the time. And I promise you, they really do see this stuff all the time and won’t judge.
Since your calluses aren’t painful, a doctor is unlikely to whip out the razor for you — medical treatment of calluses is usually reserved for really serious calluses that interfere with like, walking. So again, save your insurance co-pay for a pedicure, and then work out a schedule with the salon for how often they think you should come in for service to meet your “nice feet by summer” goal.
And then! In between visits, here’s what you do: soak your feet in warm water first. You can occasionally cheat and say the shower counts as soaking, but to really wage war on the cracks and calluses you should really soak your whole foot. You can treat yourself to one of those , although the bathtub or a basin of warm water works just fine. Add some or baking soda. (I’ve tried the fancy bath salts, by the way, and they would definitely lose a Price Tag Cage Match here. So not necessary.)
After soaking to soften up your skin, go after the calluses with a pumice stone or your cheese grater thing. (I’ve only ever used the stone, so I don’t know if there’s a difference.) Anyway, the sanding is just going to work on the actual callus, not the cracks. Those are a whole ‘nother thing that we’ll talk about in a second. Sand away the dead, hard skin until your foot feels pretty smooth to the touch (cracks excluded).
DDF pedicream.jpg
The cracks need to be moisturized. Every. Day. Morning. And. Night. My mom bought me this incredible stuff by DDF (Doctor’s Dermatologic Formula) for my birthday this year, and oh my hell, it is fabulous. I actually got COMPLIMENTED on my FEET at my Valentine’s Day pedicure. And that was the first pedicure I’ve gotten in a couple damn years. It’s pricey, so I’d use that about once a day, whenever you want something that smells nice and feels kind of pampering.
When you don’t care about the smell, use . It’s super thick and goopy, but it should do the trick and get rid of those cracks. You’ll also need to wear socks after applying it and give your hands a really good wash. (Which is why I say use the the DDF stuff as well, because the Flexitol stuff can be a pain to realistically work into your daily routine twice a day.)
It sounds like you’ve got the shoes-fitting-properly thing down, but I have one caveat about going barefoot around the house (particularly in winter) — you must wear socks. Or bedroom slippers that cover your whole foot. Going completely barefoot or wearing backless shoes actually make dry feet worse, and thus lead to more cracking.
I’ve found that the routine above is more than enough to ensure soft, healthy feet, but I know a lot of women who swear by those treatment sock things — like this pair by . If regular pedicures aren’t doable for your budget, I suppose splurging on $48 socks would be an alternative, since they claim to work for 50 treatments. I don’t know. It always seems to me that a pedicurist is able to make so much more progress with the pumice stone in one visit than I can at home. But maybe I’m just hopelessly uncoordinated. Which is incredibly likely, given my tendency to trip over air and then stare accusingly at the carpet for awhile.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

icon icon
chat bubble icon


  • andrea0418

    February 19, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    This site might help too – everything for every foot ailment! They have creams and special heel socks to wear at night, etc.

  • sacajawea

    February 19, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    BAG BALM! Initially used for chapped cow teats (seriously) I guess those smart lady farmers knew a good thing when they saw it. It is cheap, a little stinky but wear it under your socks at night and you will get gradually softer day after day. It comes in a cute, green square tin with a picture of (you guessed it!) a cow on it.

  • jsscualaw

    February 19, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    I have really bad feet, they are so dry, they itch, a lot.
    Regular pedicures are the only things that work. And cheaper than the blis socks are bath and body works socks and their foot cream, which also works really well. I’m going to try the cream that Amalah reccomends as well.

  • mavislee

    February 20, 2007 at 11:46 am

    That flexitol balm is fabulous. Goopy and sticky, sure, but it works miracles.

  • mdvelazquez

    February 20, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    I love Bath & Body Works’s Foot products and the Dr’ Scholl’s products. These smell great. (I’m partial to mint scented foot creams because they moisture and sooth.)
    Use the foot rasp (cheese grater thing) after you’ve soaked your feet to get all that dead skin off, then use a pumice to smooth your skin or you can use a heel file. I would alternate between the pumice and file. Once your feet are “pretty” you will probably only need to use the rasp 1-2 per month.
    I wear regular cotton socks after applying balm/cream/butter. It makes a difference. I tend to use lotion during the day because it is lighter and is absorbed quickly.
    To qualify all of this info, I should say that I’ve only had a pedicure once in my 39 years. I’m too ticklish and nearly kicked the woman in the face.
    Quick shopping list:
    Foot lotion
    Foot cream/butter/balm
    Cotton socks (preferably white/light colored)
    Pumice stone
    Foot rasp
    Foot file
    Foot brush and Foot pumice scrub (if you aren’t getting a stone)
    With any luck, you can find some of this stuff at the PX.

  • mary ann

    February 20, 2007 at 8:30 pm

    My sister managed to heal her cracked summer feet with a combination of
    1) file at the sides of the cracks with a nail file when the feet are dry. Basically, the goal here is to sort of open them up and make them less likely to snag and take a whole strip of skin off with them.
    2) she pumiced her feet every single time she got in the shower.
    3) for a month or two she coated her feet in vaseline and put socks over them before bed.
    Her feet had cracks so deep we actually tried to use a ruler to measure them, and it’s been years and through the continued use of the pumice stone at every shower (just a quick once-over, not a serious scrubbing, for maintenance), she’s kept the situation totally under control.

  • Kimba

    February 22, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    KERASIL. I got a fun little sample in the mail once and LOVED it. It totally redeemed my feet after a week in Lake Powell, UT. (Think: barefoot walking on boats, sandstone etc. for a week…ugh…). I’ve seen it at nearly every grocery store. Try it! It worked really well when you put it on at night and then throw some fun socks and hit the hay. Good luck! 🙂

  • sozzled

    February 23, 2007 at 12:28 am

    A&D diaper rash ointment. Seriously, rub it on before bed, throw on a pair of socks…..keep doing it for a few nights and your feet will be as smooooth as a babies bottom. (sorry I had to say that)

  • wilddreemer

    May 9, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Okay so months later I finally finished buying every thing Philosophy sells and moved on to buying the DDF foot lotion. First lemme just say, I have horrible cracked, peeling feet. I have a mild case of psoriasis and basically my feet are a mess. I have used this lotion a total of 3 times now during flip flop season when my feet get beat up the worst AND OH MY GOD DOES MY HUSBAND TOTALLY WANT TO TOUCH MY SOFT FEET NOW. I am amazed. I didn’t even scrub them or anything just applied the lotion and whammo my feet look like my 21 month old sons do. Thanks Amy. Thank you so much, I was tired of listening to my husband tell me I couldn’t come near him with out socks! This stuff is so good not even my flip flop and barefootin can stop it from making my feet sexy…for the first time in 3 years I even added some polish since I wasn’t embarrassed anymore!