The calluses of sportsmen and other foot problems: the podiatrist speaks

Calluses, onychomycosis, onychogryphosis, blisters: how to treat them? We talk about it with Professor Antonio Serafin, podiatrist and professor of Podiatry at the University of Milan

Maria Elena Perrero

Calluses, blisters, nails that break, onychomycosis and onychogryphosis: i sportsman’s feet (but not only), in summer in particular, they can also be subject to these small discomforts, certainly less important than bone fractures or muscle and tendon injuries, but in any case not very pleasant. Some sport, like running, they can particularly expose the foot to the possibility of calluses or nail problems. So what to do? “The first thing to say is that in most cases these are problems that are not serious and easily solved, but which should not be ignored, especially if they are annoying, because in the long run they could make walking difficult”, premieres the professor. Antonio Serafin, head of the podiatry service of the IRCCS Galeazzi Orthopedic Institute of Milan (San Donato Group), didactic director of the Degree Course in Podiatry at the University of Milan and professor of Podiatry.


Let’s first explain what i is corns: “They are hyperkeratosis, or thickening of the skin to defend the deep organs. There keratin it accumulates as a shield of the dermis, of the capillaries. In itself, therefore, the corns they are positive, they are real natural protections. They become negative when the thickening is such as not to allow the sliding of the skin, which is stretched. In these cases the corns start to ache. In addition, the increase in keratin causes the capillaries to be squeezed, causing pain. But we are talking about corns of a certain importance, in which it is necessary to intervene by lightening the hard surface and, if possible, avoiding the cause of that thickening “, he explains to Official Active Professor Serafin.


Even in cases where i corns need treatment, it is not certain that you should go to a podiatrist: “In many cases these are small calluses that can be solved at home by applying specific urea ointments, which softens these hyperkeratoses, or by intervening mechanically, with a pumice stone. In the case of more important calluses, the professional, the podiatrist, will intervene with a cutter – explains Professor Serafin -. What should be avoided is the I cut with the creed, that sort of potato peeler. In this way, in fact, subcutaneous wounds can be made and there is the risk of eliminating too much keratin, stimulating the growth of a new callus, since our body, as a defense, will increase the growth rate of the skin and keratin “. Beware, though, if we have calluses with nucleated hyperkeratosis, or calluses with a hard white part inside: “In these cases it is necessary to avoid that the callus comes into contact with other surfaces. So the unloading can take place with insoles, protections or felts ”, adds the podiatrist.

Sports ‘at risk’

The causes of corns they can be different, including certainly incorrect posture, but some sports can facilitate their training. “All the activities that involve walking are likely to produce hyperkeratin – explains Professor Serafin -. In detail, however, the most popular sports are the soccerthe race prolonged, thehiking, L’climbing and the via ferrata, the ballet“. The calluses in these cases have precise locations: “They usually form on the protruding parts of the foot, such as the joints of the first and fifth toes and the distal phalanx of the fingers,” explains the podiatrist.


But sports, or even more simply incorrect posture, can also lead to nail problems. “Nail changes may be due to prolonged trauma, with lysis of the lamina and consequent loss of the nail, or to partial detachment of the lamina with the risk of infiltration by fungithat is of mushrooms, and therefore of onychomycosis“. As for the microtrauma repeated that can occur in sports such as running or walking, these can cause a thickening of the lamina and consequent onychogryphosis, the so-called claw nail. “It manifests itself with a slightly white nail, thicker than normal, not transparent – explains Serafin -. The treatment involves milling and using specific creams that nourish the nail and limit thickening “. In the cases of onychogryphosis the risk of losing the nail is not direct, but there can be: “The thicker nail is more prone to trauma and therefore as a secondaryism there could be a partial lysis that can become total, and therefore lead to the detachment of the nail “. A different case is that of real traumas which, as in football, can lead to direct detachment of the nail, which in any case then grows back. Coming at onychomycosis, “Certainly swimming in the pool is more prone, since it creates a warm and humid environment in which any fungi can proliferate in the unglued nail from its bed. Onychomycosis involves a first treatment with local antifungals and any generalized oral treatments. But here the dermatologist takes over ”.


Another nuisance to the feet that can occur especially in the summer are the blisters. “They are quite frequent if the wrong shoe is used for prolonged sport – explains Professor Serafin -. They are caused by rubbing of the skin against the shoe. There are those who are more inclined, have delicate skin and therefore more prone to irritation, but usually it depends on the footwear. There bladder it is a detachment of the skin layers. Our body, however, does not allow empty spaces and fills them with interstitial fluid, rich in amino acids, proteins and sugars “. The old remedy of piercing the bladder with a sterilized needle and then letting it dry after disinfecting it is not frowned upon: “It’s okay if the blisters aren’t particularly red and sore. The important thing is to always wear clean brushed cotton socks or, better still, leave the bladder outside “.

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