Most people usually assume that the feet of barefooters are all “calloused”. However, the word the kind of “callous” that people think of is a localized thickened area of the skin, like a corn. Since corns are formed by the rubbing on the foot by the inside of a shoe, barefoot people don’t get those. What they do often get is a general broad thickening of the entire sole. This is the natural reaction of the glabrous skin there and it is how we evolved.
While barefooters are not subject to many of the foot maladies of the shod (like corns), they do get things like heel cracks. While one might suspect that heel cracks are a result of the thickening of the skin on the bottom of the foot, that surely cannot be the whole answer, since there are many, many shod people who get heel cracks. In fact, there is a whole industry and a plethora of products for heel cracks, and I guarantee they are not all being sold to barefooters.
Barefooters do have a lot of experience with keeping their feet in strong and supple condition, so we can offer a bit of advice regarding skin creams. One of the products that we particularly like is Neutrogena’s Norwegian Formula™ Hand Cream. Don’t let the “Hand” in the name fool you; it works just fine on feet. This product goes on quite thick and can take quite a while to get absorbed. It mainly contains glycerin as its moisturizer.
But many barefooters have found what we think is an even better skin moisturizer: lotions containing urea. Urea seems to allow the skin to retain its moisture better. Thus, one of the products we think does a superior job is Flexitol Heel Balm. It contains 25% urea. It’s not as messy as the Neutrogena when it goes on, and it leaves the thickened skin on the sole feeling like fine leather. It also does a very good job preventing cracks. Gold Bond Foot Cream is another product that contains urea (though I haven’t been able to find out what percent).
It’s really quite amazing what a positive difference the addition of urea makes.