1. Foot pad health was determined macroscopically and histologically in two trials with Lohmann Selected Leghorn (LSL, white layer strain) and Lohmann Brown (LB) laying hens kept in a small group housing system (40 and 60 hens) and two types of furnished cages (10 and 20 hens). 2. A total of 864 foot pads (648 LSL and 216 LB) were examined macroscopically and classified according to severity of pathological alterations; of these, 180 metatarsal pads and 180 toe pads were also examined histologically for hyperkeratosis, acanthosis, elongation of rete folds, development of secondary papillae, erosion, ulceration, cellular infiltration and bacterial colonisation of the epidermal surface. 3. As for the macroscopic examinations, pathological alterations of foot pads were found in 86.1% of the hens, while 57.4% of the birds examined showed mild hyperkeratosis. Macroscopically moderate hyperkeratosis and/or superficial lesions of the epithelium were detected in 21% of the laying hens examined. Severe hyperkeratosis and/or deep epithelial lesions and/or mild swelling of the foot pads were found in 5.9% of the hens, and very severe hyperkeratosis and/or deep and large epithelial lesions and/or moderate or high-grade swelling of foot pads were found in 1.9%. 4. The histopathological examinations showed that the macroscopically determined thickening of the epidermis was due not only to hyperkeratosis, but also often to acanthosis. In addition, perivascular infiltrations of lymphocytes were also detected. Furthermore, the degree of hyperkeratosis in metatarsal pads was shown to correlate with the other histopathological traits except for ulceration, and the degree of hyperkeratosis in toe pads was related to the development of secondary papillae and cellular infiltration with lymphocytes. 5. The results of the macroscopic and histological examinations showed that the use of perches and the grasping of wire floor may have resulted in a permanent increased mechanical compression load leading to proliferative hyperkeratosis.