Calluses & Corns


A corn is a small area of skin which has become thickened due to pressure on it. A corn is roughly round in shape. Corns press into the deeper layers of skin and can be painful.

• Hard corns commonly occur on the top of the smaller toes or on the outer side of the little toe. These are the areas where poorly fitted shoes tend to rub most.

• Soft corns sometimes form in between the toes, most commonly between the fourth and fifth toes. These are softer because the sweat between the toes keeps them moist. Soft corns can sometimes become infected.


• A callus is larger and broader than a corn and has a less well-defined edge. These tend to form on the underside of your foot (the sole). They commonly form over the bony area just underneath the balls of your feet. This area takes much of your weight when you walk. They can become painful when they become thicker.

What causes corns and calluses?

• Friction or pressure causes the skin to thicken. This may lead to corns or calluses forming.

• The common causes of rubbing and pressure are tight or poorly fitting shoes which tend to cause corns on the top of the toes and side of the little toe. Biomechanical abnormalities can lead to too much or unequal forefoot pressure causing calluses under the balls of the feet.

What are the treatments for corns and calluses?

• If you develop a painful corn or callus it is best to get expert advice from a podiatrist, as this would be the medical professional best qualified to diagnose and treat foot disorders. You should not cut corns yourself, especially if you are elderly or have diabetes.

Advice and treatments usually considered include the following:

• Trimming (paring down)

• The thickened skin of a corn or callus can be pared down by a podiatrist by using a scalpel blade. The pain is usually much reduced as the pressure on the underlying tissues eased. Sometimes, repeated or regular trimming sessions are needed. Once a corn or callus has been pared down, it may not return if you use good footwear.

• If the skin seems to be thickening up again, a recurrence may be prevented by rubbing down the thickening skin with a pumice stone once a week. Many people can do this themselves. It is best to soak your foot in warm water for 20 minutes to soften the thick skin before using a pumice stone or emery paper. A moisturizing cream used regularly on a trimmed corn or callus will keep the skin softened and easier to rub down.

Chemical treatment
• There are different types of medicated products which work by chemically paring down (burning off) the thickened, dead skin on corns and calluses. These usually contain salicylic acid, which is also present in many wart-removal products.

• Salicylic acid is a keratolytic, which means it dissolves the protein (keratin) that makes up most of both the corn and the thick layer of dead skin which usually tops it. It is important to use these products as directed in the package directions as it is possible to burn right through the skin.

• Although these products can work well, they should not be used if you have diabetes or have poor circulation. Also, even in healthy people, they should not be used between the toes. This is because your skin is less likely to heal well after using salicyclic acid and there is a risk that an ulcer may develop.

Shoes and footwear
• Tight or poorly fitting shoes are thought to be the main cause of most corns and calluses. Sometimes a rough seam or stitching in a shoe may rub enough to cause a corn. The aim is to wear shoes that reduce pressure and rubbing on the toes and forefeet. Shoes should have plenty of room for the toes, have soft uppers and low heels. In addition, extra width may be needed if corns develop on the outer side of the little toe. Wear on the outside edge of the heel can also cause corns in this area. Extra height is needed if corns develop on the top of abnormal toes such as ‘hammer’ or ‘claw’ toes.

• Correcting poor footwear will reduce any rubbing or friction on your skin. In many cases, a corn or callus will go away if rubbing or pressure is stopped with improved footwear. Some people with abnormalities of their feet or toes will need special shoes to prevent rubbing. A podiatrist can advise you about this.

• Footpads and toe protection

• Depending on the site of a corn or callus, a cushioning pad, shoe insole or orthotic may be of benefit. For example, for a callus under the foot, an orthotic may be used to off weight the pressure area. If there is a corn between your toes, a special pad around or between your toes may ease the pressure by creating space between the toes. A podiatrist will be able to advise you on any appropriate padding, insoles or appliances you may need.

• If you have a foot or toe abnormality causing recurring problems, an operation may be advised if all else fails. For example, an operation may be needed to straighten a deformed toe, or to cut out a part of a bone that is sticking out from a toe and is causing problems. Remember, it’s always safest to change the shoe before considering a change to the foot!


Author: tammy gracen

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