A calloused foot

Corns and calluses are common conditions, often seen on the bottom of the foot or toes. They are the result of thickening of the top layer of skin, or stratum corneum, usually in response to repeated physical trauma. For many people, corns and calluses cause some degree of pain and discomfort. For some, they are a cosmetic concern, especially larger calluses that develop on the heel.

Facts about Corns:

  • They often develop on the areas near the joints of toes in response to shoe friction, especially if you have hammertoes.
  • Another common place for a corn is the side of the little toe
  • Soft corns can develop in between toes in response to two toes rubbing against each other
  • Tiny “seed corns” occur most often on the ball of the foot and can be quite painful
  • They can sometimes be mistaken for warts.

Facts about Calluses

  • Calluses are often larger than corns and occur in response to friction from shoes or walking barefoot.
  • They often develop on the soles and ball of the foot because these areas experience the most ground pressure.
  • Heel calluses may develop into painful cracked areas of skin that become wounds.

Treatment for Corns and Calluses

If a corn or callus is painful or you see any blood in it, you should have it treated by a podiatrist. Pain or bleeding means the corn or callus is irritating the deeper layers of skin that contain nerves and blood vessels. Treatment will involve debriding, or paring the corn or callus so as to remove it without damaging nearby healthy skin. Even if a corn or callus is not painful, you may still opt to have it treated by a podiatrist. If you have a corn or callus that is not painful or very thick, you could have it treated at a salon pedicure or treat it yourself at home.

Advice for Treating Calluses at Home

  • There are a variety of over-the-counter corn remover products that usually contain salicylic acid. Discontinue using these products if any pain or skin irritation develops. Do not use these products if you have diabetic neuropathy or any condition that affects the blood supply to the feet such as peripheral arterial disease.
  • Larger calluses on the soles of the feet or heels can be treated by using a foot file or pumice stone after a shower or foot soak. This makes exfoliation much easier and effective. Apply a foot moisturizing product after this step to lock in the moisture. This routine will help keep calluses at bay.
  • Over-the-counter corn remover products usually come as pads that are applied directly to the corn. After you remove the pad, soak the foot in warm water for five to 10 minutes. Then, using a foot file or pumice stone, gently file away any dead skin that is easily and painlessly removed.
  • To help protect toes from friction that causes corns, try an elastic toe sleeve. Calluses on the bottom of the feet and heels may also benefit from gel insoles or heel cups. These products can be purchased where foot-health products are sold.

When to Get Medical Help for Corns and Calluses

If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, peripheral arterial disease or any condition that causes peripheral neuropathy, it is always advisable to have corns and calluses treated by a podiatrist to minimize the chance they will develop into a wound.