Corns and Calluses

Updated 2/27/2024
How to get rid of Corns and Callus, University Foot and Ankle Institute

What are corns and calluses?

Corns and calluses are the rough, thickened layers of skin that develop as a result of repetitive rubbing or prolonged pressure, usually on your feet and hands.

 

They protect your soft dermal layers from the stress of repeated irritation. They’re very common for athletes and people who perform manual labor.

What's the difference between a corn and a callus?

Corns usually form on the tops and sides of the toes and the balls of the feet. The core of the corn is the dense, thick knot at the very center, which forms over the point of the greatest compression or friction from your shoe. Corns can cause discomfort and make it harder to walk or run in your shoes.

 

Corns can be soft or hard: soft corns are supple and tender and are usually found on the delicate skin between the toes. They are kept moist by sweat and are prone to infection. Hard corns are firmer and drier and form on the knobby toe knuckles and outer edges. Most people develop corns due to wearing overly tight shoes.

 

A callus develops in response to excessive rubbing and friction. It looks like a dull yellow, flat, rough layer of skin and is usually found on the sole of the foot. Unlike a corn, a callus has a uniform thickness. Calluses can sometimes be painful or make walking more difficult.

 

Most calluses form when your foot isn’t fitting well in your shoe, and there is space for parts of the foot to move around and rub against the inside of the shoe. In some cases, a callus may form due to problems with walking. A change in your gait might change the way your foot slides around in your shoe, creating a new area of friction where a callus might develop.

 

How are corns and calluses diagnosed?

When you make an appointment with one of University Food & Ankle Institute’s foot specialists about corns or calluses, make sure to bring your shoes! Our doctor will want to examine how your shoes fit to understand how they are rubbing or causing excessive pressure in certain areas of your foot.

 

We’ll also be on the lookout for foot abnormalities that may be impacting your foot’s mechanics. This may include:

 

  • Malaligned bones
  • Structural deficiencies in the bones
  • Toe deformities, including hammertoes and bunions
  • Any abnormal walking patterns (such as pigeon-toeing)

 

What is a plantar keratosis callus?

Plantar keratosis is a deep callus that causes extreme amounts of discomfort. The painful lesion is a collection of dead skin cells that harden over time. They form on the bottom of the foot and can feel like you are walking with a pebble in your shoe.

 

Some can confuse plantar keratosis with a wart or even think there is a problem with the underlying bone because these lesions can be so painful. The natural fat pad on the bottom of the foot thins with age which can cause you to be more susceptible to these kinds of skin calluses.

 

What are the different types of corns? 

There are several different types of corn including:

 

Hard corns

A hard corn is the most common type of corn and is characterized by a small area of dense skin surrounded by thickened and inflamed red skin. They are often caused by friction from shoes and usually occur on the top of the toes.

 

Soft corns

Soft corns often develop as a result of friction between the toes. This can be caused by a toe bone that is too wide or wearing high-heels with a narrow toe box. Moist skin (as a result of sweat or poor drying of the feet) between the toes can be another cause of soft corns.

 

Seed corns

Seed corns often develop on the bottom of the feet as a result of standing or walking on a hard surface for long periods. Ill-fitting shoes or socks can also lead to seed corns. These hard, seed-like bumps and can present as a single corn or a cluster of tiny corns.

 

Fibrous corns

When a corn has been present for a long time it begins to attach to deeper tissue. The result is fibrous corns, which can be very painful.

 

Vascular corns 

Vascular corns have blood vessels within the corn and can bleed heavily if cut or scraped. They are often painful.

 

Lister corns 

Lister corns develop on the inside and outside of the nail bed, usually on the little toe. Some patients describe a Lister corn as having a second toenail on the toe. 

 

What are treatment options for corns and calluses? 

Corns and calluses can be treated conservatively with home remedies. The most effective treatments usually involve redistributing the pressure on your foot to help you move more normally and comfortably in your shoes.

 

After examining your corn or callus and determining the cause, we have many conservative treatments we can recommend.

 

Wear better shoes 

Wear shoes that have plenty of room in the toe box to cut down on the pressure on your toe joints. Usually, this helps shrink the corn or callus within a few weeks or months. Buy shoes at the end of the day when your feet are slightly swollen.

 

Moleskin 

Moleskin is inexpensive and can be found at most pharmacies. Moleskin can cushion the sore and cut down on the direct friction to your skin. For corns, you can try cutting a “doughnut” shape out of moleskin, foam, or felt to relieve the pressure on the corn’s core.

 

Shoe inserts 

Orthotic insoles are designed to augment the fit of your shoe and redistribute your weight to alleviate excessive pressure. Our foot and ankle specialists can fit you for a custom set of shoe inserts.

 

Pumice stone 

Soak the area with the corn or callus in warm water until the skin softens then gently use a pumice stone on the thickened skin. Be careful not to irritate the area of skin surrounding the corn. If you go too deep, it can result in bleeding and infection.

 

Medicated patches 

Patches containing 40% salicylic acid, available at your local drugstore, are usually effective at removing corns. Salicylic acid dissolves the keratin protein that makes up the corn and the surrounding dead skin.

 

Protect the area 

Wear felt pads, nonmedicated donut-shaped corn pads, or bandages over areas that rub against your footwear.

 

Apply a moisturizing cream or lotion to the corn or callus and surrounding dead skin every day. Products that contain urea or ammonium lactate will soften the hard skin over time.

 

Keep the corn or callus trimmed 

In more severe cases, our foot and ankle specialist can shave down the thick layers of the corn or callus using a scalpel blade. This can reduce the pain you feel while wearing your shoes by reducing the pressure on your foot. The corn or callus may return later, requiring additional treatment. However, if you wear the right shoes or start using well-fitting orthotics, the corn or callus usually won’t return.

 

Surgery 

This option is usually only recommended for severe cases or when your foot has a structural deformity that is causing persistent problems. The focus will be on improving overall foot mechanics to prevent excessive pressure and friction during your normal activities.

 

What happens if my corn or callus gets infected? 

While complications of corns and calluses are rare, infections and ulcers can occur. In such cases, the corn or callus is even more painful and the surrounding skin turns red and sore. If this happens, you should see our podiatrist or wound care specialist as soon as possible. We may prescribe antibiotics and, in some cases, the damaged tissue will need to be removed. 

 

Because diabetics and those with poor circulation are particularly prone to infections and ulcers, they should regularly examine their feet to identify any problems right away. If you have redness, swelling, bleeding, blisters, or any other foot problem, call us right away!

 

UFAI, the best choice for your corn and callus care

Our nationally recognized podiatrists at the University Foot and Ankle Institute pride themselves on offering the most advanced care in a compassionate, relaxed environment. Our specialists in skin conditions affecting the feet can create a treatment plan tailored to your podiatry needs.

 

For a consultation, please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment online now.

 

University Foot and Ankle Institute is conveniently located throughout Southern California and the Los Angeles area. Our foot and ankle surgeons are available at locations in or near Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, West Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, the San Fernando Valley, El Segundo, the South Bay, LAX, Calabasas, Agoura Hiils, Westlake Village, Valencia, Santa Clarita, and Santa Barbara.

 

Sources:

 

Rigopoulos D, Papanagiotou V, Daniel R, 3rd, Piraccini BM. Onychomycosis in patients with nail psoriasis: a point to point discussion. Mycoses. 2017;60(1):6-10.

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