Corns And Calluses: Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention

When the feet are exposed to severe pressure and friction, they tend to develop corns and calluses.

Difference between Callus and Corn

A corn is a round, hard and firm area of the skin, found at a pressure point of your feet or the area that is subject to friction. This is usually on the sole, the balls of the feet, between toes, underneath the toes, and sometimes even on top of the toe. A corn is usually in conical or round shape and the hardening of skin is confined to the local area only.

Calluses are generally not concentrated in one area like corns are. They are flattened thick skin over feet soles or any other parts where there is a repeated friction.

Calluses and corns can be uncomfortable and sometimes painful. If left untreated, they can cause long term problems with mobility.

Types of Corns and Calluses

There are several different types of corns and calluses:

  • Hard corns are dry and very firm. They have a compact core that becomes visible when the corns are shaved. This kind of corns can be mainly found on the edges of the small toes and at the balls of the feet often surrounded by calluses.
  • Soft corns are often found in spaces between toes. These types of corns compose of soft, soggy skin that can drain, erode and may eventually become infected. The cones are often formed by repeating pressure from dislocated and deformed bones of the adjacent toes.
  • Neurovascular corns contain blood vessels that can lead to bleeding. These corns are mostly found on the surface at the inside of the foot and can be very painful.
  • The seed corns are compact, tiny, numerous and often found on the soles of the feet.
  • Just like corns, calluses have several variations. One of the most frequent types is the plantar callus. They are usually formed when one metatarsal (foot) bone is longer or lower than the other bones. This puts pressure on the skin, resulting in the formation of plantar callus.

Causes of Calluses and Corns

  • Walking bare feet, without socks or shoes, can result in development of corn or callus on the sole of the feet.
  • People with flat feet have high risk of developing corns and calluses. This is because the arch of the foot is flat, and applying weight on the food tends to shift the skin forward, resulting in corns and calluses on the balls of the feet.
  • Wearing shoes that are narrow or cause the toes to be pressed together, or shoes with a thin sole, or shoes with high heels leads to excessive friction and pressure, thereby resulting in corns and calluses on different parts of the feet.
  • People who spend a lot of time standing are at higher risk of developing this foot problem.
  • Some people may develop corns and calluses as a result of running and walking excessively and performing other athletic activities, which apply excessive pressure on the feet.
  • People suffering from other foot problems, like arthritis and hammer-foot, may develop this foot problem because of the prominence of the bone that causes friction.
  • Older adults may develop corns and calluses because the skin becomes weak and begins to sag. This may cause the collection of skin and result in forming of corns and calluses.

Typical symptoms of Corns and Calluses?

Calluses and corns can easily be detected by a thick growth that usually occurs at the ball of the foot. In addition to this, people with this problem experience pain while lifting heavier things, and a discomfort while wearing high-heeled shoes or shoes with thin soles.


Podiatrists perform a physical examination in order to determine if the formation is a corn or a callus.

A corn is generally identified by its appearance; hard, seed and neurovascular corns have a translucent, waxy and clear cut core in the centre. The fine blood vessels of a wart are not present, although bleeding may result if a neurovascular corn is shaved.

Calluses look similar to corns but they do not have a radix and are relatively even in thickness.

When compared to calluses, corns interrupt the normal lines and ridges of the skin. Compressing a hardened skin area on the feet resulting in pain can indicate the presence of a corn or callus.

Corns and calluses can get inflamed or infected. Treating this problem is important as neglect can lead to problems in the future. If you are diabetic or you feel extremely uncomfortable, you have to see a podiatrist as soon as you can.

Treatment for Corns and Calluses

  • Pumice stones or electric hard skin removers can be used to rub the calluses to get rid of the dead hard skin.
  • Medicated plasters containing salicylic acid, which helps break down the hard skin, can be placed on the affected area. The plasters are however not recommended for use in areas between toes since the skin is very delicate there.
  • Non-medicated plasters look like doughnut-shaped pads and help relieve the pressure from the corns and calluses.
  • Moisturising foot creams and lotions (to seal in the moisture, wear a pair of socks) help soften the skin and prevent hard skin from developing.
  • Soaking the feet in warm water and using callus removers, lotions and/or non-prescription pills can help treat this condition.
  • If the pain is unbearable, the doctor may give you some medications. Oral antibiotics can also help soften the skin and remove the cracked calluses.
  • In severe cases, your doctor may suggest foot surgery procedure to treat this problem. In case of plantar callus, the longer bone can be cut and aligned with other metatarsal bones. A part of the metatarsal bone or even the entire affected bone may be cut.

Generally, a surgical procedure involves lifting bones, removing extra bones, removing or shaving bone spurs and lose bone fragments, complete removal of the bone part that puts pressure and correction of the overall deformity. It is usually the last resort method given the overall complexity involved.

How to prevent Corns and Calluses

It is wiser to prevent corns and calluses than allow them to develop and cause suffering. Foot problems such as these can be prevented by following some simple methods:

  • Wear comfortable shoes and line them with right foot insoles. It is also a good idea to avoid sharply pointed shoes with high heels.
  • Keep your hand and feet moisturised with oil and lotion and cover them with socks.
  • Maintain a good body weight, which can also help prevent this problem.

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