Corns and calluses are patches of hard, thickened skin. They can develop anywhere on your body, but they typically appear on your feet.
Corns are small, round circles of thick skin. You’re most likely to develop corns on the tops or sides of your toes or the soles of your feet. They occur more frequently on bony feet that lack cushioning.
Calluses are hard, rough patches of skin. They’re most likely to appear on the heel or the ball of your foot. They can also develop on your hands, knuckles, and other areas.
Calluses are usually bigger than corns and yellowish in color. They lack well-defined edges. They may be less sensitive to touch than the rest of your foot.
Corns and calluses are usually painless, but they sometimes become painful after an extended period of time. They can also cause pain if they become infected.
In most cases, corns and calluses are not cause for serious concern. But in some cases, you may need to seek treatment from a doctor:
- If you have diabetes, check your feet for damage regularly. Consult your doctor if you notice any corns or calluses.
- If you have any other medical conditions that make you prone to ulcers or infections, let your doctor know if you develop corns or calluses.
- If you have corns or calluses that become infected or painful, seek medical attention. If you have corns or calluses that are red, hot, oozing, or painful, they may be infected.
Corns and calluses are caused by friction and pressure. They’re often a protective reaction from your body that helps prevent blisters or other damage to your skin.
The most common cause of corns and calluses are shoes that don’t fit well. If your shoes are too tight or don’t fit properly, they may rub against your skin, causing friction and pressure.
Walking or running a lot can lead to corns and calluses, even if you’re wearing shoes that fit well. Standing up for very long periods of time can also cause corns and calluses.
If you wear high heels frequently, you’re likely to develop calluses over the balls of your feet, due to the pressure that high heels put on your feet while walking.
Other possible causes of corns and calluses include:
- going barefoot
- wearing socks or shoes with linings that bunch
- taking part in athletic activities that put pressure on your feet
- performing manual labor that puts pressure on your feet
You’re more likely to get corns or calluses if you:
- have bunions or hammer toes
- walk with overpronation, which happens when your ankles roll inward too much
- walk with oversupination, which happens when your ankles roll outward too much
- have damaged sweat glands, scars, or warts on your feet
If a corn or callus isn’t bothering you, it may not require treatment. But it’s a good idea to identify and remedy the cause of the corn or callus. For example, if tight shoes are to blame, change your footwear.
You may need additional treatment if you have a corn or callus that causes pain or discomfort or becomes infected. If you have diabetes or any other conditions that raise your risk of infections, you should also seek treatment for corns and calluses.
To identify corns or calluses, your doctor will examine your feet. They may press on different areas to assess the sensitivity. They may also ask you to walk across the room, so they can assess your gait.
They will likely ask you about your lifestyle habits, including:
- your footcare routine
- your typical choice of footwear
- how much walking and standing you do
- whether you’ve participated in any sports or physically demanding activities recently
There are several treatments available for corns and calluses. Your doctor’s recommended treatment plan will depend on your symptoms, as well as the cause of your corns or calluses.
In some cases, they may refer you to a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon for treatment.
A variety of over-the-counter (OTC) treatments are available for corns and calluses. Typically, these treatments help soothe pain or discomfort while relieving pressure.
One of the most common treatments is corn plasters, which are thick rubber rings with an adhesive surface. When applied around corns, they can help relieve the pressure. They can sometimes cause thinner skin around the corns to thicken.
Callus pads provide similar treatment for calluses. They are adhesive pads that can be applied to callused areas. They help limit friction and pressure.
It may also help to soak corns or calluses in warm water for 20 minutes. Then gently rub the corn or callus with your finger or pumice stone. Other soaks include apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, and more.
If you have corns or calluses that don’t respond to home treatment, bring them to your doctor’s attention. They might be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
Surgery for calluses
If your podiatrist thinks it’s necessary, they may recommend surgery to remove corns or calluses. This is typically only necessary if corns or calluses are causing you a lot of pain and stopping you from walking comfortably.
To perform the surgery, your podiatrist or surgeon will use a sharp blade to remove the thickened area. This usually isn’t painful. You will likely be able to walk again immediately afterward.
Corns and calluses may clear up on their own if you remedy the cause. They may also resolve on their own if they appeared due to participation in an athletic event, such as a marathon.
If you don’t treat corns and calluses when they develop, they might persist or grow larger until you fix whatever is causing them.
In some cases, corns and calluses may become infected and make walking painful. If this happens, let your doctor know. You may need medical treatment.
Some scarring may remain after corns or calluses have been removed or healed.
You can prevent corns and calluses in several ways.
Wear comfortable socks and shoes that are well fitted and cushioned.
When you’re shopping for shoes, go in the afternoon, when your feet tend to be at their widest. This can help you choose shoes that will fit well and stay comfortable all day.
General foot care
Dry your feet carefully after washing them or getting them wet. Then apply a moisturizing foot cream. This can help soothe and soften the skin on your feet.
Use a foot file or pumice stone to remove patches of hard skin from your feet. Replace your foot file regularly. Allow your pumice stone to dry thoroughly between each use.
Report foot pain
Let your doctor know if you develop any foot pain or discomfort when walking. Foot pain isn’t normal. It’s usually quite easy to identify the cause.
A number of treatments are available to help solve foot problems and prevent future issues.
If you develop corns or calluses, you may be able to manage them by changing your footwear and using home treatments.
If you have corns or calluses that are painful, become infected, or don’t resolve with home treatment, let your doctor know. You should also let your doctor know if you develop corns or calluses and you have diabetes or other medical conditions that increase your risk of infections.
In some cases, your doctor might refer you to a specialist for treatment.