As foot specialists, we often see patients in our practice with painful, problematic or otherwise irritating skin conditions. While pedorthists do not treat skin and nail conditions, we are often asked about them by our patients.
Corns and calluses are thickened or hardened layers of skin that develop as a reaction to some form of irritant. They most often develop on the hands and feet in areas of pressure or friction. Corns and calluses on the feet are often caused by ill-fitting footwear or repetitive movements such as operating a foot pedal. While corns and calluses are not a health concern, they can cause discomfort and are sometimes considered unsightly by patients.
What is a corn?
Corns are small, circular areas of thickened or hardened skin and have a hard core. Corns often develop on areas of the skin that do not bear weight, such as the tops or sides of the toes. They can also be found on weight bearing areas of the foot such as the ball of the foot or the heel.
Corns may be painful when pressure is applied either directly (on top) or indirectly (from other movements of the foot).
What is a callus?
Calluses are areas of thickened or compacted dead skin that can develop anywhere on the body where friction, pressure or other sources of irritation can occur. Calluses are most common on the feet and hands, but may also occur on the knees or elbows. Calluses are often yellowish or pale, developing over time in areas where the skin rubs against a body part or piece of clothing (a shoe, a sock, a knee brace, etc.).
Calluses are not usually painful, but if left untreated they may become large and thick, which can increase pressure on the surrounding skin and lead to discomfort when in motion or when compressed inside footwear.
What can I do about corns and calluses?
You should always speak with your health care provider before treating any skin condition yourself. Do not try any home remedy if you have a systemic disease or disorder such as diabetes, circulation problems or another disorder that affects the skin of the feet.
Many people successfully treat corns and calluses at home using over-the-counter products or home remedies. Tips for removing non-complicated calluses on healthy feet include:
- Soaking the affected area and gently using a pumice stone to soften and remove the dead skin
- Wearing properly fitted shoes with socks to reduce friction
- Applying moisturizer daily to soften the skin and alleviate the affected area
- Avoiding repetitive stress on the affected area or using padded gloves or insoles to reduce physical stress on the area.
- If the callus or corn is the result of a bunion, hammer toe or other bony prominence, custom orthotics can help re-distribute pressure and reduce the formation of other corns and calluses
If a corn or callus becomes very painful, or if you have diabetes, sensitive skin, circulatory or other disorders, it is best to consult your doctor or a chiropodist to treat the area. Your doctor may trim away the skin or use keratolytic agents to help dissolve and reduce the callus or corn.
How can I avoid another corn or callus?
There are several preventative measures that you can take to avoid developing a corn or callus in the future:
- Wash, dry and moisturize your feet daily, keeping an eye on areas that may rub on footwear (toes, heels and the bottoms of the feet)
- Always wear socks in well-fitting shoes. Shop for shoes later in the day when your feet are their largest
- Keep toenails trimmed and address any small skin irritations as they arise.
- Have a regular foot exam with your healthcare provider
While corns and calluses are certainly irritating, you do not have to persevere through the discomfort. Your SoleScience pedorthist can help you find the right shoe for you and recommend other options to increase your comfort and prevent corns and calluses from becoming a daily irritation. Contact us anytime to discuss your options!