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What are Corns and Calluses?

When there is too much friction or pressure on your feet for extended periods of time, the skin will harden to protect itself—this is when corns and calluses begin to form. Friction occurs when something repeatedly comes into contact with part of the foot. Uneven pressure occurs when your bodyweight is not properly distributed. Both friction and pressure are thought to be the result of poor shoe choice.

Corns and calluses are very similar in how they form: the skin on the foot becomes thick and rough to the touch. The thickened skin eventually becomes dead tissue, and the layer underneath becomes irritated. This irritation causes pain when pressure is applied to the affected area. However, corns and calluses do form in different areas of the foot: corns are found on the toes, while calluses form on the bottom of the foot.

Causes of Corns and Calluses

While there is not just one cause of these conditions, poor shoe choice is thought to be the main reason corns and calluses develop. Examples of ill-fitting shoes include:

  • Shoes that are too tight or pinch the toes
  • High-heeled shoes that unevenly distribute weight
  • Shoes that are too loose and do not fit properly
  • Shoes that do not provide proper arch support

In addition to poor shoe choice, there are other foot conditions that contribute to the development of corns and calluses—like hammertoe. Those who have foot deformities may also be at a higher risk of developing corns and calluses.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Following a physical examination of the foot, your podiatrist should be able to diagnose your condition. Simply changing your shoes and being more mindful of how shoe choice affects your feet can usually clear up and prevent mild corns and calluses. Your podiatrist may also recommend the following home remedies to eliminate mild corns and calluses:

  • Padding: To protect the area where the corn is located, you can use small pads that shield the area from friction.
  • Massage: Rubbing corns and calluses following a shower with a pumice stone or a callus file to eliminate the thickened skin.

Larger corns and calluses may have to be surgically reduced. Your podiatrist will use a blade to carefully shave away the thickened or dead skin—similar to how a pumice stone works, but much more effective. The procedure is painless and is usually completed on an outpatient basis. A cortisone injection may also be used to reduce pain caused by corns or calluses.