Corns and calluses are common foot problems that can cause discomfort and pain. They are protective layers of compacted, dead skin cells caused by repeated friction from skin rubbing against bony areas or against an irregularity in a shoe. Corns typically form on the toes, while calluses are more commonly found on the soles of the feet.
A callus is a thickened area of skin on the foot caused by pressure and repeated rubbing, such as from shoes or socks. Calluses vary in size, and can become painful. Although people may be tempted to perform “bathroom surgery” to remove calluses, as it can lead to cuts and infection instead, it is recommended to see a foot and ankle surgeon for evaluation and treatment, as the underlying cause of the callus may need to be treated or removed to prevent its recurrence.
Treatment for calluses includes over-the-counter callus removers, which use strong acids to peel this excess skin away after repeated application. Alternatively, start by soaking the foot in warm soapy water and gently rubbing away any dead skin that loosens. Next, use a pumice stone or emery board to file away the thickened skin. Apply a good moisturizer to the hardened areas to keep them softer and relieve pain. Non-medicated corn pads or moleskin are available in stores to relieve pain caused by calluses, but use caution when removing pads or moleskins to avoid tearing the skin. In more severe cases, a foot and ankle surgeon may prescribe medication to relieve inflammation, or inject cortisone into the underlying bursal sac to rapidly reduce pain and swelling.
A plantar callus is a type of callus that forms on the bottom of the heel over time when one metatarsal bone is longer or lower than the others. This structure causes the one metatarsal to hit the ground first and with more force than it can handle, leading to the thickening of the skin in that area. In most cases, plantar calluses can be treated without surgery. In recurring cases, however, a surgical procedure, called an osteotomy, may be performed to relieve pressure on the bone.
Intractable Plantar Keratosis (IPK) is another type of callus, which is a deep callus directly under the ball of the foot. IPK is caused by a “dropped metatarsal” that can be congenital, a result of a metatarsal fracture or a structural change that may have occurred over time. If you experience recurring or large calluses, consult a foot and ankle surgeon to explore treatment options.
Corns, on the other hand, are calluses that form on the toes because of bones that push up against shoes and build up pressure on the skin. Hard corns usually form on the top of the toe or on the side of the small toe. Soft corns resemble open sores and develop between the toes as they rub against each other. Improperly fitting shoes are a leading cause of corn formation. Toe deformities, such as hammertoe or claw toe, can also lead to corns.
Self-care for corns includes soaking feet regularly and using a pumice stone or callus file to reduce the size of the corn. Special over-the-counter, non-medicated, donut-shaped foam pads can be worn to help relieve the pressure and discomfort. For large or lasting corns, visit a foot and ankle surgeon who can shave off the corns using a scalpel.
It is important to never cut corns or calluses with any instrument, as it can lead to infection. Avoid home remedies except under the direction of a podiatrist.
To prevent corns and calluses, switch to better-fitting shoes or use an orthotic device to correct an underlying issue. Buying socks with double-thick toes and heels or nylon hose with woven cotton soles on the bottom of the foot can also aid in preventing the formation of calluses.
In conclusion, if you are experiencing pain or discomfort due to corns or calluses on your feet, contact Dr. Gilbert Huang DPM, a foot and ankle surgeon, for evaluation and treatment. By taking proper care of your feet and wearing properly fitting shoes, you can prevent the recurrence of corns and calluses.