What are corns and calluses?
Corns and calluses are areas of thick, hard skin, usually on the hands or feet. They can form when something rubs or presses on the skin over time.
Corns usually affect the bottoms of the feet and sides of the toes (picture 1). A corn looks like a small bump, and has a hard center surrounded by an area of irritated skin. Corns are often painful.
Calluses often form on the hands, fingers, feet, or toes (picture 2). They look like thick, rough, sometimes bumpy skin. Calluses usually do not hurt.
What Are Calluses And What Causes Them?
Callused skin vs normal skin It may become tender or painful to touch and your skin may be flaky or dry.
Underlying foot deformities such as hammertoes, bunions, or plantarflexed metatarsals can increase the risk of developing calluses. When you have an underlying problem, simply scraping the callus away doesn’t solve the problem. The callus will return because of the constant pressure and friction associated with the deformity. Also, as we age, our skin can become thinner. Diabetes or other health conditions can also cause poor blood flow to your feet and put you at greater risk for calluses.
Calluses most often happen on the feet, but they can also occur on the hands, elbows, or knees. Most health problems don’t have any advantages. Athletes will tell you that calluses do protect and make their feet less sensitive during sports. If you still go barefoot a lot, you have an even greater chance of developing calluses because of the constant bare contact with the ground and the weight you put on your feet (1.5 times your body weight when walking, 7.5 times your body weight when running).
Corns and calluses can result from:
- Wearing shoes that are too tight or too loose
- Wearing shoes without socks
- Walking around barefoot
- Using tools (like a hammer or rake) or sports equipment (like a tennis racket) that can rub against the skin
Bunion and Hammertoe deformities
Home Treatment Options
Once you get a callus, there are many at-home treatment options available, including:
- Keeping your feet clean and using a scrub brush to get rid of any excess skin
- Use a moisturizer designed for feet
- Use a pumice stone or a file for your feet to remove harder skin deposits
- Wear socks that fit well
- Use toe separators, felt pads and non-medicated pads or bandages over areas that rub
- Wear properly fitted footwear
It cannot be overstated that wearing ill-fitting shoes when you have underlying foot deformities will cause and exacerbate the formation of calluses and other foot maladies. Shoes that are too tight or too loose, high heels and even seams inside your shoe can cause rubbing and friction leading to foot problems.
In Office Treatment
It’s important that you not try to treat a callus if you have diabetes or other arterial disease. For patients without diabetes, most calluses are unsightly and can lead to a lot of discomfort, but by eliminating the source of friction that causes the callus, the callus can be treated. Often, patients can come in to the office and have their callus debrided (or removed) every six weeks to bring relief. Custom made orthotics with customized depressions or cut outs can redistribute pressure on the feet and can also provide relief, and in-office acid treatments may also be a consideration if patients do not have health issues that make this type of therapy too risky.