Corns and Calluses


Corns and calluses are thickenings of skin on the feet that can become painful. They are caused by excessive pressure or friction (rubbing) on the skin. The common cause is poorly fitting shoes.


A corn is a small area of skin which has become thickened due to pressure on it. A corn is roughly round in shape. Corns press into the deeper layers of skin and can be painful.Hard corns commonly occur on the top of the smaller toes or on the outer side of the little toe. These are the areas where poorly fitted shoes tend to rub most.Soft corns sometimes form in between the toes, most commonly between the fourth and fifth toes ,corns can sometimes become infected.


A callus is larger, broader and has a less well defined edge than a corn. These tend to form on the the sole. They commonly form over the bony area just underneath the toes. This area takes much of your weight when you walk. They are usually painless but can become painful.

What causes corns and calluses?

The common causes of rubbing and pressure are tight or poor fitting shoes which tend to cause corns on the top of the toes and side of the little toe. Also, too much walking or running which tend to cause calluses on the sole of the feet.They are more likely to develop if you have very prominent bony toes, thin skin, or any deformities of the toes or feet.

What are the treatments for corns and calluses?

If you develop a painful corn or callus it is best to get expert advice from a podiatrist .You should not cut corns yourself, especially if you are elderly or have diabetes. Advice and treatments usually considered include the following:

Paring and trimming

The thickened skin of a corn or callus can be pared down (trimmed) by a podiatrist by using a scalpel blade. Sometimes repeated or regular trimming sessions are needed. Once a corn or callus is trimmed down, it may not return if you use good footwear .Recurrence may be prevented by rubbing down the thickening skin with a pumice stone or emery paper once a week. It is best to soak the foot in warm water for 20 minutes to soften the thick skin before scrubbing. A moisturising cream used regularly on a trimmed corn or callus will keep the skin softened and easier to rub down.

Note: do not use a chemical (sometimes included in 'corn plasters') to 'burn' the thickened skin unless under the supervision of a podiatrist. Chemicals can harm the nearby skin and may cause a skin ulcer. In particular, chemicals should not be used if you have diabetes or poor circulation.

Shoes and footwear

Tight or poor fitting shoes are thought to be the main cause of most corns and calluses. Shoes should have plenty of room for the toes, have soft uppers and low heels. In addition, extra width is needed if corns develop on the outer side of the little toe. Extra height is needed if corns develop on the top of abnormal toes such as 'hammer' or 'claw' toes.Some people with abnormalities of their feet or toes will need specialist shoes to prevent rubbing. A podiatrist can advise about this.

Footpads and toe protection

Depending on the site of a corn or callus, a cushioning pad or shoe insole may be of benefit. A podiatrist will be able to advise you on any appropriate padding, insoles or appliances you may need.


If you have a foot or toe abnormality causing recurring problems, an operation may be advised if all else fails. For example, an operation may be needed to straighten a deformed toe, or to cut out a part of a bone that is sticking out from a toe and is causing problems. If you need an operation then you will be referred to a surgeon.

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