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What are Corns and Calluses?

Most commonly found on the feet and hands, both corns and calluses normally serve to protect your skin against injury. It’s important to understand the difference between corns and calluses if you are seeking treatment. Most calluses aren’t a problem unless they bother you, while corns can be painful but will often resolve on their own. If you have lengthy or severe callus or corn formation and can’t seem to avoid friction due to abnormalities or health issues, we can help.

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What’s the Difference Between Corns and Calluses?

Despite their shared traits, corns and calluses are different:

  • Calluses are generally painless and occur most commonly on the base of the foot, especially on areas that see both pressure and friction, i.e., the heel and ball of the foot. Calluses are larger than corns.
  • Corns are smaller patches of hardened skin with a distinct, hard center. Usually surrounded by inflammation, corns can be uncomfortable under normal circumstances and hurt even more when pressure is applied. Unlike calluses, corns usually form on parts of the foot or ankle that are not load-bearing, although they can technically form anywhere.

Causes of Corns and Calluses

The simplest root cause of all calluses and corns is a combination of regular pressure and friction. This means that simply walking around can lead to the development of either. Specific sources of the added force which tends to cause serious calluses and corns include:

  • Shoes: When shoes are too tight or too loose, it can lead to significant friction on the feet. Shoes that are too tight will rub against the edges of your toes and other surfaces, while loose shoes will allow your feet to slide and generate friction along a number of surfaces.
  • Bunions: If you already have a bunion (a bony bump at the base of your big toe), it will be prone to rubbing against your shoe.
  • Socks: Going without socks significantly increases the amount of friction the skin on your feet experiences.
  • Hammertoe: The hammertoe deformity (in which the toe bends significantly) can lead to rubbing on the tip of the toe or on the joint against the roof of your shoe.
  • Bone spurs: Any bone spurs you may have on your feet or ankles can lead to friction against your shoes, leading to the formation of calluses or corns.
  • Other abnormalities: Essentially any bone or skin abnormality on your feet should receive special attention, as they can lead to the formation of calluses and corns if not cared for properly.

Signs and Symptoms

Any consistent discomfort in your shoes when sitting or walking is a pressure area that is likely to lead to corns or calluses over time. Symptoms and early warning signs of corns and calluses include:

Thickened Skin

The skin may thicken in areas that are likely to form a callus even before the skin begins to harden.

Rough Skin

Skin can be rough as a result of a callus, or it can be rough due to rubbing and dryness (which can eventually lead to a callus).

Waxy Skin

When a callus is not dry, it is often waxy — feeling almost unlike skin to the touch.

Hard, Raised Bump

A hard, raised bump on your foot is usually indicative of a corn (or soon to be a corn).

Tenderness

If you notice your skin becoming tender in a certain area after walking, that area is probably going to form a callus.

Flaky or Dry Skin

The skin at the outside surface of a callus often becomes dry and flaky as moisture struggles to penetrate the thick layers of skin in the way.

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Prevention and Treatment

If you want to avoid developing calluses or corns, proper foot care is crucial. For most calluses, the same tools used for prevention will also be used for treatment — eventually leading to the elimination of calluses. Home care treatment includes:

  • Well-fitting shoes: Shoes that fit properly are critical. Ask a professional to help you figure out your exact shoe size and make sure your shoes feel snug (but not tight) when laced and tied. You should always have a little room to wiggle your toes.
  • Inserts: Special inserts for your shoes are the number one form of treatment and prevention for calluses and corns.
  • Cushions and covers: Socks, special padding for abnormalities, and other forms of cushioning and covering will drastically reduce the formation of calluses on your feet.
  • Soaking: Soaking your feet in a hot bath — whether as part of your normal bathing or with a foot bath — will keep the skin pliable and soft.
  • Abrasion: Abrasive hygiene tools (such as a pumice stone or nail file) can help keep calluses under control.
  • Moisturizing: Keeping your skin moisturized with lotion and personal hydration will help prevent the formation of calluses.

Surgical Options

In recurrent cases of severe callus formation due to bone or skin abnormalities, surgery may be the only viable treatment. Trimming is another option for serious cases of calluses. Trimming is performed using a scalpel or other cutting tool, and should be left to a medical professional only.

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Callus and Corn Treatment at Foot & Ankle Specialty Group

If you have a callus or corn that is bothering you, we encourage you to contact our office to see how we can help. As a longstanding podiatry office in practice for 20 years, our focus is on getting people back to activity and serving families and individuals with foot and ankle injuries of all kinds. Led by Dr. Salma Aziz, D.P.M, M.S., Foot & Ankle Specialty Group has been built on time-tested practices and provides patients with an exceptional, well-rounded experience. With the additions of Dr. Petrina Yokay and Dr. Jessica Arneson, we are a nurturing female surgeon group working hard to get our patients back on their feet.

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