Foot Corns and calluses are areas of hard, thickened skin that develop when the skin is exposed to excessive pressure or friction. They commonly occur on the feet and can cause pain and discomfort when you walk.
Corns are small circles of thick skin that usually develop on the tops and sides of toes or on the sole of the foot. However, they can occur anywhere.
Women often get them if they’ve been wearing badly fitting shoes or spent a lot of time standing during the day.
Corns often occur on bony feet as there’s a lack of natural cushioning. They can also develop as a symptom of another foot problem, such as a bunion (a bony swelling at the base of the big toe) or hammer toe (where the toe is bent at the middle joint).
Calluses are hard, rough areas of skin that are often yellowish in colour. They can develop on your foot, most often around the heel area or over the ball of the foot.
They can also develop on the palms of the hands and knuckles.
Calluses are larger than corns and do not have such a well-defined edge. As callused skin is thick, it is often less sensitive to touch than the surrounding skin.
Calluses develop when the skin rubs against something, such as a bone, a shoe or the ground. They often form over the ball of your foot because this area takes most of your weight when you walk. This is particularly the case in women who regularly wear high heels.
Excessive pressure on bony areas of the foot, badly fitting shoes and lots of walking or running are all possible causes of calluses.
Corns and calluses are caused by pressure on the foot from poorly fitting shoes
Treating painful corns and calluses involves removing the cause of the pressure or friction and getting rid of the thickened skin.
You may be advised to wear comfortable, flat shoes instead of high-heeled shoes. If calluses develop on the hands, wearing protective gloves when doing repetitive tasks will give the affected area time to heal.
If you’re not sure what’s causing a corn or callus, see your GP. They may refer you to a podiatrist (also called a chiropodist). Podiatrists specialise in diagnosing and treating foot problems. They will examine the affected area and recommend appropriate treatment.
See below for more information about podiatry and how to access it on the NHS.
Hard skin removal
A podiatrist may cut away some of the thickened skin using a sharp blade called a scalpel. This will help relieve the pressure on the tissue underneath.
Do not try to cut the corn or callus yourself. You could make it more painful and it might become infected. You can use a pumice stone or foot file to rub down skin that is getting thick.
Foot care products
Pharmacies sell a range of products that allow thick, hard skin to heal and excessive pressure to be redistributed. Ask your GP, podiatrist or pharmacist to recommend the right product for you.
Examples of products that can be used to treat corns and calluses include:
• special rehydration creams for thickened skin
• protective corn plasters
• customised soft padding or foam insoles
• small foam wedges that are placed between the toes to help relieve soft corns
• special silicone wedges that change the position of your toes or redistribute pressure