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Calluses and Corns

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Calluses and Corns

Condition Basics

What are calluses and corns?

Calluses and corns are areas of thick skin caused by pressure or friction.

  • Calluses often form on the hands or feet. They usually don't hurt.
  • Corns may form on the tops of the toes or between the toes. They may cause pain when you walk or wear shoes.

What causes them?

Calluses and corns are caused by repeated pressure or friction on an area of skin. This causes the skin to get thicker. When sweat is trapped where a corn develops, the hard core softens (soft corn). This most often occurs between toes.

Calluses on the hands may be caused by repeated use of an object that puts pressure on the hand. Examples include tools, such as a hoe or hammer, or sports equipment, such as a tennis racquet.

Calluses and corns on the feet are often caused by pressure from footwear. Walking barefoot also causes calluses.

Calluses and corns may also be caused by other things, including how a person walks or the bone structure of their feet.

What are the symptoms?

You can tell you have a corn or callus by the way it looks.

  • A callus is hard, dry, and thick, and it may appear grayish or yellowish. It may be less sensitive to the touch than surrounding skin, and it may feel bumpy.
  • A hard corn is firm with a thick core. It may have a yellow ring with a gray center. Or it may look darker than the nearby skin. A soft corn can look like an open sore.

Calluses and corns may not be painful, or they may cause pain when you walk or wear shoes. And they may make it hard for your feet to fit in your shoes.

How are they diagnosed?

Your doctor will look at the calluses or corns that are causing problems for you. The doctor may also ask you questions about your work, your hobbies, or the types of shoes you wear. An X-ray of the foot may be done if your doctor suspects a problem with the bones.

How are calluses and corns treated?

Usually calluses and corns don't need treatment unless they cause pain. If they do, you may be able to ease the pain with home treatment. For example, it may help to wear shoes that fit well and to use pads to cushion the sore area.

If you keep having problems with calluses or corns, or your problem is severe, your doctor may have you see a foot specialist called a podiatrist. You may be fitted for inserts (orthotics) for your shoes.

Surgery is rarely used to treat calluses or corns. But if a bone structure (such as a hammer toe or bunion) is causing a callus or corn, surgery can be used to change or remove the bone structure. This is used only if other treatment has failed.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Wear shoes and socks that fit well. This will reduce rubbing and give corns or calluses time to heal.
  • Use protective pads, such as moleskin, to cushion the callus or corn.
  • Soak your corn or callus in warm water, and then use a pumice stone to rub the thickened skin away.
  • Use an over-the-counter callus-removing product, such as one that contains salicylic acid or urea. These products come in creams, ointments, gels, and patches.
  • Talk to your doctor before you try any home treatment if you have a condition that causes problems with blood flow or loss of feeling in your feet. Examples include diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, and peripheral neuropathy.
  • Wash your feet regularly, and rub lotion into your feet while they are still moist. Dry skin can cause a callus to crack and bleed.
  • Never cut the corn or callus yourself. This is even more important/ if you have problems with blood flow to your legs or feet or a problem with numbness in your feet.

How can you help prevent corns and calluses?

Calluses and corns can be prevented by reducing pressure on the skin. In general:

  • Wear shoes and socks that fit well. Choose shoes that have a wide toe box. It can help to get both feet measured before buying a pair of shoes.
  • Wear gloves to protect your hands when you do things like gardening or using a tool such as a hammer or rake.

The bones in your feet or even tight calf muscles can affect the way you walk. If you have this problem, a podiatrist may be able to help you make changes to prevent foot problems like calluses and corns.


Current as of: November 16, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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