Corns & Calluses

All to often, corns and calluses are the price we pay for neglecting our feet. Corns and calluses are very much alike, they just differ in where they occur.

Corns show up on the bony area on top of the toes and the skin between the toes. Corns feel hard to the touch, are tender, and have a roundish appearance. A small, clear spot called a hen’s eye may form in the center.

Calluses can occur on any part of the body that goes through repeated pressure or irritation. Common places are on the ball or heel of the feet, on the hands, and on the knees. Calluses are flat, painless thickenings of the skin.

Corns and calluses form as a protective response. They are extra cells made in a skin area that gets repeated rubbing or squeezing from such things as:

  • Footwear that fits poorly.
  • Activities that put pressure on the hands, knees and feet.

If self-care tips do not get rid of corns and calluses, a family doctor or foot doctor (podiatrist) may need to be consulted. He or she can scrape away the hardened tissue and peel away the corn with stronger solutions. (Sometimes warts lie underneath corns and need to be treated too).

Self-Care Tips

For Corns:

Never pick at corns or use toe-nail scissors or clippers, a razor blade or any other sharp tool to cut off corns. You may injure your skin or trigger an infection. Instead:

  • Get rid of shoes that fit poorly, especially if they squeeze your toes together.
  • Soak your feet in warm water to soften the corn.
  • Cover the corn with a protective, non-medicated pad, usually available in drugstores. (A piece of foam rubber or moleskin will do in a pinch).
  • If the outer layers of a corn have peeled away, apply a non-prescription liquid of 5 to 10 percent salicylic acid and cover the area with a small bandage.
  • Take your shoe to a shoe repair person and ask that he/she sews a metatarsal bar onto your shoe to use when a corn is healing.

For Calluses:

Never try to get rid of a callus by cutting it with a sharp tool. Instead:

  • Soak your feet in warm water to soften the callus, and pat dry.
  • Rub the callus gently with a pumice stone.
  • Cover calluses with protective pads, available in drugstores.
  • Check for poorly fitting shoes or other sources of pressure that may lead to calluses.
  • Wear gloves if doing a hobby or work that puts pressure on the hands.
  • Wear knee pads for activities that puts pressure on your knees.

Questions to Ask

Do you have any signs of infection (fever, swelling, redness, pus sacs, puffiness)?

Yes: See Doctor


Do you have circulation problems or diabetes mellitus?
Yes: Call Doctor

Do you have one or both of these problems even after providing self-care?

  • Continued or worse pain
  • No improvement after two to three weeks

Yes: Call Doctor

Provide Self-Care

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Written by American Institute for Preventive Medicine

Explore Wellness in 2021