Understanding Corns and Calluses

Your body relies on a variety of defensive processes to help protect itself. Blood clots so that cuts are not fatal. Broken bones mend to regain the structure they provide. Your skin even gets into the act by developing corns and calluses to protect against friction that could cause it to wear away. Sometimes, though, these growths lead to complications and require treatment.

Calluses are basically compacted layers of dead skin that were developed by your body to protect itself from repetitive pressure or friction. A guitarist will likely have them on his fingertips from hours spent playing the guitar or a runner may have calluses on her heels from running long distances. These are rarely painful and can vary in shape and size.

One difference between corns and calluses is that a corn will appear as a raised bump, instead of the flat surface of a callus. Another is that corns are typically smaller in size and feature hard centers that are surrounded by inflamed skin. They also tend to form on non-weight bearing parts of your feet.

Whereas these respective conditions do not directly cause pain by themselves, they can lead to a painful situations when they face pressure. If either has formed on the bottom of your foot, for example, and you are lying on the couch with your foot propped up on a pillow, you will likely be unaware of the dry patches on your sole. When you get off the couch, though, and start walking, you may experience pain or discomfort.

Examining Risk Factors and Causes for Corns and Calluses

These growths stem from repetitive actions that apply pressure or friction to your skin. Common causes include wearing ill-fitting shoes or socks, or even skipping socks altogether. Tight shoes that do not fit properly, especially high heels, can compress your foot against the inside and lead to calluses or corns. On the other hand, shoes that are too loose allow your feet to slide around on the inside and rub against the interior. When you forgo socks, you can experience friction from your shoes directly on your skin.

Various foot conditions can increase the likelihood that you develop a corn or callus, including bunions, hammertoes, and other foot deformities. Bunions are marked by a bony protrusion that juts out on the inside edge of your foot. If your shoes are not wide enough, the protrusion will rub against the inside and lead to callusing.

Straightforward Diagnosis and Home Treatments

Calluses and corns are generally quite easy to diagnose. The only reason an examination may be necessary is to rule out other potential conditions you may have—like a cyst or a wart. An X-ray may be useful for determining if the cause of the condition is a physical abnormality that might need treatment.

Treating corns and calluses starts at home—simply by avoiding the activities that initially resulted in their development. Some of the other methods that you can use to begin treating the condition include replacing shoes that do not fit properly with footwear that does, using protective pads for cushion, and wearing comfortable, cushioned socks.

When home treatment is not successful, and you need professional care, there are several effective methods that we can use. Do not attempt this at home, but we can pare down thickened skin with the use of a scalpel in our office. A pumice stone or callus-removing medication will often help with these conditions and our office can provide instructions so that you can use either of these tools. Customized shoe inserts (orthotics) can help prevent corns or calluses from recurring. In rare instances we might recommend surgery to fix an existing alignment of bone that creates the friction that leads to a callus.

When Professional Help Is Needed

If your home treatment has not achieved the desired results, contact Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists for the effective care you need. Our Austin, TX office is dedicated to redefining your expectations for what is possible when it comes to podiatric care, so give us a call at (512) 328-8900 or use our online from to request an appointment and find out how we can help you today.

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Dr. Craig H. Thomajan, DPM, FACFAS, FAENS
Founder and Managing Partner of Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists