Corns and Calluses: The Hard Facts

Sometimes our skin becomes thickened in certain places on our bodies, forming calluses or corns. Although they are annoying, these patches of hardened, dry skin are meant to act as a protective barrier against friction. Despite forming with good intentions, however, they can cause discomfort.

What Are Calluses?

Calluses are very simply built-up layers of dead skin. They form where friction is likely to occur, for instance, on the soles of your feet. The most common places include the bottom of your heel and underneath the metatarsal heads. If you go barefoot or wear sandals a lot, you may find that you develop calluses more than the average person. They typically form as protection against blisters and ulcers, however, there are other reasons for their formation. Some people have biomechanical deformities such as flatfeet or longer metatarsal bones. Other people wear tight-fitting shoes such as high heels, which put an enormous amount of pressure on the metatarsals. Whatever the reason, a callus is very unlikely to cause pain, but can be bothersome and unsightly.

What Are Corns?

Corns are also a build-up of dead skin but they present themselves differently. They are typically found in and around the toes as a result of friction. They may appear as small bumps or “kernels,” which is where the name comes from. They develop when your toes rub against each other, typically as a result of wearing shoes that do not fit properly. Corns are likely to be more painful than calluses because of their location. If it is on the top of your foot it is considered a hard corn. This can be painful because it is more prone to rubbing against your shoes. One that is found in between your toes is called a soft corn. They are “soft” because of the moisture that keeps them more pliable. These can be painful because they may rest on your nerves and put pressure there.

How Do You Treat Them?

Treating calluses and corns is usually fairly simple. First you want to work on prevention by resting your feet when possible and wearing the right shoes. You can even add in a shoe insert that will provide cushioning and comfort. If you do happen to develop a callus, you can gently remove it over time by softening the skin in warm water and then using an emery board or pumice stone to slough away the dead cells. This is a process that will take several days or up to weeks. If it does not seem to be working, you can go to a doctor to have them trim away the skin. Never use anything sharp on your own body as you could do more harm than good. This is especially true for people with diabetes.

To treat a corn you should first simply try changing your shoes. When your toes have room, they will stop rubbing against each other and the dead skin will have an opportunity to break down. You can try the same method of soaking and scraping with a pumice stone. There are also non-medicated cushions that you can use on the corn to avoid discomfort. Do not use the medicated pads because they can cause irritation.

Getting Help

Dry skin prone to corns and calluses can be annoying, but can be easily treated. If you have more questions, just call Dr. Mitchell Wachtel, podiatrist North Andover, at (978) 794-8406 to schedule an appointment in one of our Massachusetts offices.