Corns and Calluses

Flip-flops and sandals are essential summertime footwear for many people. But, after a long winter confined to boots and heavy shoes, your feet may be callused or have corns that make you want to hide your feet in the sand. Don’t hide your feet! Use the advice here to treat corns and calluses, and give your feet some much-needed fresh air.

Is It a Corn or a Callus?

Before you can treat your foot conditions, you need to find out if you have corns or calluses. They are both common and although they both develop mainly on the bottom of the foot, they are not the same thing.

Both are dense, thickened skin that has hardened as a form of protection. Corns and calluses are your skin’s way of protecting itself against repeated subjection to friction or pressure. Corns tend to be painful, where calluses are usually just a nuisance.

What Does a Callus Look Like?

In order to determine if you have a corn or callus, take note of where the hardened skin has made an appearance. A callus is most often on your heels and the ball of your foot, but may also appear on your knees or palms of your hands. You can easily identify it on areas of skin with these signs:

  • Thick, dry patches – these can be small or encompass most of your heel.
  • White or flaky – calluses may have white edges due to excessively dry skin and may also flake.
  • Firm to touch-in comparison to other areas on the sole of your foot, the callus will feel very firm almost hard.

Callus with Black Dots

If you notice the callus on your foot or toe develops black dots, you need to check it closely. It could be one of two things.

  • If your callus has become irritated due to new skin underneath it separating from the callused skin, blood can pool in the space between the two. It isn’t severe bleeding and often appears as black spots underneath the callus.
  • If your black dots are more concentrated in one area underneath the skin, you may have a plantar wart. If it is a plantar wart, it may be painful when touched.

What Does a Corn Look Like?

A corn is similar to a callus but appears mostly on the toes and has a center of hardened dead skin. Around the corn is often red, swollen tissue. Most are considered hard corns but some are soft corns, having thinner layers of skin at the center, making them less hard. Corns are often quite painful, especially when touching or with friction or pressure like when wearing shoes.

What Causes Corns and Calluses?

Corns and calluses develop over time with the application of friction or pressure to areas of skin. Various activities can put pressure on your feet, knees, or hands through repetitious circular or sideways motions. Examples include:

  • Tight shoes that rub against the sides of your feet or heels, or shoes that squeeze your toes together. High heels force the weight of your feet forward and cause compression on various areas of your feet.
  • Ill fitting shoes can cause a corn or callus to develop because they could be too tight or too loose. Loose shoes can result in friction as they slide around when you walk. Tight shoes can add pressure or friction causing a corn or callus to develop.
  • Repetitious behaviors, like writing for long periods or using a hammer repeatedly, can cause calluses on your hands.
  • Poor circulation can be a contributing factor and is common for people with diabetes.

As you can see from this list, it boils down to pressure or friction, which means you can add many other activities that could cause calluses and corns.

Treat Corns and Calluses

Now that you understand what calluses and corns are, how to identify them, and what causes them, you should find out how to treat them.

You don’t necessarily have to have your corns and calluses removed; if you correct the actions that caused them, such as wearing the right shoes, they will often resolve themself over time. However, if you have intense pain or bleeding, you should see a podiatrist or dermatologist for advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

Corn Treatment on Toes

The first step would be to eliminate or reduce the cause of friction and pressure on the area. Wear well fitting shoes to relieve pressure on the feet and toes, utilizing shoe inserts if necessary.

Corns can often be treated with home remedies and over the counter medications. Medicated pads that cover the affected area is a common solution for treating corns. Removal medications at your local pharmacy usually contain small concentrations of salicylic acid to facilitate dead skin peeling.

If friction between your toes is causing the corn, you may need pads between your toes until you can have a doctor assess the corns. Surgery to correct the bone structure is one option a podiatrist can offer that may prevent this type of corn from returning. The doctor may remove some of the bone that is causing friction between the toes.

Corn on Finger Treatment

Some corns and calluses can be treated with home remedies. One method is to manually treat them with a soapy warm water soak until the corn softens. Follow with using a pumice stone or emery board to debride the thickened area, removing some excess skin. You can also try using over the counter foot-soaks prior to using the pumice stone if soapy water isn’t enough. Begin using gloves or other protective measures to reduce the level of friction while at work or home.

Callus on Ball of Foot Removal

When thick calluses develop on the ball of your foot they can be difficult to remove as they are usually thicker. Calluses are often larger in surface area, become cracked, and require more time and effort to resolve. In addition to debridement, you can also try wearing specially medicated socks to bed at night. The medication inside starts the process of peeling away the dead skin over time. If you are not able to remove them, or they are severely cracked and painful, you may need to see your doctor. He can cut away the dead skin with special tools. Be sure to moisturize often as new skin emerges.

Salicylic Acid Peels

The best calluses solutions is when your doctor performs a salicylic acid foot peel in office. They can use a higher concentration of salicylic acid than is available at pharmacies and are therefore able to remove the more excess keratin than at home. This process may take several treatments to get all of the layers off.


As you have seen here, the best treatment for corns and calluses is through prevention measures. Then, there are OTC treatment options and if necessary, medical options you can pursue.

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