Corns and calluses do share some similar characteristics: They’re both areas of hardened skin that form as a result of friction or rubbing on a highly localized spot on the foot or toes, or as a result of repetitive pressure, usually from ill-fitting shoes, and both can be accompanied by blisters. The main difference between calluses and corns is that corns have a core, a central portion that extends into the deeper tissue. The core is usually extremely sensitive and painful, appearing lighter than the surrounding tissue. Both corns and calluses can cause significant discomfort when walking, and over time, the discomfort can cause changes in gait patterns that can increase pain in the feet, ankles, knees and even the lower back. Finding comfortable shoes also becomes problematic.
Corns and calluses form as a result of increased friction and pressure. Over time, these issues cause the skin to “react” by forming a hard, protective barrier. At first, corns and calluses may cause few issues; but as the layers of hard tissue build up into lumps and bumps, they can cause pain similar to the sensations caused when a stone or other object becomes lodged in footwear.
Corns and calluses require professional care to relieve symptoms and remove the built up layers of hard tissue without damaging the surrounding healthy tissue. Depending on how deep and extensive they are, corns and calluses may be treated with topical preparations designed to help dead skin naturally slough away, or they may require trimming to remove the upper layers of tissue so topical preparations can be more effective. When corns and calluses are chronic, custom orthotics or a change in shoe style may help prevent recurrence by redistributing weight and pressure to prevent friction. Seeking treatment at the first signs of corn or callus development is important for getting quick relief.
Corns and calluses should never be trimmed at home because even a small cut can enable harmful germs to enter the skin where they can cause widespread infection and serious complications. Instead, corns and calluses should be treated by a podiatrist, who can also help patients prevent these problems from occurring in the future.