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Corns and Calluses


Corns and calluses are abnormalities of the skin that often occur on the feet. Many people will develop at least one corn or callus on their feet over the courses of their lives. While the condition is usually not serious, a corn or a callus may be uncomfortable or embarrassing, leading people to seek treatment.

What is a corn or callus?

Corns and calluses are both marked by thick skin that often forms on the feet. Both types of foot problems are progressive, gradually developing over time. They are not contagious, so you don't have to worry about spreading them to your family.

Corns Versus Calluses

Because their causes and treatments are similar, corns and calluses are often discussed together, but they are different types of problems:

  • Corns are very small, round patches of thick skin with a hard center area. Normally, the skin around the hard center is red and inflamed. Most often, corns develop on parts of the feet that do not bear weight, such as the tops and sides of the toes. Often, corns are painful to the touch.
  • Calluses are usually larger than corns and lack the hard center. The skin is usually equally thick throughout. On the feet, calluses normally form on the balls of the feet or the heels. They are usually not painful or tender.

Causes of Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses are both formed by pressure and friction due to:

  • Wearing tight fitting or narrow shoes
  • Not wearing socks inside of shoes
  • Walking barefoot
  • Other foot care problems like a bunion, a tailor's bunion or a hammer toe
  • Sports or exercise
  • Flat feet
  • Bone spurs

With calluses, repeated movements or rubbing of the skin causes the body to produce extra skin in order to protect itself. This results in thickening in the affected area. Corns are formed by the same process; however, when a corn is forming, sweat becomes trapped within the tissue, leading to the formation of the hard core.


In addition to noticing the corn or callus itself, you may also see that your skin appears waxy or flaky in the area affected. The feet may become gray or yellow where the callus or corn is located.

Occasionally, corns and calluses may become infected, resulting in redness, pus and a warm feeling to the touch. This type of infection needs to be treated by a doctor and usually requires oral or topical antibiotic medications.

Treatment Options

With the exception of people who have diabetes, people with calluses and corns normally do not need to treat them unless they are uncomfortable or their appearance is distressing. Treatments for corns and calluses include:

  • Wearing more comfortable, wider shoes with socks at all times. Often, this is enough for a corn or callus to heal on its own
  • Using protective pads to cover the corn or callus and protect the skin from friction
  • Correcting or treating underlying foot problems like a bunion or hammer toe
  • Filing and moisturizing the feet can often soften and remove calluses; It is not a good idea to file corns, but moisturizing the skin can help
  • Over-the-counter topical corn and callus removers can dissolve the thickened skin with salicylic acid. It's a good idea to talk to a doctor before using one of these products
  • Trimming skin or surgically removing the skin may be done by a doctor if other interventions fail to produce results

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