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Corns and Calluses: The Causes and How to Treat Them

Do you have corns or calluses on your feet? You’re not alone. I get them, too. And while I’m a bit embarrassed about them, I know that they’re common and they can be treated.

One thing I didn’t know – and maybe you didn’t either – is that corns and calluses can actually develop on any part of the body, including the bottoms of the feet, the hands and the elbows.

Calluses and corns are completely harmless, but if they’re causing you discomfort, there are many ways to treat them. Knowing their causes can also help prevent them from developing in the future.

What Causes Corns and Calluses?

Calluses and corns are caused by friction and pressure, but pinpointing the causes of this friction and pressure can be tricky.

Here are some common culprits:

  • Poorly-Fitting Shoes: If your shoes don’t fit properly, you may have certain areas of the feet rubbing up against the inner edges of the shoes. This will cause friction and pressure that can lead to calluses and corns. If your shoes are too big, your feet will slide around and rub up against the interior of the shoe. If your shoes are too small, it will put extra pressure on the tops and bottoms of your feet.
  • Not Wearing Socks: It may be tempting to just throw on a pair of shoes without socks and go run some errands, but doing this can cause all kinds of foot problems. Socks act as an extra layer of protection against friction and pressure, but they also help keep your feet dry. Without them, you may develop athlete’s foot in addition to corns and calluses.

Although you can get calluses and corns anywhere on the body, we’re going to focus on the feet in this article.

Common Symptoms of Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses usually have the same symptoms, which is why most people think they’re the same thing.

These symptoms include:

  • Hardened, raised bumps
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Pain or tenderness under the skin
  • Rough or thick skin

While both of these foot issues have the same symptoms, they’re actually two very different things.

  • Corns: Corns typically develop on non-weight-bearing areas of the feet, such as between and on top of the toes. They’re small in size, but they can be quite painful if you squeeze them.
  • Calluses: Calluses cause areas of thick, hardened skin. They’re rarely painful, which is why most people don’t bother treating them. They tend to develop on the soles of the feet, heels and the balls of the feet.

Most people will develop corns and calluses at least once in their lives. I know that I tend to get calluses when I wear new shoes that haven’t been broken in yet.

Preventing Corns and Calluses

While it’s impossible to completely prevent corns and calluses, you can take steps to reduce the chances.

Keeping the feet clean, dry and moisturized is a good start. Other preventative measures include:

  • Wear properly-fitting shoes. If your shoes don’t fit properly, you greatly increase your risk of developing corns and calluses. It may be worth the cost to buy new shoes and have your feet measured by a professional.
  • Wear protective coverings. Protective coverings can also help prevent the formation of corns and calluses. Felt pads can be placed in the spots where your feet rub against your shoes. If necessary, you can also wear toe separators inside of your shoes to prevent some of the friction and pressure that’s causing these issues.
  • Keeping your feet moisturized will help reduce friction and pressure. Try applying lotion or cream after bathing to keep your feet hydrated.
  • Soak Your Feet. Soaking your feet in warm water will help soften the skin, which can make it easier to remove the corn or callus.
  • Pumice Stone. You can thin the thickened skin on your feet by using a pumice stone. Please don’t use a sharp object to trim down the skin, and don’t use a pumice stone if you have diabetes.

Wearing the right shoes, taking good care of your feet, and using protective coverings can all help prevent corns and calluses.

Treating Corns and Calluses

Before I talk about treating your corns and calluses at home, I want to remind you that it’s important to talk to your doctor if you’re experiencing foot pain. Yes, corns can be painful at times, but they shouldn’t cause chronic foot pain.

If you’re not dealing with pain, there are a few ways to treat corns and calluses.

  • Shoe inserts are one of the best ways to treat and prevent corns and calluses. They can alleviate pressure while helping prevent friction. You can also get custom orthotics if you need special sizing or a foot deformity that needs to be corrected.
  • Most pharmacies carry over-the-counter patches for corns and calluses. These patches use a form of acid that softens the skin and eventually eats away at the corn or callus. You can use a pumice stone to rub away the dead skin.
  • It’s possible that your doctor may want to trim away or pare down excess skin. The trimming process will remove the hardest layer of skin and allow your foot to start healing. You’ll need to figure out (and fix) whatever is causing your friction and pressure issues if you want to prevent your corns and calluses from returning.

These are the most effective ways to treat corns and calluses. I found that using medicated patches and wearing insoles, like MindInSole, worked best for getting rid of my calluses. The patches softened the skin, and eventually, my calluses disappeared. But the inserts helped prevent them from coming back.

Corns and calluses can be uncomfortable and unsightly, but you don’t have to live with them forever. The trick is to find out the cause, and to take steps to fix the issue so that they don’t come back. You may need to buy new shoes, or you may just need a little extra cushioning to prevent pressure and friction.


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