For as irritating or sometimes painful as they can be, corns and calluses usually aren’t serious. A little bit of attention and care is often all it takes to resolve them, and there’s a lot you can do to prevent their recurrence as time goes on.
At California Foot and Ankle Clinic in Riverside, California, our skilled podiatry team knows that when it comes to maintaining optimal foot health and mobility, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.
Read on as Sahand Golshan, DPM, and Ivan Aguilera, DPM, discuss the difference between corns and calluses and offer five effective ways to prevent them.
Corns and calluses explained
Corns and calluses are hard, built-up areas of thickened skin brought on by repeated friction, rubbing, or irritation. Although they can develop anywhere on your body, they typically emerge on the pressure pads and bony protrusions of your hands, fingers, feet, and toes.
For all they have in common, corns and calluses also have distinct differences.
What are corns?
Corns are small, round lumps of thickened skin. There are three main corn types:
- Hard corns — small, dense areas of skin that usually form on the tops of your toes
- Soft corns — small, whitish-gray bumps of built-up skin that develop between your toes
- Seed corns — small mounds of thick skin that form on the bottom of your foot
Corns tend to become more painful or tender as they thicken over time, especially if they’re subjected to frequent irritation or pressure.
What are calluses?
Calluses are larger patches of rough, thick skin. Unlike corns, they lack a specific pressure point and typically have a more irregular, or spread out, shape. They mostly appear on the weight-bearing areas of your foot, including:
- The bottom of your big toe
- The ball of your foot
- The outside edge of your foot
- The back end of your heel
While most calluses aren’t uncomfortable, they can become dry and develop a painful crack called a fissure.
Corn and callus prevention strategies
Some people have an inherited tendency to develop corns or calluses; others develop them because they rarely wear socks with their shoes or frequently walk around barefoot. Corns and calluses are also a routine byproduct of common foot misalignment problems like arthritis, bunions, bone spurs, and hammertoes.
The leading cause of corns and calluses, however, is wearing tight, narrow, or otherwise ill-fitting shoes. As such, proper footwear tops our list of effective prevention strategies:
1. Choose comfortable shoes
Tight shoes with a narrow toe box — especially the high-heeled kind that squeeze your toes and push them forward, placing increased pressure on the ball of your foot — set the stage for corns and calluses.
Footwear that protects against corns and calluses is comfortable and supportive. The right pair of shoes fits well, has low heels and well-cushioned, shock-absorbing soles, gives you enough room to wiggle your toes, and doesn’t constrict, pinch, or rub any part of your foot.
2. Wear socks with footwear
Hard or stiff footwear can irritate the skin over certain pressure points on your feet if you don’t wear socks. To avoid this major corn and callus trigger, simply wear well-fitting socks every time you wear shoes. Skip socks that are too tight, too loose, or prone to bunching up.
3. Use custom orthotics or pads
If you’re prone to getting corns or calluses, custom orthotics can be an excellent preventive strategy. Cushioned insoles that are prescribed and made for your unique foot issues help balance out the weight-bearing forces on the bottom of your foot to stop callus formation.
If you’re susceptible to developing corns between or on top of your toes, our team may advise you to use toe separators when you wear shoes or to wear felt or non-medicated corn pads over spots that are more vulnerable to friction.
4. Keep your toenails trimmed
Maintaining neatly trimmed toenails — or nails that are cut short and straight across — can help prevent corns on the tops of your toes, calluses on the bottoms of your toes or the ball of your foot, and ingrown toenails. Long toenails can force your toes into abnormal positions inside your shoes, causing friction and pressure.
5. Use moisturizing foot cream
Keeping your feet clean and well-moisturized helps you maintain soft, supple skin that’s less prone to the kind of skin tissue buildup associated with corns and calluses. After you wash your feet each day, dry them and apply a skin-hydrating foot cream.
If you notice the start of a corn or callus, soak your feet to soften the tough area of skin, then rub the area with a pumice stone or washcloth to gently thin out the thickened layers. Don’t use this method if you have diabetic neuropathy — seek professional foot care instead.
Make your foot health a top priority today
Lastly, treat any persistent condition — whether it’s a bothersome bunion, a painful heel spur, or a hammertoe deformity — that affects the biomechanics of your foot and leaves you prone to corns or calluses.
To learn more or schedule a visit at our office, call 951-405-8500 today.