Callus and Corns
What are corns and calluses? Our feet are burdened with carrying our full body weight when walking and work to distribute the forces caused by our body weight, pressure from foot bones, movement and footwear. Sometimes these forces and pressures can become excessive, unbalanced or extra unwanted friction may occur resulting in corns and calluses. As a result of this, the body produces thickening in the surface layer of the skin to protect the underlying tissue. These hard, thick and rough patches which commonly occur on the feet, are called calluses (‘hyperkeratosis’) and may cause pain or discomfort when walking. If these pressures become concentrated to a small area, a hard corn (thickened skin plug) may develop. While ‘soft’ corns may develop between the toes where skin is moist and pressure from toe bones rub against overlying skin. Sometimes the pressure of the corn or callus may produce underlying inflammation, which can result in acute pain, swelling and redness. Calluses are usually larger than corns and have a more yellowish appearance. Corns and calluses can be found on the balls of the feet, heels, the tops of toes and along the sides of toenails. Who gets corns and calluses, and why? Almost everyone can get corns or calluses! Some people have a natural tendency to develop calluses because of their skin type, foot shape or walking style. While people who are required to spend a lot of time on their feet are also prone to these skin problems. Causes of corns include: – Poorly fitting shoes where the foot can slide and rub causing friction on the skin or very tight shoes putting excessive pressure on an area of the foot. – Corns may develop on bony parts of the feet where there is a natural lack of cushioning, or where a bunion or hammer toe is present. Causes of calluses include: – When the skin rubs repetitively against something such as bon, a shoe or the ground. – Activities that put repeated pressure on the foot such as running or walking barefoot can cause calluses to form. As such athletes are prone to them. – Reduced natural fatty padding on the soles of the feet –eg. elderly people. – Atypical walking style and foot function. Treating corns and calluses If you have corns or calluses on your feet, you should see our friendly team of Podiatrists, who can treat and advise you on how best to treat your feet. It is important to seek professional advice as podiatrists will also examine your feet and endeavour to identify and treat any underlying foot functioning issues you may have. Over the counter treatments, such as corn plasters, generally treat only the symptoms and not the underlying problem. In fact, these plasters and ointments may damage the normal, thinner surrounding skin if not used properly. Corn plasters may also not be suitable for people with diabetes, fragile skin or circulation problems. Corns and calluses won’t get better unless the cause of the pressure is dealt with. This is something a podiatrist can investigate for you. If the cause isn’t removed, the surrounding skin around may become thicker and more painful. A podiatrist may also be able to remove corns and callus by using a sharp blade to remove the thickened skin. This should be painless and help decrease pain and discomfort. Preventing corns and calluses In short: Look after your feet, be proactive about lower limb health and choose the right shoes! To reduce the amount of thickened / hard / rough skin developing: – See your podiatrist to evaluate any underlying causes of your corns or calluses, to provide you with advice on how best to manage your feet, and to treat your corns or calluses. – Wear comfortable shoes that fit well and support your feet. Always shop for shoes in the afternoon, as feet swell throughout the day and should shoes fit well in the afternoon, the shoes will be comfortable. Ask your podiatrist for specific footwear advice. – Padding, strapping, deflective devices and insoles (orthotics) that fit in shoes are also useful in redistributing forces – Moisturise with foot cream. Don’t put up with foot pain or discomfort! See our Podiatrists who will be able to investigate causes of your foot pain.