Corns and calluses are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop when your skin tries to protect itself against friction and pressure. They most often develop on the feet and toes or hands and fingers. Corns and calluses can be unsightly.
If you’re healthy, you need treatment for corns and calluses only if they cause discomfort. For most people, simply eliminating the source of friction or pressure makes corns and calluses disappear.
If you have diabetes or another condition that causes poor blood flow to your feet, you’re at greater risk of complications from corns and calluses.
You may have a corn or a callus if you notice:
- A thick, rough area of skin
- A hardened, raised bump
- Tenderness or pain under your skin
- Flaky, dry or waxy skin
Corns and calluses are not the same thing.
Corns are smaller than calluses and have a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin. Corns tend to develop on parts of your feet that don’t bear weight, such as the tops and sides of your toes and even between your toes. They can also be found in weight-bearing areas. Corns can be painful when pressed.
Calluses are rarely painful. They usually develop on the soles of your feet, especially under the heels or balls, on your palms, or on your knees. Calluses vary in size and shape and are often larger than corns.
Pressure and friction from repetitive actions cause corns and calluses to develop and grow. Some sources of this pressure and friction include:
- Wearing ill-fitting shoes. Tight shoes and high heels can compress areas of your feet. When footwear is too loose, your foot may repeatedly slide and rub against the shoe. Your foot may also rub against a seam or stitch inside the shoe.
- Skipping socks. Wearing shoes and sandals without socks can cause friction on your feet. Socks that don’t fit properly also can be a problem.
- Playing instruments or using hand tools. Calluses on your hands may result from the repeated pressure of playing instruments, using hand tools or even writing.
These factors may increase your risk of corns and calluses:
- Bunions. A bunion is an abnormal, bony bump that forms on the joint at the base of your big toe.
- Hammertoe. A hammertoe is a deformity in which your toe curls like a claw.
- Other foot deformities. Certain conditions, such as a bone spur, can cause constant rubbing inside your shoe.
- Not protecting your hands. Using hand tools without wearing gloves exposes your skin to excessive friction.
These approaches may help you prevent corns and calluses:
- Wear shoes that give your toes plenty of room. If you can’t wiggle your toes, your shoes are too tight. Have a shoe shop stretch your shoes at any point that rubs or pinches.
- Use protective coverings. Wear felt pads, nonmedicated corn pads or bandages over areas that rub against your footwear. You can also try toe separators or some lamb’s wool between your toes.
- Wear padded gloves when using hand tools. Or try padding your tool handles with cloth tape or covers.
File away the corn
It may be possible to remove the corn. Use these steps:
- Soak your feet in a warm bath with Epsom salts.
- After the soak, pat your feet dry with a clean towel and moisturize with a hydrating lotion or cocoa butter.
- Continue this process daily until your corn has softened.
- After it’s softened and not painful, try gently rubbing the corn with a pumice stone.
- If the corn is between your toes, use an emery board, also known as a nail file, to rub them.
- Repeat these steps until your corn has disappeared, which may take a few weeks.
Apply castor oil and corn pads
If you’d prefer to not file away your corn, there are other methods. You can soak your feet daily as described above and then follow these steps:
- Pat dry your feet and apply castor oil. This is a vegetable-based oil that you can purchase at your local pharmacy.
- After moisturizing your corn with castor oil, protect it with a special corn pad that you can find at your pharmacy. Corn pads help relieve the pressure from the area so that the corn can heal.
- After applying, make sure to wear socks that are not too tight and ones you don’t care for because the castor oil can stain. It could take several weeks for the corn to heal.