Calluses and corns are areas of thick skin caused by pressure or friction. They may cause pain when you walk or wear shoes.
Calluses usually form on your hands or feet. They usually don't need treatment.
Corns have an inner core that can be soft or hard. Soft corns are found between your toes. Hard corns may form on the tops of your toes. Corns caused by poorly fitting shoes will often go away with the right size shoe.
corns are caused by repeated pressure or friction on an
area of skin. The pressure causes the skin to die and form a hard, protective
surface. A soft corn is formed in the same way, except that when sweat
is trapped where the corn develops, the hard core softens. This typically
occurs between toes. Calluses and corns are not caused by a virus and are not
Repeated handling of an object that puts pressure on
the hand, such as tools (gardening hoe or hammer) or sports equipment (tennis
racquet), typically causes calluses on the hands.
corns on the feet are often caused by pressure from footwear. Walking barefoot also causes calluses.
Calluses and corns often form on
bunions, hammer, claw, or mallet toes, or on
the bumps caused by rheumatoid arthritis. Calluses and corns on
the feet may also be caused by repeated pressure due to sports (such as a
callus on the bottom of a runner's foot), an odd way of walking (abnormal
gait), or a bone structure, such as flat feet or bone spurs (small,
bony growths that form along joints).
What are the symptoms?
You can tell you have a
corn or callus by the way it looks. A callus is hard, dry, and thick, and it may
appear grayish or yellowish. It may be less sensitive to the touch than
surrounding skin, and it may feel bumpy. A hard corn is also firm and thick. It
may have a soft yellow ring with a gray center. A soft corn looks like an open
Calluses and corns often are not painful, but they can
cause pain when you are walking or wearing shoes. And they may make it hard for
your feet to fit in your shoes. Any type of pressure applied to the callus or
corn, such as squeezing it, can also cause pain.
How are calluses and corns diagnosed?
Your doctor will look at the calluses or corns that are causing problems for you. He or she may also ask you questions about your work, your hobbies, or the types of shoes you wear. An
X-ray of the foot may be done if your doctor suspects
a problem with the bones.
How are they treated?
Calluses and corns do not need
treatment unless they cause pain. If they do cause pain, you can ease the pain by:
Wearing shoes that fit well and are
roomy, with wide and deep toe boxes (the area that
surrounds the toes).
A wider toe box keeps the toes from pressing against each
other, relieving pressure on soft corns.
A deeper toe box keeps the toes from
pressing against the top of the shoe, relieving pressure on hard corns.
Using protective padding while your foot heals, such as:
Reducing the size of the callus or corn by soaking
your callus or corn in warm water and then
using a pumice stone to lightly wear away the dead skin. Never cut the corn or
callus yourself, especially if you have diabetes or other conditions that cause
circulatory problems or numbness.
salicylic acid to soften the callus or corn. You can
then rub the callus or corn off with a pumice stone. Some doctors advise
against using salicylic acid because it can damage surrounding skin. If you use
salicylic acid, be sure to apply it only to the callus or corn and not to the
surrounding skin. And never use salicylic acid if you have diabetes or other conditions that cause circulatory problems or numbness.
Having your doctor pare (trim) the callus or
corn with a small knife. Your doctor can do this in his or her
If you keep having problems with calluses or corns, or your problem is severe, your doctor may have you see a foot specialist (a podiatrist). You may be fitted for orthotic inserts or metatarsal bar inserts for your shoes to
distribute your weight more evenly over the ball of your foot. Athletes who run
a lot may wear orthotic shoe inserts for the same purpose.
Surgery is rarely used to treat calluses
or corns. But if a bone structure (such
hammer toe or
bunion) is causing a callus or corn, surgery can be
used to change or remove the bone structure. This is used only if other
treatment has failed.
Calluses and corns can be prevented by
reducing or eliminating pressure on the skin.
Calluses on your hands usually can be prevented by wearing gloves to protect your hands, such as when gardening or lifting weights. Calluses on your feet can usually be prevented by wearing shoes and socks that fit well.
Corns on your feet can usually be prevented by wearing shoes that have a wider toe box. So can getting both feet measured by a shoe store clerk before buying a pair of shoes.
Wear shoes that fit
Wear gloves while using a tool such as a garden spade or
rake. If you expose other parts of your body to friction, wear appropriate
padding. For example, if you are on your knees laying carpet, wear knee
The way you walk can be affected by the bones in your feet or even tight calf muscles. If so, a podiatrist may be able to help you make changes that can prevent foot problems like calluses and corns.
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The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA)
provides information about foot and ankle injuries, sports-related foot
concerns, surgical and nonsurgical treatment of foot problems, special medical
issues such as diabetes, and resources in your local area. Some information is
available in Spanish.
American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons and American Academy of Pediatrics (2010). Corns and calluses. In JF Sarwark, ed., Essentials of Musculoskeletal Care, 4th ed., pp. 781–784. Rosemont, IL: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Basler RSW (2010). Sports medicine dermatology. In JC Hall et al., eds., Sauer's Manual of Skin Diseases, 10th ed., pp. 490–498. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Scardina RJ, Lee SM (2008). Corns. In WR Frontera et al., eds., Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 2nd ed., pp. 441–443. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Barry L. Scurran, DPM - Podiatry and Podiatric Surgery
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.