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Corns and Calluses on Feet

What are Corns and Calluses?

Corns and calluses are thickened areas of the skin, which are formed due to prolonged mechanical pressure applied to the skin surface. This process of skin thickening is called hyperkeratosis. These lesions can be very irritating and produce pain and discomfort. The differences between corns and calluses lie in slightly different causes and locations of usual occurrence. In mild cases, these conditions can be resolved spontaneously, However, medical interventions are often required in order to remove the overgrown skin layers and prevent the progression of the condition.


The symptoms of corns and calluses depend on their type and severity. There are two different types of corns: hard and soft corns.

  • Hard corns usually appear on the tip of the toes and they are composed of the external layer of hypertrophic skin cells and the high density core located in the center of the corn, which consists of accumulated dead skin cells. Hard corns can cause severe pain while wearing shoes and significantly affect daily activities.
  • On the other hand, soft corns are located between the toes, so they are often called interdigital corns. Interdigital spaces are often an environment with increased amount of sweat, so these corns absorb some of that moisture, which makes their core soft. The most common location of the soft corns is between 4th and 5th toe. If there are two soft corns, one on each toe, they are in close contact with one another, and they are called “kissing corns”.

Calluses are bigger lesions than corns. They are often located on the top side of the toes and have a broad base. The symptoms include pain, irritation, inflammation, and possible secondary infections. In some cases, calluses can be painless. One of the main features of calluses includes intractability (they rarely resolve spontaneously). Similar to hard corns, the calluses also contain a high density core, which is the main cause of repetitive irritation.

Causes of Corns and Calluses on feet

Foot bones have many protuberances, and they are normally covered with a relatively thin layer of the skin, except for the plantar side of the feet (heel), where the skin is somewhat thicker. Prolonged pressure applied to these protuberances through the skin, induces the reaction of the skin tissue, which results in proliferation and hypertrophy of the skin cells, thus thickening the skin in those affected regions. Most commonly, this occurs because of wearing inappropriate and uncomfortable shoes, long walks, running, etc. New shoes can often cause calluses because the skin is not adapted to the new mold. In terms of pathophysiology, corns and calluses formation is actually a defense mechanism developed to protect thin areas of the skin from damage caused by external pressure. Some people are more prone to developing corns and calluses, mainly due to some deformities of the feet and toes and intense physical activities during which the pressure is constantly or repeatedly applied to the feet area.


The first thing that the doctor will ask you after noticing the changes that look like corns or calluses is whether you are using inappropriate footwear. Also, the information about the previous experiences with similar lesions can point out that there might me some anatomical deformities of the feet which cause repetitive lesions. The doctor should also examine and note the localization of all the changes present in the feet area. Palpation of the skin changes can provide the information about the consistency and mobility of those lesions. If there are repetitive lesions occurring in the same place, radiographic images of the problematic foot from different projections can be obtained, in order to search for the possible anatomical abnormalities. In most cases, the diagnosis of corns and calluses is clinical, which means that there is usually no need to perform additional tests. If the lesions are complicated with bleeding, secondary bacterial or fungal infections, it may be harder to determine what exactly the initial cause of these lesions was.

Home Remedies for Corns and Calluses

Conventional treatment for calluses and corns consists of several parts. Firstly, painkillers and topical anesthetic creams can be used for symptoms relief. The pain relief is sometimes achieved by surgical intervention, during which the core of the corn or the callus is extracted, which subsides the pressure and consequently reduces the pain. As said before, the skin is very thick and hard in the affected regions, so some hydrating and emollient creams can be used to soften the keratin layer of the skin. Keratolytics are chemicals used to peel the dead skin cells from the superficial layer. They are applied topically in the form of creams and some of them include salicylic acid and retinoids (derivatives of vitamin A). Liquid nitrogen is also used to freeze the corns and calluses, after which they fall off spontaneously. In the most severe cases, surgical removal of the big, problematic and complicated corns and calluses is unavoidable.

Change of footwear

Apart from conventional treatment, there are many natural ways and home remedies which can help you relieve the symptoms, reduce the size of these lesions, and in some cases completely eliminate the lesions. First things first, you should definitely change your footwear and use more comfortable shoes which are not tight and apply less pressure to your feet. In that sense, high heeled shoes should be avoided for sure. If you have acute (currently active) problems with corns and calluses, you can try using shoes that are a half or one size bigger than your actual size. That will give your feet more space. However, there is still a debate whether this approach is beneficial, as too loose shoes can induce lesions caused by friction. Soaking your feet in warm water every day for 15 minutes can soften the skin in the lesion area and provide pain relief.


Some persons reported the beneficial effect of applying lemon on the corns and calluses topically. You need to slice a lemon into small pieces, place them over the lesions and cover with regular or an adhesive bandage. Leave the lemon do its work during the night and repeat his process for a week. You will probably notice subsiding of the lesions after this period. Lemon has a keratolytic effect, which we have previously explained. Onion can be applied in the same manner as lemon.

Castor oil

You can try applying castor oil to the affected regions, as it helps to reduce pain, moisturizes the skin, and provides calming and anti-inflammatory effect. It is particularly helpful for the inflamed lesions.

Crushed Aspirin

You probably always have an aspirin at home. You can make a paste using water, apple cider vinegar and crushed aspirin. Use this paste to soften the lesion, so you can rub them off. For rubbing these hypertrophic calluses and corns, you can use a pumice stone, although if it is too painful, do not torture yourself with this approach.


Garlic has a strong anti-inflammatory effect, and it can be applied topically on the corns and calluses in order to reduce pain. Some persons also reported that the skin changes significantly subsided after applying rubbing the changes with garlic regularly.

Although there are a lot of home remedies available that can possibly be useful for calluses and corns treatment, there are still cases in which you should not experiment and in which is required to seek medical advice from your doctor. Those cases include inflamed and highly enlarger corns and calluses, and also complications, such as bleeding and infections. Repetitive formation of corns and calluses in the same locations, even after changing footwear indicates that there might me anatomical reasons for such pathology, which also requires medical assessment and proper treatment.

Can Corns and Calluses be prevented?

From the above text, it is probably already clear to you what is the best prevention from developing calluses and corns. Using the appropriate footwear, especially if you have any kind of foot deformity is a must. Avoid wearing high heeled shoes too frequently. However, this is not always possible. In fact, almost every new shoes that fit will cause temporary discomfort until your feet get used to it. This can be prevented by applying adhesive bandages on the specific spots as soon as you notice the irritation or pain. This will prevent the reaction of the skin to mechanical pressure towards the direction of developing hyperkeratotic changes. You can also use the above mentioned method of soaking your feet in warm water for – minutes every day in order to keep your skin hydrated and soft.

Are corns and calluses contagious?

Although corns and calluses may seem similar to some contagious skin diseases, especially when they are inflamed, they are definitely not contagious. You cannot transmit them to another person as there is no biological agent causing this disorder. Bacterial and fungal superinfections of these lesions are possible, but they are developed on the basis of changed skin and others have a very minimal chance of getting the infection from a person with infected corns and calluses.


Pictures of corns and calluses:



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