Corns and Calluses: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Corns and calluses are thickened, hardened layers of skin that form in response to pressure and friction. They serve as a protective mechanism for the skin against irritation and damage. Corns typically develop on non-weight-bearing parts of the foot, like the tops and sides of toes, and can be painful when pressed. They are smaller, well-defined, and may have a hard centre surrounded by inflamed skin.

Calluses, on the other hand, usually form on the soles of the feet, especially under the heels or balls, on the palms, or on the knees. They are larger, less defined, and not as painful as corns, offering a cushioning effect to the stressed areas of the foot.

Symptoms of Corns and Calluses

Identifying corns and calluses is relatively straightforward due to their distinctive appearance and texture. Common symptoms include:

  • Thick, rough patches of skin
  • Hardened, raised bumps for corns
  • Flaky, dry, or waxy skin
  • Mild to severe discomfort or pain when walking or wearing shoes, especially with corns
  • Calluses may cover larger areas and feel less sensitive to touch compared to the surrounding skin

Causes of Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses form as a result of repeated pressure and friction on the skin, typically from actions such as walking or wearing shoes that don’t fit properly. The skin’s natural defence mechanism against this persistent rubbing is to thicken and harden in the affected areas. Key factors contributing to their development include:

  • Improper Footwear: Shoes that are too tight, too loose, or have high heels can create pressure points, leading to corns and calluses.
  • Abnormal Walking Patterns: An unusual gait or foot structure can distribute weight unevenly across the foot, causing areas of high pressure.
  • Manual Labour: Frequent use of hand tools or engaging in activities that put pressure on the hands can lead to calluses on the palms.
  • Lack of Cushioning: Walking barefoot or using footwear without adequate padding can increase the risk of calluses on the soles of the feet.
  • Physical Activities: Athletes and individuals who engage in sports or exercises that put pressure on the feet are more prone to developing these conditions.

Complications of Untreated Corns and Calluses

While corns and calluses are not typically serious conditions, neglecting them can lead to complications, especially for individuals with diabetes or poor circulation. Potential issues include:

  • Infection: Cracks or breaks in the thickened skin can become entry points for bacteria, leading to infections.
  • Ulceration: In severe cases, particularly for those with diabetes, the breakdown of skin can result in ulcers, posing a risk of more serious infections.
  • Increased Pain and Mobility Issues: Large or strategically located corns and calluses can cause significant pain, impacting daily activities and mobility.

Home Remedies for Corns and Calluses

For many people, corns and calluses can be effectively managed at home with simple care strategies:

  • Moisturising: Regularly applying moisturiser can help soften the thickened skin, making it easier to reduce through gentle exfoliation.
  • Protective Pads: Using over-the-counter cushioned pads can protect corns and calluses from further pressure, allowing them to heal.
  • Soaking and Exfoliation: Soaking feet in warm, soapy water softens calluses and corns. After soaking, gently rubbing the area with a pumice stone can help remove the thickened skin.
  • Proper Footwear: Switching to shoes that fit well and provide adequate support can prevent friction and pressure on vulnerable areas.
  • Foot Powders: For sweaty feet, foot powders can help keep the feet dry and reduce the friction that contributes to callus formation.

When to See a Podiatrist

Seeking professional care for corns and calluses is crucial in certain scenarios. If home remedies fail to provide relief or if you notice any of the following, it’s time to consult a podiatrist like Manly Cove Podiatry:

  • Severe Pain: If corns or calluses cause significant pain and discomfort, hindering daily activities.
  • Signs of Infection: Redness, swelling, pus, or other signs of infection around the corn or callus indicate the need for medical attention.
  • Diabetes or Poor Circulation: Individuals with diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, or any condition that affects circulation should see a specialist for any foot problems, including corns and calluses, to prevent complications.

A podiatrist can offer specialised treatments and advice tailored to your specific condition, ensuring effective relief and prevention of further issues.

Professional Treatments for Corns and Calluses

For persistent or complicated cases of corns and calluses, professional treatments may be necessary. Podiatrists can provide a range of options:

  • Debridement: The most common treatment involves carefully trimming away the thickened skin using specialised tools. This painless procedure can provide immediate relief from discomfort.
  • Custom Orthotics: For issues related to foot structure or biomechanics, custom shoe inserts can redistribute pressure on the feet, preventing the recurrence of corns and calluses.
  • Medication: Topical treatments, such as salicylic acid, may be prescribed to soften the hard skin for easier removal.
  • Surgery: In rare cases, surgical correction might be needed, especially if the corn or callus is caused by an underlying bone deformity.

Preventive Measures

Preventing corns and calluses is often easier than treating them. Incorporate these strategies into your daily routine to keep your feet healthy:

  • Wear Properly Fitting Shoes: Shoes that fit well and provide adequate support are essential in distributing pressure evenly across your feet.
  • Use Protective Pads: Cushioned pads can protect areas of the foot prone to pressure, especially during new or increased activities.
  • Maintain Good Foot Hygiene: Keeping your feet clean and moisturised helps maintain skin elasticity and prevents cracking.
  • Regular Foot Checks: Especially for those with diabetes or poor circulation, regular inspections can catch potential problems early.


Corns and calluses, while common, don’t have to be a permanent discomfort. Understanding their causes and treatments allows for effective management and prevention. Whether through home care or professional treatment, you can achieve relief from these conditions. Remember, taking proactive steps to protect and care for your feet is the best way to prevent corns and calluses from developing in the first place.