'I have something on my foot' Corns & Calluses - What's the Difference?

Dec 15, 2020

Do you ever look at your foot and see something that you are not sure what it is? Chances are it might be a corn, callus or a verruca as these would be the most common conditions that show up in our clinic on a daily basis. This blog post focuses on corns and calluses. 

What is a Corn?

Corns are small circles of thick skin that usually develop on the tops and sides of toes or on the sole of the foot. However, they can occur anywhere. They develop when the skin is exposed to excessive pressure or friction. The pressure causes the skin to die and form a hard, protective surface in shape of a witch's hat, with the pointy tip digging into your skin. Hence, they can be painful.

Some of our patients describe them as having a 'stone’ under their foot or a ‘thorn’ in their toe.

What Causes Corns?

  • Poorly fitting shoes. When shoes are too loose, they allow your foot to slide and rub

  • Certain shoe designs that place excessive pressure on a specific area of the foot, eg. high heeled shoes which may squeeze the toes and cause excessive pressure under the ball of the foot

  • Lack of natural cushioning on the foot i.e. bony feet

  • Foot problems such as bunions or hammer toes

Types of Corns


Hard Corns
- are the most common type of corns. They vary in size and are usually found on bony prominences on feet which are exposed to the highest amounts of pressure and friction. Although they may be very uncomfortable to walk on, they are easily removed.

 


Soft Corns
- are whiteish and rubbery in texture. They are typically found between the toes where the skin is moist from poor drying after shower or from sweat. Like hard corns, they are also caused by pressure and friction.

  

 

Seed Corns - are typically painless and can be found either singly or in clusters on the bottom of the foot.

 
 

 

 Fibrous Corns - arise when corns have been present for a longer time. They are more firmly attached to the underlying tissues and can be painful, hence treatment
requires fine and gentle approach.


Vascular Corns
- these are either hard or soft corns which,as the name suggests,  have a very good blood supply. This means they can bleed easily if cut and can be painful.

 Treatment

Corns can be easily removed by a trained podiatrist or chiropodist, leaving you with immediate relief. However, if the cause of the corn is not addressed they may come back. Our podiatrists at South Dublin Podiatry will advise you how to reduce pressure on the affected site to prevent the corn from regrowing. This may include custom made toe separators, padding or orthotics.

South Dublin Podiatry strongly advises against the use of medicated corn plasters which are widely available from chemists and pharmacies. They contain an acid which tends to burn the skin and do more harm than good. You may, however, apply a non-medicated corn pad to alleviate pressure and pain until you see your podiatrist.

 

If you have a painful corn, its best to contact a professional to have it removed.

In the meantime, here’s a few tips you can use right away:

  • Soak your feet in epsom salts for 5-10 minutes. This old school remedy doesn’t go out of fashion.

  • File down the corn with pumice stone. It won’t remove the corn ‘seed’ but may give you a little relief. You should first dip the pumice stone in warm water and then use it to gently file the corn. Use circular or sideways motions to remove dead skin but be careful not to take off too much skin. Doing so could cause bleeding and infection.

  • Apply foot cream to the area daily. Look for creams with urea as they soften the skin more than lotions or regular creams.

  • Use padding like non-medicated corn pads or toe sleeves.

  • Wear shoes that fit properly.

Corns can be removed quickly and painlessly, so if you feel you have one, don’t put up with the pain as if it’s normal. Call our friendly Podiatrist on 083 8241454 to schedule your appointment and discuss your treatment options today.

 

So What Exactly Is A Callus?

Callus formation is triggered by pressure or abrasion. The heel of your foot as it rubs inside your shoe, or the palm of your hand if you’re doing a lot of manual labour are good examples of this. While it might feel like a callus is something extra added to your skin, it’s actually just a build-up of what’s already there.

These extra-tough patches of skin are generally quite useful because they act like a kind of natural armour, protecting areas of skin that get an unusual amount of wear and tear.

Here’s How It Works

Your skin has a number of layers of different types of cells. The outermost is a layer of hardened, dead cells. This top layer is usually about twenty-five cells thick, and it constantly replaces itself as the outermost cells flake off to be replaced by new hardened, dead cells underneath.

All About Friction

If your skin is subject to an unusual amount of friction, this layer of dead cells increases. New dead cells are added faster than the old ones slough away. This can build up the outer layer from twenty-five cells thick to over a hundred cells thick. You’ve grown a callus. While calluses are generally useful, if the process continues unchecked a callus can thicken into a cone-shaped structure called a corn. These super calluses can be quite painful, and may require the attention of a podiatrist or a chiropodist.

 

 

But What Exactly Causes Friction?
  • The major cause of friction and calluses appears to be poorly fitting footwear. This includes shoes that are too tight or have a small toe box. Walking barefoot is also a culprit. So are thin-soled shoes or high heels.

  • Athletes develop calluses from repetitive motion and recurrent pressure on the same spot. For example, runners develop foot calluses from repetitive pounding on hard road surfaces, while dancers and gymnasts develop calluses on their feet from certain weight-bearing positions.

  • Poor foot mechanics and foot shape also play a role in increased friction and hence increased callus formation. For example, people with flat feet or high arches tend to develop more hard skin on the soles of their feet. Hammer toes and bunions attract more calluses just as well.


Any Tips On Treating and Preventing Calluses?

Moisturise. Moisturise. Moisturise. Once a day if your skin is very dry and forms a lot of calluses. Warm-water soaks are also effective for softening the skin. Add some Epsom salts to the water for additional benefits. Once the skin is softened, a pumice stone or foot file can be used to gently file away at the callus, lifting the dead skin and stimulating fresh growth underneath.

Preventive care for calluses includes careful selection of proper footwear. Shoes that provide effective arch support and have a shock-absorbing rubber sole reduce the risk of developing a callus. Look out for wide toe box, laces and a sturdy heel counter. 

Your podiatrist may also advise you on orthotics. These change foot mechanics by correcting functional problems or redistributing body weight. The goal of orthotics is to reduce pressure and friction and allow the skin to rest.

Take Home Points
  • Calluses are areas of thick skin.
  • When left untreated they may become corns, which can be quite painful.
  • Wearing well fitting shoes and keeping the skin soft will help to keep your feet CALLUS FREE :)

 
Here at South Dublin Podiatry Clinic, our podiatrist will not only painlessly remove any excess callus from your feet but will also help you to identify the underlying causes behind the callus formation and will advise you on the best treatment approach.

If your feet are sore call us on 083 8241454 to discuss your treatment options or click here to book an appointment with our podiatrist.

 

 

References:

Sonstroem, E. (2008) What are Calluses and how are they formed. Available at: https://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/calluses/
Frye, S. (2017) Callus. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/science/callus-dermatology

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