Causes and symptoms

Corns and calluses develop in response to repeated friction, rubbing, irritation and pressure on the skin. They happen as part of the body’s mechanism to protect the underlying skin from injury. Over time, they can be unsightly, painful or sensitive to touch as they thicken. Occasionally, corns and calluses may become infected which requires urgent treatment to prevent complications.

Corns and calluses are more likely to develop if you have the following risk factors

  • Conditions that change the normal feet alignment – e.g. Arthritis, diabetes, bunion, bone spurs, clawed or hammertoes
  • Aging – degeneration causes a gradual loss of fat tissue in the feet and hence there would be less padding to cushion the prominent or bony areas of the feet
  • Wear shoes and socks that do not fit well or irritates the feet – e.g. Shoes that are too tight, narrow or too high-heeled which causes pressure, especially around the front of the foot. Shoes that are too loose will cause friction when the foot moves forwards and backwards in the shoes
  • Walking without socks – which may cause a badly placed shoe seam to rub directly against the skin
  • Going barefoot – which will cause the skin to thicken to protect itself
  • Walking with improper posture or performing repeated actions from physical hobbies, sports activities or work can cause constant friction or pressure over the same area of the foot

Signs and symptoms that may indicate that there is a corn or callus includes

  • Rough, thickened areas of skin
  • A hard raised bump surrounded by irritated skin
  • Pain, redness or tenderness under the skin
  • Dry, flaky or waxy skin
  • Cracked skin (fissures)

When should you see a Podiatrist

It is highly recommended to seek expert advice from a Podiatrist if you are unable to manage your corns or calluses or if they become painful. Treatment will depend on your symptoms and cause of the corn or callus. You should not attempt to self-treat (e.g. cut corns/calluses or use corn plasters), especially if you are an elderly, have diabetes or a weakened immune system as this may increase the risk of infection.

Podiatrist recommended care tips for callus and corn treatment

  1. Soak your feet in warm water for 5-10 mins till the skin softens
  2. Gently file the corn or callus with a pumice stone, moving the stone in one direction. An exfoliating foot scrub can also be used concurrently. Avoid aggressive filing as it can cause bleeding and infection
  3. Apply moisturizing cream or lotion to feet daily to soften the corns and calluses. Avoid application of moisturizers in toe webspaces as fungus can flourish in moist areas between the toes
  4. Wear shoes that fit well. Shoes should not be too loose or too tight, and should be of the right shape and size
  5. Get prescribed insoles from your podiatrist if you have foot deformities that causes recurring corn or callus formation. Insoles will help to support, cushion and reduce pressure over these areas, thus reducing its build up