Corns and calluses are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop when your skin tries to protect itself against friction and pressure. They most often develop on the feet and toes or hands and fingers. Corns and calluses can be unsightly.
Their hard, waxy core, which bores down into the skin and press on the underlying tissue and nerves, can cause extreme pain. Corns are sometimes associated with bursae (fluid-filled sacs that cushion the juncture of two or more bones), which can become irritated, resulting in bursitis.
Corns and calluses are not the same thing.
Corns are smaller than calluses and have a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin. Corns tend to develop on parts of your feet that don't bear weight, such as the tops and sides of your toes and even between your toes. They can also be found in weight-bearing areas. Corns can be painful when pressed.
Calluses are rarely painful. They usually develop on the soles of your feet, especially under the heels or balls, on your palms, or on your knees. Calluses vary in size and shape and are often larger than corns.
Corns are caused by a great deal of pressure or friction on the toes, usually from ill-fitting shoes or high heels. Since the skin acts as the body’s protector, corns form when the body attempts to protect the troubled area from more pressure by building up a mass of dead skin cells and secreting a hard substance called keratin. Persons who have abnormal bone structure in their feet or certain types of arthritis, tend to develop corns.
Pressure and friction from repetitive actions cause corns and calluses to develop and grow. Some sources of this pressure and friction include:
- Wearing ill-fitting shoes. Tight shoes and high heels can compress areas of your feet. When footwear is too loose, your foot may repeatedly slide and rub against the shoe. Your foot may also rub against a seam or stitch inside the shoe.
- Skipping socks. Wearing shoes and sandals without socks can cause friction on your feet. Socks that don't fit properly also can be a problem.
- Playing instruments or using hand tools. Calluses on your hands may result from the repeated pressure of playing instruments, using hand tools or even writing.
Corns are best treated by first eliminating the cause of the pressure. The first step is to wear comfortable and roomy shoes. Ill-fitting footwear often causes corns and calluses. It is best to wear shoes that do not cramp your toes.
Adjust your walking style also helps. An improper gait, such as walking on the sides of your feet, can produce calluses and corns. A properly designed orthotic greatly assists in allowing the foot to return to a more natural gait.
Wear shoes that give your toes plenty of room. If you can't wiggle your toes, your shoes are too tight. Have a shoe shop stretch your shoes at any point that rubs or pinches.
Use protective coverings. Wear felt pads, nonmedicated corn pads or bandages over areas that rub against your footwear. You can also try toe separators or some lamb's wool between your toes.
Wear padded gloves when using hand tools. Or try padding your tool handles with cloth tape or covers.