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Corns and Callus

Corns and callus are seen daily by podiatrists. They can vary from causing a nuisance to becoming the cause of debilitating pain and can alter your walking pattern.  Call Pivotal Motion Podiatry today if this sounds like your foot!

Corns and callus are both formed through the same process. The skin responds to excessive force by thickening up to create a protective barrier. This is normal and, in its early stages, can be quite beneficial. The problem arises when the hard skin continues to develop, which can become prominent and often painful.

Callus is the name given to a general, thickened area of skin. Usually it will be yellow in colour, and spread over a weight-bearing area of the heel or the ball of the foot. Corns differ as they are smaller, more focused points of hardened skin. They can form a smaller, deeper lesion that can become very tender with pressure. Corns can be found at any of the weight-bearing locations of the bottom of the foot, or may also appear on the knuckles or in between the toes.

Corns can be further classified into the following categories:

Hard corn

Are the most common variety. These form on the weight bearing areas of the foot or on the knuckles of the toes.

Soft corn

Usually found in between the toes, most often between the 4th and 5th toes. Soft corns develop when the joints in the toes are pressed tightly together. Because the toes tend to squeeze tightly together, they often trap moisture as well, causing the skin to become quite soft (also known as “macerated”).

Seed Corns

Seed corns are very small, pin-head sized spots that are often found at the borders of weight bearing areas. The actual mechanism of the development of seed corns is still uncertain, however they are believed to follow the same principles as other corns and callus – namely as a response to forces and pressure.


Onychophosis is the technical name for a corn that develops in the space next to a nail edge.  It usually forms with pressure from the nail, and may be associated with an ingrown toenail.

Lister Corn

This is a specific name given to a corn that forms on the edge of the fifth toe nail. These are often mistaken as a second, or split toenail.

The requirement for treatment of corns or callus depends on the level of discomfort that they present to you. A healthy patient may not need to have their healthy callus removed if it is not bothering them. Patients with conditions such as diabetes should have any areas where callus or corns develop carefully inspected by a podiatrist as they can quickly become sites where ulcers can form, which can in turn become infected.

Podiatrists are specially trained at paring corns or callus back with a scalpel. Occasionally they may require the application of a chemical treatment. Corns and callus are notoriously difficult to permanently remove, and many will reform over time, sometimes requiring ongoing attention.

The best way to prevent corn or callus development is by preventing any excessive force applied to a particular location of the foot. Footwear should always be considered, as it may be the rubbing of a particular pair of shoes that is the cause of corn or callus development. Open heeled shoes, especially thongs, are very efficient at creating callused heels due to the sideways motion (or shearing force) the heel takes when it is not properly supported.

Shoe padding or orthotic devices can sometimes help in the management of problematic corns and callus by redistributing the forces of the foot to help reduce pressure on one particular point.

Soaking your feet and using and pumice stone on a regular basis may also help to slow down callus development. Keeping your feet moisturised will help to keep the skin soft, reducing the chance of irritation. Medicated corn pads are also available from the chemist which, must be used with caution as sometimes the chemical used can damage the healthy skin surrounding the corn, which can possibly lead to an infection. Medicated pads should only be used on patients that have no health complications.