Peas and carrots. Cookies and milk. Corns and calluses. Some things just go together.
Corns and calluses are both defense mechanisms that your body engages to protect sensitive skin. Both are caused by excess friction or pressure. Both can be unsightly and, on occasion, painful. That said, although the two conditions are similar and are often discussed as a pair, there are a few important differences, and they may need to be approached differently.
Is it a Corn or a Callus?
Corns are identifiable as spots of inflamed skin surrounding a hard, inward-pointing central core. They’re usually smaller than calluses and often form in non-weight-bearing areas, such as the tops and sides of toes. They can be soft—indicated by a reddened and tender patch of skin and usually found between the toes—or hard, which feature a tough bump with a dense core. They’re usually caused by ill-fitting footwear that rub and scratch against sensitive areas, and can be quite painful when pressed.
Calluses, by contrast, usually do not cause any pain or discomfort. Instead of only a hardened core, they are flat areas of uniformly tough, thick skin. They can develop anywhere you deal with repeated friction. Often this means load-bearing areas like the soles of your feet.
Where Did it Come From?
These thick, layers of skin on the feet can almost always be traced back, at least in part, to ill-fitting footwear. Shoes that are too tight, lack sufficient cushioning, or feature raised interior seams or stitches can put extra pressure on soles and heels, or rub uncomfortably against toes until the skin becomes tender. The issue can be magnified if you wear very thin socks, or none at all.
Existing foot deformities, such as bunions, bone spurs, or hammertoes, also increase your risk of developing these bothersome bumps. This is because conditions such as these reshape your foot in such a way that protrusions are exposed to excess pressure and friction, and finding appropriate footwear is more difficult. If you have any of these conditions, it’s a good idea to get a full foot examination from Cincinnati Family Foot and Ankle Center. We will be able to make shoe recommendations or set you up with a custom orthotic to relieve stress on sensitive areas.
What Can I Do About it?
Fortunately, corns and calluses are generally temporary and will eventually disappear if you remove the source of the friction. A change in shoes, good socks, and a little bit of time might be all you need. Other simple at-home care tips to try include positioning a moleskin pad on the area to reduce friction, applying moisturizer on cracked skin, or using a pumice stone after showering to gently remove a few layers of dead tissue.
Do NOT attempt to trim or remove corns or calluses yourself, especially if you have diabetes—if you cut yourself or break the skin, it can easily lead to infection. We can shave and trim tough calluses and corns safely during an office visit. We might also prescribe an oral or topical antibiotic to reduce the risk of infection. In addition, if biomechanical or foot deformity issues are to blame—we can take an X-ray to be sure—we may fit you for an orthotic that will correct the underlying cause of your problem.
If you need help dealing with either member of this pesky twosome, or have any concerns about the health of your feet or ankles, give us a call. We are Greater Cincinnati’s experts in foot care, with 6 convenient locations. Give us a call at (513) 728-4800 (OH) or (859) 282-1572 (Northern KY).