Five Foot Fixes for Corns and Calluses

You’re either on your feet all day or perpetually cramming your toes into the latest designer shoes.

Or, maybe it’s a little of both. Either way, the result is usually the same: ugly corns and calluses. They’re unsightly and sometimes painful. But there are things that can be done to fix them.

Calluses often are more than an inch in diameter and usually develop on the soles of the feet, especially under the heels or balls of the feet, according to the Mayo Clinic. Less often, they develop on palms or knees.

Corns are smaller than calluses and have a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin. Corns usually develop on parts of the feet that don't bear weight, such as the tops and sides of toes. They can be painful when pushed or may cause a dull ache.

Corns and calluses are most always caused by excessive rubbing, usually from a tight or poorly fitted shoe, said Dr. James Christina, director of scientific affairs for the American Podiatric Medical Association in Bethesda, Md.

“Typically, they are in response to intermittent pressure over a boney prominence in the foot,” he said. “There are a couple exceptions. There’s a heredity exception, in which some people are predisposed to developing lesions with the same thickening of the skin. Also, they don’t always have to (form) in relation to boney prominence.”

It’s often difficult to permanently rid the feet of corns and calluses because there’s no root to dig out, said Christina.

However, several things can be done to alleviate the problem. Here are some tips from Christina and the Mayo Clinic:

Use over-the-counter pads. Apply pads to protect areas where corns and calluses develop. Use over-the-counter liquid corn removers or medicated corn pads with caution. These contain salicylic acid, which can irritate skin and lead to infection, especially in people with diabetes and poor circulation.

Soak hands or feet. Soaking hands or feet in warm, soapy water softens corns and calluses. This can make it easier to remove the thickened skin.

Thin thickened skin. During or after bathing, rub corns or calluses with a pumice stone or washcloth to help remove a layer of toughened skin. Don't cut or shave corns or calluses. Doing so could lead to an infection.

Moisturize. Apply moisturizer to hands and feet to keep skin soft.

Wear comfortable shoes. Stick to loose-fitting, cushioned shoes until the corn or callus disappears. Also, wear socks that fit properly.

Bothersome corns and calluses should be brought to the attention of a podiatrist, who can offer patients some pain-relieving strategies.

“We can use a scalpel blade and trim them away, although usually they will reoccur,” he said. “With real severe conditions or if someone’s lifestyle doesn’t permit them to keep coming in to see the doctor, we look at surgical alternatives. If it’s being caused by a hammer toe, it can be straightened to offer a more permanent solution.”