Corns and calluses: causes, treatment and prevention

corns and calluses prevention

Corns and calluses are areas of hard, thickened skin that develop when the skin is exposed to excessive pressure or friction. They commonly occur on the feet and can cause pain and discomfort when you walk. However, in most people corn or calluses are not usually painful and do not cause too much discomfort. Calluses and corns are not due to a virus and are not contagious.


A corn

Corns are round circles of thick skin on the feet. They mostly occur due to wearing tight fitting shoes. Corns often occur on bony feet as there’s a lack of natural cushioning. Hard corns form on the tops of the toes and soft corns are between the toes. However, they can occur anywhere. Corns are often as a result of:

  • wearing shoes that fit poorly – shoes that are too loose can allow your foot to slide and rub
  • certain shoe designs that place excessive pressure on an area of the foot such as high-heeled shoes can squeeze the toes


A callus

Calluses usually occur on the feet or hands. Repeated rubbing or pressure on parts of the hands or feet may cause calluses. Wearing shoes that are too tight or loose, too much walking or running, or playing musical instruments such as a guitar prone you to calluses.

They are larger than corns and don’t have such a well-defined edge. A callused skin is thick and often less sensitive to touch than the surrounding skin.

Treatment for corns and calluses

In most people corn or calluses are not usually painful and do not cause too much discomfort. In such cases, treatment is by correcting the cause such as wearing proper-fitting shoes.

If you develop a painful corn or callus and have diabetes or circulation problems, it is best to get expert advice from a person qualified to diagnose and treat foot disorders (a podiatrist). You should not trim corns or calluses yourself, especially if you are elderly or have diabetes.

Pumice stone

Corns or calluses that cause mild discomfort and are not red, swollen or painful, may be rubbed down with a pumice stone. Soak your foot in warm water for 20 minutes to soften the thick skin before using a pumice stone. Apply a moisturizing cream to keep the skin soft.


Trimming of corns or calluses must be done by a professional. The hard, thick skin of a corn or callus is trimmed using a scalpel blade. This reduces the pain. Sometimes trimming sessions are regular. Wear a good-fitting footwear to prevent it from returning.

Prevention of corns and calluses

Take measures to reduce or eliminate pressure and friction on the skin. This keeps the skin soft. Practice simple measures such as:

  • Wearing gloves to protect your hands, such as when gardening or lifting weights.
  • Wearing shoes and socks that fit well and have a wider toe box.
  • Applying an inner-sole to protect the areas of your feet expose to friction.
  • Regularly soaking your hands or feet, and apply moisturizer to help keep the skin of your hands and feet soft.
  • Use a pumice stone regularly to gently remove hard skin.
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