October 28, 2020

Corns and Calluses are two skin conditions that form when the skin reacts to shield itself against excess friction or pressure. Mostly, corns will form on the toes and fingers, while calluses on feet or joints.

Although they both appear as hardened skin layers, corns and calluses have their differences – we’ll see this later on.

But are they painful? And can they go away naturally? Also, when should you see a doctor?

Well, in this article, we take an in-depth look at corns vs calluses, discussing their causes, symptoms, and how to treat them.

But first, if any of these conditions prove painful and uncomfortable, you should definitely seek a doctor’s advice. Also, people with underlying conditions such as diabetes and blood circulation issues should never try to treat corns or calluses at home without their doctor’s instructions.


Corns vs Calluses: Symptoms

Here are the main symptoms of both corns and calluses:

  • Formation of a thick and rough area on the skin
  • Hardened and elevated bumps
  • Soreness and pain 
  • Blistered, dry skin

When you notice any of these symptoms, then you may be having either a corn or a callus. But although corns and calluses have similar symptoms, they are two different skin conditions.

Let see the main difference between the two:

What is Corn? 

A corn is a hardened skin layer that usually forms on the top or sides of the toes, as well as between the toes. They develop mainly because of friction and pressure exerted on a certain area of the skin. Corns are normally painful and can become quite uncomfortable, especially when pressed.

Corns appear as hard, raised bumps on the skin, and can sometimes form on weight-bearing skin areas. They are usually circular and are harder at the center. Their size depends on the area undergoing friction or pressure.

What is Callus?

Just like corns, calluses appear as hard, raised bumps on the skin. However, these are usually painless and form mainly on your feet’ weight-bearing skin areas, such as the heels. They can also develop in several other areas of the body, such as the palms or knees.

Calluses can occur in various sizes and shapes, usually larger than their counterparts (corns). Also, unlike the corns, which have a more rigid core, calluses don’t. They are uniform, compact skin patches that result from friction and pressure. 


Corns vs Calluses: What are Their Causes

The primary causes of corn and Calluses are friction and pressure. When the skin is subjected to continuous pressure or friction, it reacts to guard itself. This, in return, leads to hardened skin.

But what causes this friction or pressure on the skin? These are the main culprits:

  • Tight or ill-fitting footwear

Continuously wearing shoes that don’t fit or exert pressure on certain areas of your feet will easily lead to corns or calluses. Also, when the shoe is large and keeps sliding in and out, that friction can lead to these conditions. 

High heels are also a notorious culprit as they exert pressure on the toes, making them quite vulnerable to corns and calluses.

  • Not wearing socks

If you are not wearing socks, especially during long walks or exercises, it may encourage friction between the shoe and the feet, or even between toes. This will lead to blistering and subsequently to corns.

  • Wearing large socks 

This might have a similar effect as not having any socks on.

  • Instruments and Other Hand Tools 

Playing too much with your instruments, such as guitar, can cause inflammation on your fingers or palms, leading to the skin’s hardening.

Also, prolonged use of some hand tools without protecting gloves can result in either of these conditions.


Factors that Increase Your Chances of Developing a Corn or Callus

  • Hammertoe

This is when a toe curls upwards to appear as a claw. It is a deformity that causes the affected toe to always be in contact with the shoe. This leads to both friction and pressure, which encourages the formation of a corn.

  • Bunions

This is another deformity that occurs mainly on the lower joint of the big toe. It develops as a bumpy bone, which increases the chances of contact between the shoe and the toe

  • Other Foot Deformities

Apart from bunions and hammertoes, several other conditions might increase the risk of developing corns and calluses. Conditions like bone spurs will increase friction inside the shoe, leading to blistering and hardening of the skin.


Corns vs Calluses: Prevention

So, how can you minimize your chances of developing these conditions?

  • Wearing shoes that fit – not too tight or too baggy. This helps to protect your feet against any pressure or friction.
  • Caution gear on footwear – simple items such as felt pads, bandages, and corn pads (non-medicated) can go a long way in cautioning your feet against possible friction and pressure.
  • Protective gloves – any time you are using tools that might lead to your hands’ blistering, padded gloves can be quite helpful.

How to Get Rid of Corns and Calluses

1. Trimming

The primary treatment for corns and calluses is avoiding footwear or tools that exert pressure on the skin or encourage friction. If the pressure and friction cease, the corns or calluses can start healing on their own.

This means that even without a doctor, some cons and calluses will gradually shrink and disappear. For the persistent ones, a doctor will first peel off the upper dead skin to reduce the thickness and accelerate the healing process. This is one of the most common foot corn treatment methods.

2. Salicylic-Acid Patches

Salicylic-acid is another corn treatment method that must, however, be used under doctor’s guidelines. If not used accordingly, Salicylic-acid can bring more harm than the sought after benefits. It might lead to skin burns on the skin around the corn or callus, causing infections and skin ulcers, especially for people suffering from poor blood circulation and diabetes.

If you are looking for the best callus treatment, salicylic-acid patches might be just that - when used properly.

3. Silicone Treatments

While silicone is popular for treating scars such as keloids and atrophic ones, it can also effectively treat corns and calluses. For instance, silicone gel can be topically applied to the corn or callus to soften them and eventually reduce their size.

There are also silicone pads,  inner soles, and toe protectors that can significantly aid in these conditions’ healing process. 

4. Antibiotics

Antibiotics can be used to counter infections, especially with corns. However, corns and calluses containing pus might need a slight incision to drain the pus.

5. Moisturizing Creams


The creams are ideal for calluses as they help moisturize the compact, dry skin. All you need is to apply your moisturizing cream on the callus, cover it overnight, and brush off the dead skin with a soft brush or towel. However, this should only be under the instructions of a doctor.

One way to make this treatment even more effective is first to use a pumice stone to rub the callus before you apply the cream.

6. Orthopedic Shoe Inserts

Suppose your doctor determines that your corns or calluses result from poor walking motion, improper hip rotation, or foot structure. In that case, they might encourage the use of orthopedic shoe inserts. These shoe inserts will help caution your feet against friction and too much pressure.      

7. Surgery

In any case, surgery should be your last resort to remove a corn or a callus. Surgery is effective, although you still don’t guarantee that the corn or callus will not recur. The effectiveness of the surgery will mainly depend on the measures you take to prevent the recurrence.  

After the surgery, you must avoid any footwear that causes friction or pressure on your feet. Otherwise, these corns and calluses will eventually reappear.

Your doctor can also recommend surgery to correct any bone deformity aiding the friction, such as the bunion or hammertoe. This is, however, quite rare.


Simple Home Remedies for Corns and Calluses Removal

If you want to do it at home, here are some tips from dermatologists:

  • Use warm water to soak your callus or corn. This should last for around 10 minutes until the hard skin softens.
  • After soaking, use a pumice stone to file your corn or callus. This will help remove the compact dead skin. However, be careful while filling so as not to cause any damage to the inner skin.
  • OTC moisturizer cream will also help soften these corns and calluses. Look for creams that contain ammonium lactate, salicylic acid, or urea.
  • Remember to avoid any footwear that causes friction or pressure on the feet. Also, if you are using some tools that can cause blistering, use padded gloves.
  • Use corn caps to cover your corn and prevent them from directly touching the shoes.
  • Keep short trimmed and well-maintained toenails. This ensures that the toes are not pushed upwards due to lack of space, thus rubbing with your shoe.

Corns vs Calluses: Conclusion

While corns and calluses form in almost the same way, it’s also clear that they are significantly different. Corns are small round patches of hard skin with a harder center, while calluses are generally patches of uniformly hardened skin (no harder core).

Also, if you have ever gotten corn, you can attest that it’s not the most comfortable thing, especially while walking.  Corns are painful, but in most cases, calluses are not.

If you’ve been having a problem with any of these conditions, I hope that this corn vs calluses article has shed more light on dealing with each. If you can prevent its occurrence, the better, but the above remedies will serve you well if you already have it. Remember, you might not remove the corns on feet overnight, but you can eventually do it if you follow the above methods.


Related Resources