Common Foot and Ankle Problems & Treatments
Corns & Calluses

General Information

The skin on your feet responds to friction and pressure by thickening. In many  cases, the skin can become so thick that it begins to hurt when the corn rubs in a shoe or surface.

Skin that thickens without a core is called a callus, and usually forms under the foot.

Corns, however,  are thick spots of skin with a deep, central core which usually form on the toes,either on top or the sides. When corns develop on the sole of the foot, they are often associated with metatarsalgia, a general term for pain in the bones found in the sole or ball of the foot (associated with the metatarsal joints).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include an obvious hard growth on the skin of the foot that causes pain when pressure is applied to it, as well as swelling, redness, and discomfort, especially when wearing shoes.

Corns will often have a uniform, waxy appearance and  are more common in women than men.

What causes and aggravates corns?

Abnormal mechanics and structural abnormalities of the foot lead to the formation of the corns or calluses

Corns/calluses can be aggravated  by:

  • Tight shoes
  • High-heeled and/or pointed shoes

What causes metatarsalgia?

Metatarsalgia can be caused by biomechanical or anatomical abnormalities, and repeated stress. It is aggravated by ill fitting shoes and improper walking surfaces.  The main symptom is pain in the foot when standing or walking.


In addition, metatarsalgia can be additionally caused by:

  • High-arched foot or pes cavus
  • Arthritis
  • Deformed or crooked toes
  • Trauma, as in a car accident or sporting accident
  • Repeated stress, as in frequent walking on cement floors or on a sloping surface


How can corns and calluses be treated?

Beware: home remedies may not work, and are potentially dangerous. Instead, visit your doctor, who will first determine the cause of the corn, which must be treated along with the corn itself. 

Treatment may include:

  • Use of a pumice stone or other abrasive, to reduce the thickness of the corn
  • Use of pads around the corn, to relieve pressure
  • Inserts for shoes (over-the-counter or custom orthotics)
  • Use of a softening cream
  • Shaving the corn with a scalpel

If these conservative treatments fail, surgery may be required to keep the bone(s) from rubbing or pressing into the skin.

What can I do to prevent corns and calluses?

  • Avoid shoes that are too tight or too loose
  • Wear shoes with an extra-large toe box