What Are Corns?

Corns on your feet are essentially calluses – areas of hard thickened skin that develop as a result of excessive pressure or friction on the area. These will often occur on the feet as a result of ill-fitting footwear, excessive activity or a combination of both. While these are not a problem in themselves, they can sometimes develop to an excessive level, becoming thick and hard and ultimately causing discomfort by actually digging into the foot.

Causes of Corns

Corns can form in many different areas of the foot.

If you work out or work on a construction site, then you will likely have noticed calluses forming on your hands as you use them a lot. They tend to form on the softer patches of skin and can help to prevent injury.

The same thing can happen with corns on your feet. Here, wearing a shoe that is poorly fitting or that allows your foot to move around too much, can cause the skin to rub and eventually this can lead to the formation of calluses and corns.

Actually though, there is a slight difference between a callus and a corn. Corns usually form on the tops and sides of the toes or on the sole of the foot. They are circles of thick skin and they are common in these areas because there is a lack of natural cushioning. They are particularly common for those with bunions (a deformation of the big toe often caused by small shoes) or with hammer toe (where the toe bends at the middle joint). This causes extra rubbing.

Calluses meanwhile are rough areas of skin that are often somewhat yellow. They tend to form most often around the heel but also form on the palms of the hands and the knuckles. They tend to be larger than corns and don’t have well defined edges. While corns may be sensitive to the touch, calluses tend not to be and generally more adaptive.

How to Treat Corns on Your Feet

If you have corns on your feet that have become uncomfortable or unsightly, then you should consult with a podiatrist or chiropodist (foot specialists) who can advise you on the best form of treatment. Here are some methods we recommend:

  • You can encourage the healing of corns by using pumice stones for instance to gradually remove the dead and hardened skin. This is best done after a bath (or in the bath) when your feet will be soft and malleable.
  • White vinegar can also be used to treat corns on the feet as the acidity will help to soften the skin.
  • Baking soda is another popular home remedy which acts as a natural exfoliating agent.

It is important to note that corns on your feet won’t go away if you are continuing to apply pressure to your feet. If you keep walking in the same shoes, then in fact softening the corns may leave you open to painful blisters.

pumice stone corns
A pumice stone can be useful in treating corns.

What’s important then is to reduce this pressure and there are several things you can do to this. Think of a corn as a symptom of an underlying problem – it suggests that you may be walking with an incorrect gait or that your shoes may be ill-fitting. Again, this is why you should see a specialist.

In the meantime, you can provide yourself with further relief by changing to more spacious shoes, by spending less time on your feet and by trying to fix your stride to reduce the pressure on that area. At the same time, you can also use corn plasters (available over-the-counter) to protect the specific area and to give your other treatments time to work. Special insoles can also be used meanwhile to correct a range of problems, while you might also opt to get your own more supportive trainers which can help a great deal with poor gait.

In extreme cases, a podiatrist may opt to use a sharp blade to cut away the thickened area of skin. This is a painless procedure as the skin there is dead and should provide immediate relief. You should never attempt this at home however.

If you have other more serious underlying issues such as flat feet, bunions or hammer toe, you may require corrective surgery to solve these problems as well.

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