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What is a callus

What is a corn? What is a callus?
A corn is a buildup of dead skin on the top of a toe, or at the end of a toe. This is the result of pressure from the shoe or from another toe. Corns can also develop in between toes, in which case they are referred to as soft corns. A callus (also spelled callous) is the buildup of dead skin on the bottom of the foot, under the ball or at the heel. A callus is also the result of excess pressure or friction. Both corns and calluses are structural and mechanical problems, not skin problems. Hammertoes or bone spurs increase the rubbing and irritation of the skin against the shoe. The body responds by building up the top layer of skin, to protect itself. The more pressure, rubbing and friction, the more tissue is built up.

Calluses build up in response to abnormal movement in the foot. When the foot rolls in too much, calluses build up on the inside of the big toe and at the heel. When there is too much pressure under the ball of the foot, calluses build up in response to that pressure. Too much callus or corn build up will cause pain. The key to treatment here, is to eliminate the excess pressure, the abnormal movement or the friction. For calluses at the big toe or at the heel, an orthotic or a semi-rigid insole to control motion will help. Superfeet orthotics, ARCH Molds Heat Moldable Insoles or Prolab Orthotics may help. For severe pronation (rolling in of the feet) and significant callus buildup at the heel and big toe, we recommend seeing a podiatrist to be evaluated for custom made orthotics.

Medicated corn and callus removers may help remove the callus, but they will not help solve the problem. The pressure and friction need to be relieved to eliminate the corn or callus. For hammertoes, a non-medicated corn pad will help relieve the pressure, decrease pain and decrease tissue build up. Corn pads and toe combs can also go in between the toes to prevent rubbing. Hammertoe cushions, which are like buttress pads, will help straighten the toes when walking, reducing pain and rubbing. Horseshoe pads can be placed on the bottom, or the side of the foot, to help off-weight painful, callused areas. They can also be placed in the shoe.

Wearing a shoe with a wide, deep toe box is important to keep the pressure off of the hammertoes. Make sure the shoe is supportive and doesn't slip at the heel.This will help to eliminate heel and big toe calluses. Heel Hugs can help with heel slipping. Shoe fit and appropriate socks are both extremely important in reducing excess friction. 

Once the pressure has been reduced and the motion has been controlled, the calluses and corns will slowly decrease. They will usually not go away entirely, but the pain should be significantly reduced. To help decrease callus buildup on the foot, try an exfoliating gel, like CalleX Callus Ointment.

More information and illustrations on corns and calluses.


last updated 4/22/15

Disclaimer: The advice on this website is not intended to substitute for a visit to your health care provider. We will not be held liable for any diagnosis made or treatment recommended. Consult your doctor if you feel you have a medical problem.