What Are Corns and Calluses?

What Are Corns and Calluses?

by Mark Paigen 5 minute read

Whether you've just noticed the corns and calluses on your feet after a long winter or you spend the entire year in sandals and have been seeing yours for a while, you're probably wondering what corns and calluses are exactly and how you can get rid of them for good. 

The Basics ---

  • Corns and calluses are areas of thickened areas that develop on your foot. They are your skin's way of protecting itself from friction and pressure.
  • Caused by rubbing between your foot and your shoes, corns and calluses are a result of wearing ill-fitting shoes, foot deformities like hammertoes, and overpronation.
  • If you develop corns or calluses, find a pair of shoes that fit properly and make sure you're not overpronating. Adding a pair of arch support insoles can correct your biomechanics and limit pronation.
  • For insoles to help keep corns and calluses away, we recommend Tread Labs Ramble insoles. They'll help to correct the biomechanical irregularities that cause corns and calluses.

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What You Need To Know ---

What Are Corns and Calluses?

More of a nuisance than a serious medical condition, corns and calluses are areas of thickened skin on your feet that develop as a result of friction between your feet and your shoes. While they may be unsightly, their tough exterior actually protects your foot from excessive pressure or friction.

Both corns and calluses usually have a rough appearance. They can be raised or rounded. Calluses are typically yellowish, however after prolonged irritation, you may notice a brown, red or black discoloration develop. In some cases larger calluses can dry out and crack, which can be painful and increase the possibility of infection. 

What's The Difference Between Corns And Calluses?

The difference between a corn and a callus is the location on your foot. When the hard, thickened skin is on the bottom of your foot, it's a callus. Calluses typically develop near the base of the toes. When it's on the top or sides of your foot or your toes, it's a corn.

It can be hard to tell if you have a corn or callus, or something else. Often, planters warts are confused for calluses. If you want a diagnosis, you should visit a medical professional who will inspect your feet and give you the best course of treatment.

What Causes Corns And Calluses?

There are three main causes of corns and calluses. They can be the result of wearing ill-fitting shoes that cause friction, foot abnormalities and deformities, and overpronation.

  • Ill-fitting shoes – Shoes that are too tight cause repeated friction against the skin on your feet which can result in corns and calluses. High heels are the primary reason many women get corns and calluses. Increased pressure on the ball of the foot and toes can lead to more friction and the development of corns and calluses on the front of the foot.
  • Foot abnormalities and deformities – Toe deformities can cause corns and calluses. Hammer toes, the abnormal bending of the toe joint (it looks like an upside-down V), are often a cause due to the increased friction between your toes and shoes. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis can cause shape changes in the foot that can also lead to corns and calluses. Other issues concerning structural problems of the bones, poor bone alignment, and problems related to an abnormal gait.
  • Overpronation – Overpronation causes arches to flatten and elongate. As this happens the ball of the foot moves forward and rubs on the inside of the shoe or sandal. This rubbing often causes calluses.

How Do I Get Rid Of Corns And Calluses?

While the best treatment for a corn or callus is wearing shoes that fit properly and give your feet enough room so that they don't rub against your shoe, you can also try other treatments like a pumice stone, foam wedges, or having a podiatrist remove the corn or callus.

Try these other treatments to get corn and callus-free feet:

  • Soak the area of your foot with the corn or callus to soften it. After drying the area, use a pumice stone on it, then moisturize. The gentle abrasive action of the stone will remove dead skin and keep your feet smoother and softer. You can repeat this every day or every few days. 
  • Apply astringents or powders to reduce sweat between toes.
  • Add arch support inserts to your shoes. Insoles are particularly important if your corns or callus are caused by structural problems with your feet. Insoles for calluses and corns will redistribute the pressure on your feet and reduce friction. Make sure you are using the best insole for your shoes. If you have low-volume shoes, look for a thin or short insole so you are not making your shoes too tight.
  • Use foam wedges to relieve pressure between the toes.
  • If the corn or callus is large, a podiatrist can carefully shave away the dead, thickened skin with an abrasive wheel or a small surgical blade.

Though it may be tempting, it's best not to have your corns or calluses removed at a nail salon during a pedicure or to remove them yourself at home. Infection can occur, making your problem much more serious. Instead, make sure a licensed professional is correctly removing the dead tissue.

How Can I Prevent Corns and Calluses?

For many people, corns and calluses won’t cause any adverse effects in daily life. However, for some people they can become painful, especially if they are not addressed and become infected.

If you develop corns or calluses, start by looking at your lifestyle to see if any of your habits are the cause. The Cleveland Clinic points to these issues that, when changed, can reduce or prevent corns and calluses:

  • shoes that don't fit properly
  • standing, walking or running for long periods of time
  • physical hobbies, sports activities or work that puts pressure on your feet or cause repeated friction
  • going barefoot
  • not wearing socks with footwear
  • having socks that slip and bunch up under your feet while in shoes
  • walking with improper posture

Once you have made sure you have shoes that fit properly, you'll want to address any pronation issues you have. Adding arch support insoles for calluses and corns can limit overpronation or supination which will prevent calluses and corns.

If you have to wear high heels, try to reduce the amount of time you spend in them, as they put added pressure on your toes and the balls of your feet. Wearing heels that are two inches or lower will also help you avoid corns and calluses. 

Which Insoles Are Good For Calluses And Corns?

Arch support inserts can help prevent corns and calluses by correcting biomechanics and limiting your pronation. They'll ensure your foot is not slipping inside your shoe, causing unnecessary friction that causes corns and calluses. Insoles also help prevent hammer toes, a secondary cause of corns and calluses.

To find the best insoles for calluses and corns, look for some important features:

  • A deep heel cup - This will help stabilize your heel while adding cushioning and shock absorption
  • Firm support - In order to limit pronation, your insoles must be firm enough to stand up to all the pressure your feet put on them. If the arch of your insole buckles under stress, it won't be effective in addressing your pronation issues.
  • Arches that match the contours of your feet - The best insoles for calluses and corns must fit your feet properly. That means the arch should align with your arch to give it full support throughout. Flat and one-size-fits-all insoles that offer a generic fit won't solve the problem.

Whether you're looking for shoe inserts for callus pain or ones that will help reduce or prevent your calluses and corns, make sure you get ones that fit your footwear properly. Your insoles shouldn't make your shoes too tight for your feet. 

If your shoes have full-length, removable inserts, look for regular callus and corn insoles. If your shoes have a thin, removable insert, find thin insoles. And if your shoes don't have a removable insole at all, buy short insoles

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