A Monthly Foot Fact

Whether you want to keep your feet beautiful or just avoid painful problems, watch out for two common foot conditions: corns and calluses.

Corns and calluses form when the body is trying to protect the foot from pressure points caused by tight shoes or repeated pounding without protective padding.  Both conditions are caused by an accumulation of dead skin cells that form thick, hardened areas on the foot.  

According to Dr. Suzanne Belyea, medical director for, corns are more likely to form on the toes.  They contain a cone-shaped core that can press on a nerve below, causing pain.  Corns can also become inflamed.

"Corns usually develop because of pressure caused by poorly fitting footwear, such as tight-fitting or high-heeled shoes," Dr. Belyea says.  "If you have hammer toes, claw  toes or mallot toes, corns can develop when your malformed toe rubs up against the shoe.  That can become very painful."

Wearing tight-fitting stockings and socks, or a foot sliding forward in a shoe that fits too loosely can also lead to corns.  Soft corns are located between the toes where perspiration in the forefoot area softens the affected area.

Complications that can arise from corns include bursitis and the development of an ulcer, a foot condition that is especially dangerous to diabetics.  

Calluses are caused by excessive pressure on a specific area of the foot and are normally found on the ball of the foot, the heel or the inside of the big toe.  Some calluses have a deep-seated core known as a nucleation and can be especially painful to pressure. This condition is often referred to as Intractable Plantar Keratosis.

High-heeled shoes, shoes that are too small, obesity, abnormalities in the walking motion, flat feet, high arched feet, bony prominences, and the loss of the fat pad on the bottom of the foot can all lead to calluses.

According to Dr. Belyea, a callus is not a concern unless it causes pain, or shows signs of becoming an ulcer.   Diabetics with calluses are at a much greater risk of developing ulcers if they notice pinpoint bleeding underneath the callus, in the form of small black dots under the skin.

Following are some tips to prevent and treat both corns and calluses:

  1. Wear properly fitted footwear with extra room in the toe box (toe area).  
  2. Avoid shoes that are too tight or too loose.  
  3.  Use an orthotic or shoe insert made with materials that will absorb shock
    and transfer pressure away from "hot spots."
  4. Avoid tight socks and stockings to provide a healthier environment for
    the foot.
  5. Steer clear of corn removing solutions and medicated pads, which can
    increase irritation and discomfort.   Diabetics and all other individuals
    with poor circulation should never use any chemical agents to remove corns.
  6. Never try to alleviate the pain caused by calluses or corns by cutting or
    trimming them with a razor blade or knife.  This is dangerous and can worsen
    the condition.  Diabetics especially should never try this type of treatment.
  7. f the problem persists, consult your foot doctor.  Surgery to remove
    corns or calluses should be a last resort.

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