Corns and Callus (Hard Skin)

What are corns and callus?

When we walk, certain parts of our feet are subjected to higher levels of pressure and friction than other areas. When this pressure and friction becomes excessive, the body will produce areas of thickened skin as a protective response to the friction of skin rubbing on bone, shoes or the ground.
Excessive amounts of hard skin will form callus and is usually associated with abnormalities in the way we walk (our gait), bony deformities or prominences, or inappropriate footwear.
Corns are a slightly more concentrated type of hard skin and tend to be more ball or cone shaped.
Elderly people also tend to have less fatty padding in the ball of their feet, and more toe deformities due to arthritis, and as a result can become prone to callus and corns forming in these areas.

Different types of corns.

The most common types of corns are the hard and soft corns, but there are also other less common types of corns that can develop:

• Hard corns – a small area of concentrated hard skin forms, often into a cone shape, and normally sits within a wider area of callus.
• Soft corns – these often develop between the toes. They develop in areas where the skin becomes moist due to sweat and are rubbery in texture.
• Seed corns – these are tiny corns, that develop either singularly or in clusters, they are not deep in nature, and are not generally painful.
• Neurovascular and Vascular corns – these tend to be very deep and cover a large area. They contain both nerve and blood fibres, and can be very painful, and bleed heavily if cut.
• Fibrous corns – these are long standing, deep rooted corns that can also be painful.

What treatment is available for corns and callus?

It is advised not to cut corns or callus yourself, especially if you are elderly or have diabetes. A podiatrist will be able to reduce the bulk of the callus and remove all or most of the corn.
Always consult a podiatrist for advice before using commercially available products. Be particularly careful about using corn plasters, as they contain acids than can burn the healthy skin around the corn, which can lead to serious problems such as infection. People with diabetes, poor circulation or a reduced immune system should not self-treat, but instead seek advice from a podiatrist.
A podiatrist will be able to remove corns painlessly, apply padding or insoles to relieve pressure or fit corrective appliances for long-term relief. For callus, your podiatrist will also be able to remove hard skin, relieve pain and redistribute pressure with soft padding if needed.
Elderly people can benefit from padding to the ball of the foot, to compensate for any loss of natural padding. Emollient creams delay callus building up and help improve the skin’s natural elasticity. Your podiatrist will be able to advise you on the best skin preparations for your needs.

When to consult a Podiatrist.

If you need help or advice regarding treatment for corns or callus, you should consult a Podiatrist who is registered with the HCPC (Health and Care Professions Council) which is the national regulating body, or you GP. The HCPC online register is available at