difference between callus and corn

difference between callus and corn

Read This and You’ll Know the Difference Between Callus and Corn…and What to Do!

A Callus and a Corn are similar and are among the most common foot problems. However, in this blog, we will discuss the differences and what can be done to reduce or eliminate these painful conditions. The symptoms of corns and calluses can vary from a minor irritant to severe pain because of the difference between callus and corn location on the feet. Of all the foot ankle problems, corns and calluses can be the most irritating for some.

What are Calluses?

A callus is an area of skin build up that becomes hard and this dead skin becomes painful. The layers of skin become thickened. Calluses tend to be larger than corn and often don’t have a painful core in them which is more common with corn. Calluses also tend to be on weight bearing surfaces of the foot especially on the bottom. There are different types of calluses. Some are very diffuse and not very deep, therefore not too painful. The most painful are deeper and may have a central core of dead skin that is very sensitive to pressure. This type of callus is most painful. Both calluses and corns can be painful to touch.

What are Corns?

A corn tends to be smaller than a callus but is more likely to have a painful core in the center of it. A corn tends to be composed of a buildup of thickened skin much like callous. However, you can have another type of corn called a soft corn that may appear between your toes especially between the fourth and fifth toes in the 4th webspace. Generally, a corn is located on the toes.

Why Do We Get Corn and Calluses?

A callus tends to be located in an area where there is excessive weight being placed, especially on the ball of the foot. We bear weight on the ball of the foot on the metatarsal heads. There are five metatarsal bones that take most of the weight on the ball of the foot. From improper biomechanics of foot structure, extra weight may be placed on one of these bones and the body’s reaction to that pressure is to build up the skin which we call a callus. A structure issue that some people are born with is called a Mortens Foot. With a Mortens foot, the first metatarsal which connects to the great toe may be shorter than it should be. When this occurs, your foot will put more weight than it should on the adjacent second metatarsal head causing a callus to form.

An example of a corn is when it’s associated with a hammertoe. This can occur on any of the toes but is rarely seen on the great toe. Oftentimes the small toe, 5th digit is hammered and curved towards the adjacent 4th toe. This is probably the most common type of hammertoe to develop a corn. A corn will then be created on the side of the toe that then rubs the shoe. In some cases, the rubbing of the 5th toe against the 4th toe may also create an irritation and therefore a corn will develop. The second digit is also a common place for corn to appear. It may be on the top of the knuckle of the toe and the tip if the digit.

Ideas For Treatment of Corns or Calluses at Home

Treatment options for calluses:

  • Pumice Stone: This can be used to periodically trim down the buildup of skin.
  • Padding: Using over the counter pads can be helpful.
  • Inserts (Orthotics): To know if shoe inserts may help examine your feet. Shoe inserts may help if the callous in on the ball of the foot. The inserts may also reduce the weight load on the callus and help reduce the pain
  • Soaking Your Feet in Warm Water: This can be useful to soften the tissue especially before the use of a pumice stone.
  • Wearing Socks: It may be important to consider wearing socks frequently if you don’t as the padding from the soft sock may help.
  • Shoe Gear: To prevent corns and calluses selection of shoe gear may be important.

infographic of callus corn epidermal difference

What Your Podiatrist May Recommend Based On The Difference Between The Callus and Corn

For calluses on the ball of the foot, custom made inserts (orthotics ) may be recommended to reduce the buildup of skin and slow down its recurrence.
Periodic debridement may be recommended as this provides the option of having the podiatrist trim the tissue down. This may be advised every 2-4 months. This is also a common recommendation for those with diabetes. Tolcylen soaks can also be recommended. This is a new product that we currently sell though our office that is getting rave reviews. By using this soak on a regular basis, it gradually eats away at the dead tissues and also moisturizes your skin. It’s been exciting to introduce to our patients.

Below are some images that show the improvement our patients received when using Tolcylen.




tolcylen-therapeutic-foot-soak-5pouches-10days callus removal

Surgery is seldom, however it can be an option when conservative measures fail. Surgeries involve addressing the issues with the bones that we bear weight on to reduce the weight bearing on that specific bone.

Treatment for Corns

There are multiple options when it comes to the treatment of corns.

  • Shoes: Be sure to be wearing shoes with a larger toe box if your corns are associated with a hammer toe.
  • Padding: Much like a callous, you may use over the counter pads. Be careful however using medicated pads that have chemicals in them to eat away at the corn. These may cause an infection especially if you are diabetic.
  • Pumice Stone: This can also be used to Tolcylen – products that we use for calluses may also be used with corns. Again, this new product has been impressive!
  • Periodic Debridement: Much like recurrent callouses, recurring corns may also need to be trimmed down periodically by your podiatrist.
  • Surgery: We use surgery as an option much more than we do for calluses as corn is primarily associated with hammertoe. Deformities’ can develop corns from the hammertoe rubbing your shoes. Some hammertoe corrections can be done with low invasive procedures in our clinic while others may need to be performed in our surgery center. Success rates for these procedures tend to be very good.

Now you know the difference between callus and corn, you should be able to determine what treatments to consider in your plan. When speaking to your local podiatrist in Fort Collins, Loveland, Broomfield or the Denver, Colorado area consider the options we have outlined above. Feel free to reach out to your qualified, experienced and certified podiatrist at our clinical location in Broomfield for advice or schedule an appointment.

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