Reference Library

Corns and calluses

Corns and calluses are areas of thickened skin that develop to protect an area from irritation and pressure. If the thickening of skin appears on the bottom of the foot it is called a callus. If it occurs on the top of the foot (or toe) it is called a corn.

Corns and calluses are not contagious, but they may become painful if they become too thick. In people with diabetes or decreased circulation, they can lead to more serious foot problems.


Corns often occur where the foot rubs against the interior surface of the shoe. Excessive pressure on the balls of the feet – common in women who regularly wear high heel shoes – may cause calluses to develop on the bottom of the feet. People with certain deformities of the foot, such as hammertoe, are also prone to corns and calluses.


Corns and calluses typically have a rough, dull appearance. They may be raised or rounded, and they may be difficult to differentiate from warts.

Mild corns and calluses may not require treatment. If a corn or callus isn’t bothering you, it can be left alone. If your footwear seems to be contributing to the corn or callus, it is time to look for more shoes!

If your corns or calluses are causing pain or discomfort, you should consult your podiatrist. Also, people with diabetes, poor circulation or other serious illness should have their feet checked.

Diagnosis and treatment

If you have mild corns and calluses, your podiatrist may suggest changing your shoes and/or adding padding to your shoes. Larger corns and calluses are most effectively reduced (made smaller) with a surgical blade. A podiatrist can use the blade to carefully shave away the thickened, dead skin right in the office. The procedure is painless because the skin is already dead. Additional treatments may be needed if the corn or callus recurs.

Cortisone injections into the foot or toe may be given if the corn or callus is causing significant pain. Surgery may be necessary in cases that do not respond to conservative treatment.


  • Wear properly fitted shoes
  • If you have any deformities of the toe or foot, talk to your podiatrist to find out which shoes are best for you.
  • Gel pad inserts may decrease friction points and pressure. Your podiatrist can help you determine where pads might be useful. 

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