Corn Fundamentals

Corns are a build-up of hard skin near a bony prominence of a toe or between the toes. Some people use the terms "corns" and "calluses" interchangeably.

Corns come in several forms. These include:

  • Hard corns, which are the most common type, are small, concentrated areas of hard skin, typically within a wider area of thickened skin or callous.
  • Soft corns are whitish or gray and are rubbery in texture. They often appear between the toes.
  • Seed corns are small and tend to occur on the bottom of the foot.

When corns become thick, they can be very painful. The formation of corns is generally lessened or eliminated by wearing properly fitted shoes which avoid pressure and compression of the toes. Patients are advised to avoid very high heeled, narrow shoes that push the toes forward, causing them to rub against the shoe, as well as against each other. Properly fitted shoes need to have enough toe area length, as well as a deep enough toe area in order to accommodate the patient’s foot, preventing rubbing between the shoe and the toe. People who suffer from corns are able to find some relief from use of cushion pads which help to dissipate friction and pressure over bony prominences, thus alleviating the pain of a corn. A pumice stone can be used to keep the corn thin, thus relieving pressure and pain.

Corns result when pressure from shoes rub against the toes or causes friction between the toes, causing a build up of hard tissue resulting in a painful corn. Corns may occur on the top, the side, or between the toes, depending upon where friction builds up and the body’s reaction to the friction resulting in the corn. Corns typically result in swelling, redness, and discomfort, particularly when wearing snug shoes. In diabetic patients, corns can quickly become ulcers, leading to much more serious problems.

How is this treated?

The formation of corns is generally decreased by wearing shoes which minimize pressure and compression of the toes. Patients are advised to avoid high heeled, narrow shoes that push the toes forward, causing them to rub against the shoe, as well as against each other. Properly fitted shoes need to have enough toe area length, as well as a deep enough toe area in order to accommodate the patient’s foot, preventing rubbing between the shoe and the toe. Other treatments include:

  • Applying astringents/powders to reduce sweat between toes.
  • Gently removed the thickened skin with a pumice stone.
  • Using foam wedges to relieve pressure between the toes.
  • Using customized shoe inserts that are professionally fitted.
  • Surgical intervention to realign the areas of bony prominence, so as to avoid further corn formation.

A corn should never be cut or removed a corn, this can lead to an injury to the toe. Instead, people are advised to soak your feet in lukewarm, soapy water, then use a pumice stone to gently remove the build up of tissue in order to relieve pressure. Over-the-counter remedies that have harsh chemicals can dissolve a corn, but these chemicals can also harm healthy tissue. Medicated creams and lotions may help soften the corns and help in gentle removal.

If conservative therapy has not been helpful in alleviating the pain of a corn, surgery may be recommended.

What are the risks of treatment?

Risks include nerve injury, infection, and stiffness of toes. At times, if all areas of the deformity are not addressed, then a corn can form in a different area of the foot.