Corns and calluses develop from repeated friction, rubbing or irritation and pressure on your skin. They most frequently occur on your hands, feet and toes. The most common cause is shoes that don’t fit properly. With a little bit of attention and care, you can prevent most cases of corns or calluses.
Corns and calluses are a buildup of hard, thick areas of skin. Although these hardened areas of skin can form anywhere on your body, you’ll usually see them on your feet, hands or fingers.
Corns and calluses are essentially the same tissue. Corns tend to be small and round. You’re most likely to see corns on the top or sides of your toes.
Calluses are hard, thick patches of skin. Compared with corns, calluses are larger and have a more irregular (more spread out) shape. You’re most likely to see calluses on the bottom of your feet on the bony areas that carry your weight — your heels, big toes, the balls of your feet and along the sides of your feet. Some degree of callus formation on the bottom of your foot is normal.
You’ll also see calluses often on your hands. For instance, a callus forms where there’s repeated friction or rubbing — like on the tips of fingers of guitar players or the hands of gymnasts, weightlifters or craftsmen.
There are several types of corns:
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Corns and calluses have many distinct features. Corns look like:
Both corns and calluses can cause:
Corns and calluses may or may not be painful. Some corns and calluses aren’t painful when they first develop but then become painful over time as they thicken. The raised areas of skin — especially of corns — can be tender or sensitive to touch or pressure. Calluses tend to be less sensitive to touch than the normal skin around them. Sometimes, cracks (called fissures) form in a callus. Fissures can be painful. If you have a corn or callus that becomes infected, you’ll likely feel pain or at least some discomfort.
Corns and calluses have many of the same causes. These include:
Corns and calluses develop from repeated friction, rubbing, pressure or irritation and pressure on your skin. Corns and calluses typically form on the bony, walked-on areas of your feet. On your hands, they (more likely calluses) form on the areas where there’s ongoing rubbing against your skin.
The hardened layers of skin of corns and calluses are actually your body’s way of protecting the underlying skin from irritation and pressure.
You’re more likely to develop corns and calluses if:
Untreated (or unsuccessfully) treated corns and calluses might grow larger until you fix what caused them to develop in the first place.
Corns or calluses can cause infections. This can be painful and make walking difficult. You may need antibiotics or even surgical treatment.
A healthcare provider can diagnose corns or calluses by looking at your skin. No tests are required. A simple visual exam of your skin is usually all your provider needs. Your provider may ask you questions about your job, how much walking and standing you do, and in what activities you participate. If your corn or callus is on your foot, your provider may ask you to walk to check your posture and the way you walk, ask about your footwear and ask how you take care of your feet.
Treatment depends on your symptoms and what caused the corn or callus. But for the typical corn or callus, removing the buildup of skin is an effective treatment. Follow these steps:
Other care tips include:
Over-the-counter products used to dissolve corns and calluses contain harsh chemicals. If you aren’t precise in applying the chemical, it can injure the surrounding healthy skin. If you have diabetes, don’t self-treat. See your healthcare provider, due to the foot complications possible with diabetes.
You can manage most corns and calluses by following the simple tips listed in this article — namely, remove any corns or calluses with a pumice stone after soaking your feet in warm water.
Your healthcare provider may consider surgery if you have a structural deformity in your foot or toes that results in the repeated development of corns or calluses. In this case, a surgeon may need to remove or realign bone tissue. Other reasons for surgery are if the corns or calluses are extremely painful, if they prevent you from walking comfortably or normally, or if they cause reoccurring infections, wounds or tissue breakdown.
Your feet are an often overlooked part of your body until a problem develops. With a little bit of attention and care, you can prevent most cases of corns and calluses. Things to keep in mind include:
In addition, keep your toenails trimmed, don’t walk barefoot and apply a daily foot powder to keep your feet dry if you have sweaty feet.
As corns and calluses are the result of friction, irritation or pressure against your skin, they can return at any time if you haven’t addressed the cause. In other words, if poorly fitted shoes were the cause and you continue to wear those same shoes, the corns and calluses will likely return.
Fortunately, you can successfully manage most corns and calluses at home with a little care and attention. If you’re concerned about a growth on your foot, see a healthcare provider. They’re in the best position to examine your feet, ask about or test for other medical conditions you may have, treat your feet and advise you how to take care of them.
You should see your healthcare provider if:
Questions you may want to ask your healthcare provider include:
A type of wart called a plantar wart may appear on the soles of your feet. These warts look like calluses with tiny black dots in the center. But warts develop when the human papillomavirus, or HPV, enters a cut or break in your skin and causes an infection. Calluses don’t develop due to a virus, but rather just from friction on your skin.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Those shoes may look cute, but if they’re too tight, you shouldn’t wear them — you could develop a corn or a callus. If it’s too late and you already have one, the good news is, most corns and calluses aren’t serious. You can typically treat them at home. But if you have diabetes or another underlying condition that increases your risk of infection, call your healthcare provider for treatment.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/25/2023.
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