How to Get Rid of Corns on Feet

how to get rid of corns on feet
Table of Contents

What Are Corns?

In this blog, we cover how to get rid of corns on feet. You likely have corns on your feet if you have worn uncomfortable shoes that are far too tight and not properly fitted. The persistent strain on your feet and/or toes can provoke the development of a corn. A concentrated area becomes thick and tough. Most corns normally occur between your toes, along the sides or underside of your feet, as well as beneath toenails. They have the potential to become quite painful as they dig further into the layers of your skin. There are three varieties of corns:

Hard Skin Corns

Hard corns commonly develop as a result of pressure from ill-fitting shoes. They usually are on top of smaller toes or the outside of the pinky toe. Hard-skinned corns will have a hard core and be as painfully dry as a rock – and may even feel like that in your shoes! 

Soft Skin Corns

Softer corns normally develop as a result of sweat and foot moisture causing tissue build-up and bone friction. This bad foot environment allows them to grow in between the big toe and fourth toe. If they are ignored and go untreated, they may become bacterially infected. A common association with the soft corn is the Athlete’s foot.  

Seed Corns

Seed corns are corns that develop directly on the bottom of the foot and are fairly small, hard, and well-defined.

What is a Bunion?

They are often confused with bunions. Note that these terms are NOT interchangeable. A bunion is a bony bump on the outer or backside of the big toe and main foot joint. It protrudes outwards or upwards. A bunion does also require a special type of foot doctor that is trained to remove it to allow you to get back to your normal life. Read our related blog on how to prevent bunions to learn more.

What Is a Callus?

A callus is thickened skin on the outer layer of your skin and is generally painless. Calluses form as a defensive measure of your body to protect sensitive skin. Calluses can occur anywhere on the body from repeated friction – hands, feet, etc. (Some examples are: a violinist who develops a callus on their chin, a guitarist or weightlifter developing calluses on the hands or fingertips, a gymnast may have calluses on their feet and hands, etc.). There are discrete nucleated and diffuse-shearing calluses. 

Corns vs. Calluses

Corns and calluses can be similar in size and shape and sometimes locations. But, calluses tend to be wider and larger and have no definitive edge on the hardened skin. They occur from pressure and friction as a result of the body trying to protect itself and grow stronger or more durable in sensitive areas. Corns tend to form on pressure points, not necessarily weight-bearing, and can become painful. They also have a core and defined outline.

Are Corns or Calluses Painful?

Whether or not a corn or callus is painful depends on a number of factors, including the following: 

  • Skin moisture
  • Type of corn or callus
  • Infected or not, location
  • If you eliminate friction or if further irritation continues
  • Not having properly fitting shoes
  • Wearing excessive-high heels
  • The use of preventative or home treatments
  • Length of time of presence for the corn or callus
  • The combination or presence of another health/skin/foot problem such as diabetes or poor circulation

What you must understand is that a callus or corn may not be painful in the beginning but could become a painful corn or callus as the skin continues to thicken. Even if it is slightly swollen, it may become worse as surrounding dead skin accumulates from the lack of exfoliation and cause them to become larger corns or calluses with no pain relief. The raised area can be more sensitive. 

Calluses can be more inclined to cause hurting as the skin is so different from the surrounding soft skin, and they may even develop cracks (fissures). Though, if it becomes infected, the sufferer will likely experience pain or discomfort.

Who is More at Risk of Corns or Calluses?

People who are at a high risk of developing corns and calluses are those who:

  • Have one or more causative factors or conditions that result in or make you more prone to corns and calluses
  • Regularly do not wear or forgo wearing socks or cushioned socks in their shoes or with their comfortable shoes
  • Do not regularly maintain or keep their toenails trimmed
  • Do not have or wear shoes that fit properly, especially if they are too tight or narrow
  • Are cigarette smokers, who are more likely to develop calluses and cracks after smoking breaks down the elastin protein

Can Corns or Calluses Be Prevented?

Many people overlook the care and maintenance of their feet and end up with health or ability concerns and problems. Many of these are preventable such as corns and calluses. You can prevent corns and calluses normally by sticking to the following tips:

  • Wear shoes that are the right size, not too loose or tight, and avoid wearing high heels that put extra strain and pressure on specific areas of your foot. Good shoes should have good foot support, cushion, shock-absorbing soles, not cramp your toes or the width of your foot, but not allow your feet to jostle and hit the insides. High heels also tend to have narrow toe areas that make your toes uncomfortable, compacted, and encounter friction. Hard soles lack padding, though you can add cushion and support to them.
  • Add padding or cushiony insoles to shoes. Especially if you have a history of corns and calluses, you may need custom inserts. These additions will take the forceful weight off certain areas of your feet, providing relief, or helping shoes fit better. Lamb wool is especially helpful for toe relief and friction prevention. Avoid cotton. 
  • Wear socks that are snug and fit, don’t bunch up, but are breathable.
  • If you are doing manual work and labor, lifting heavy or rugged materials, or exposing your fingers and hands to harsh environments, wear gloves to protect your fragile skin. 
  • Regularly exfoliate dead skin or the build-up of too much skin with a pumice stone, any of the many exfoliating scrubs, and warm water. Then apply and let a moisturizer or foot cream absorb into the skin cells to help keep your skin soft, smooth, supple, and free of thick patches.
  • If you suffer from sweaty feet and regularly have a moist foot environment, try using a daily foot powder to absorb excess moisture, keep your feet dry, and prevent bacteria-ridden conditions. 
  • Avoid or limit walking barefoot.
  • Trim and maintain your nails.

How To Treat Corns and Calluses?

foot corn removal

If calluses or corns develop, you should know of a few ways to treat corns and calluses before needing or seeking the help of a podiatrist or foot doctor. Here are a few ways to treat corns and calluses with home remedies or at-home treatments:

Physically: First, allow your feet to soak in warm water to gradually soften the skin. Then using a pumice stone, you can safely file the hard skin and tough or thick areas. Always follow up with hydrating cream or moisturizer, preferably one with ammonium lactate which will continue to help ensure the skin softens. Some people attempt a modified and more abrasive home treatment, one where they gently file the callus or corn with an emery board or nail file. This is not ideal as it can quickly get out of hand. A podiatrist could go about simply shaving it down in the same manner but would have much more control and skill, reducing the pressure your foot is subjected to.

Chemically: Instead of physically attempting to remove or soften corns and calluses, you can try treating them with chemical products designed to dissolve the hard skin. Salicylic acid products, which break down the keratin that makes up dead skin, or other corn remover pads. Remember, corn pads are specifically designed to tackle this problem but require you to properly diagnose corns for what they are so as to not expose your skin to unsuitable treatments.

Foot and Toe Protection: Prevention is known to always be the best form of treatment. The use of a footpad in shoes can ease comfort and prevent unsightly calluses and corns from arising in the first place. Toe splints are also a good alternative or additional protection against foot ailments caused by friction and pressure. If you have a history of these problems, the more inclined you should be to prevent them through easy and adaptable scenarios like these while also taking on better hygiene behaviors.

Over-The-Counter Medications for Corns or Calluses: Good or Bad?

OTC products designed to dissolve, soften, and eliminate hard corns, soft corns, or calluses are useful but only in moderation and proper application. They contain strong and harsh chemicals which can have adverse effects on the surrounding healthy skin.

DO NOT self-treat if you are diabetic. A foot doctor should be consulted as diabetics can have bouts with more complications. 

When To See a Doctor For Corns or Calluses?

When you have attempted at-home treatment options or improved hygiene routines and preventative measures, but none seem to be helping, you should consult a podiatrist. A professional trained and knowledgeable in the area has the skills to remove it and give you the best aftercare for healing.

Surgery is usually only needed if a corn is on a nerve or is causing you excruciating foot pain

You may want to consider an orthopaedic foot specialist or surgery if it involves injuries and diseases of your body’s movement or function in bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves (musculoskeletal system), such as bone pressure or problems around the ankle. One should always take extra caution to prevent them from ever occurring but also to prevent them from coming back following treatment. Reoccurrence is usually due to continuous usage of poorly-fitted shoewear or untreated accompanying conditions (hammertoes, bunions). 

Call Your Doctor About A Corn or Callus If:

  • You have underlying conditions or diseases (diabetes, heart disease, circulation problems, etc.).
  • You have abnormalities in bone alignment or structure.
  • Pain worsens or if it has become infected/ulcerated or bleeding (redness, swelling, oozing puss, etc.).
  • No known cause.

Corn Removal Surgery

Conservative treatments consist of shaving overly thick skin, shoe modifications, and orthotics treatments.

Surgical options consist of bone modification and relieving the pressure point. Location, size, and type of corn will impact what your optimal procedure should be.

Hard Corn Removal

A hard corn should be treated by a professional if non-invasive treatments fail, it becomes painful, or if it is the result of a bone issue in need of professional correction. A professional will remove the core and can also provide you with orthotics for prevention. But it is important to remember that all corns have a biomechanical imbalance root which means surface-level treatment may not be enough or permanent. Consulting a foot doctor for the underlying reason for the deformity is very smart and may be the difference in long-term pain, scarring, and resolution.

An example of this would be a pinky hard corn that formed because of hammertoe in poor shoes. The removal of the corn would not be enough to solve your problem. A doctor may need to also correct your hammertoe to prevent further corn formation. Any necessary corrections and solutions will be discussed by your foot doctor during consultation and evaluation. 

Soft Corn Removal

Soft corns can also be shaved down but tend to resurface again quickly. The causative bone problem needs to be corrected for long-term solvency. This may require a part of the bone to be removed. It depends on what issue you have, but there are a few correction options:

  • Curled toe: tendon release procedure.
  • The fourth toe bone needs to be smoothed.
  • Skin damage between toes: skin removal, partial sew together.

Recovery Time

corn removal surgery

Corn removal surgery can result in a temporary throbbing, aching, burning, or numbing. You may need to elevate your foot for a specified amount of time, which will help with relief and swelling. Your surgeon will prescribe medications. You will be deterred from labor and strenuous activity or lifting. You may receive a surgical shoe/boot with a dressing that shouldn’t become wet. 

Full recovery may take between 6 weeks to 3 months, depending on the extent of the surgery and complications. However long it takes, you should take all advice and instructions you are given seriously as well as follow up with preventative measures in the future. 

Results from Corn Removal Surgery

Full recovery will provide you a greatly improved appearance, though some time may be needed for scarring or hyperpigmentation to fade from severe corns and more complicated surgery. You will also notice a lack of pain in your day-to-day life again, though some soreness or aching is common in the short term. Always improve your prevention habits and acquire better fitting shoewear as needed. 

Is Corn Removal Surgery Painful?

You will be numbed during surgery from the anesthesia. Once that wears off, you will be sore. You will be given medication or can take OTC anti-inflammatory medication for relief. Icing and elevation of the foot will be required but will also drastically help your relief and recovery progress. 

How Much Does Corn Removal Surgery Cost?

Removal surgery will vary depending on the doctor you go to, but many private health insurance companies will cover all or some of the costs. Discuss with your doctor during consultation for further financing or payment options.

Do You Need Painful Corns Removed? Come in for Corn Removal!

Corns and calluses can be hard to distinguish and diagnose, among other similar ailments. Our orthopedic specialists have extensive knowledge over and experience diagnosing and treating all types of corns. SPORT Med Texas Orthopedic Surgeons in Frisco, TX, Dallas, TX and north of Dallas, TX have options for treatment and surgery as well to suit the needs and comfort of all clients. Schedule your consultation with us at  469-200-2832.