Dr.Ken W.N

Corns & Calluses -
Why & What to do!

Corns & Calluses - Not Quite Skin Deep:

The outermost layer of your skin is called the "epidermis". When the underlying layer ("dermis") is irritated, it stimulates the outer layer to grow thicker for more protection. An excessive, spread-out thickening of the outer layer of your skin (a "hyperkeratosis") is called a callus; it may be thicker at the center and gets thinner at the edges. When the same material is limited to a discreet, small area (1/32" to 1/4" or more), iat may be become a "corn". A corn usually has a deep, hard central core and a sharply defined edge. It has NO "root". A corn can also occur in and under a larger callus. The corn builds up from the outside inward, not the other way around.


Despite how you think they feel, corns and calluses don't hurt. They can't, they have no nerve endings. That outermost layer of you skin has no nerve endings in it ordinarily.Since the corn or callus is a part of the epidermis, it has no nerve endings inside. So, per sé, a corn or callus itself cannot hurt.

A hard, dry, thick, stiff or inflexible callus can and does influence the deeper, sensitive, nerve endowed tissues and indirectly can cause burning or other unpleasant sensations, and can crack apart and into the deeper layer. A hard, penetrating, corn acts like a tiny stone embedded in your flesh and can disturb the deeper, sensitive tissues, including nerves, blood vessels, tendons and joint capsules. The deeper tissues can become inflamed (red, painful, swollen). A corn can press inward so much that the dermis can decompose and become an hidden or open sore (ulcer) or an abscess (pus-filled sac). It is the deeper tissues with their irritated nerve endings that create the intense, focused pain that can hobble you.

Thus, corns and calluses can interfere with the our walking and playing comfort. They can interfere with our ability to wear conventional shoes. They can force you to walk less or walk abnormally and, in turn, to cause other foot, ankle, knee, hip or back problems.


  • Though there are some people with genetically thickened or unusual skin (e.g. psoriasis or eczema), most calluses and corns are caused by foot and toe deformities, biomechanical problems and the foot environment. Corns do NOT have roots. They are NOT caused by viruses. Corns and calluses are caused by a combination of internal and external forces. If these forces are not controlled, the corns will persist or repeatedly return.

  • Foot deformities can contribute to corns and calluses. In particular, high arched feet, hammertoes, claw toes and mallet toes can develop these lesions; the ball of your feet can develop corns; corns can develop between your toes and in the toe webs. Bunions can develop calluses and corns. Deviated great toes (bunions) can have and can create corns and calluses.

  • Abnormal or stressful functioning of the feet (poor biomechanics) can cause corns and calluses. In-toeing, out-toeing, back, hip, knee and ankle problems, or tight muscles or tendons can cause the skin to be irritated and contribute to calluses and corns. Joint diseases (arthritis), injuries, scars, work demands, age-thinned skin can contribute to calluses and corns too.

  • No matter what shape your feet are in, the shoes that you put on your feet can be a very significant cause of the corns or calluses you suffer from. The primary purpose of you shoe is to protect you feet. The more your shoe does not match your foot’s natural profiles, contours and space requirements, the more you are likely to cause your own corns. The less your shoe protects your foot from the demands of the everyday world, the more corns or calluses you may suffer from.


  • First, select your shoes with you foot health in mind. Limit your use of unnaturally styled shoes to rare occasions. Even then, try to shield the areas most irritated with protective dressings (e.g. moleskin or gel pads). The more deformed your feet or demanding their work, the more they need special shoes to accommodate and protect them to avoid corns and calluses.

  • Where the cause is biomechanical, the fabrication, fitting and use of special insoles, arch supports, functional orthotics, or even braces can go a long way to control the production of corns and calluses and to improve your comfort and performance. Special, toe, sole and heel shields can be worn to protect stress points or to disperse pressures which aggravate corns and calluses..

  • Assuming you have the ability to access your toes and feet, you can help yourself at home by tending to these problem areas daily. Special callus-softening salves can be used in conjunction with special skin files to prevent the accumulation of epidermal, corn-producing growths. "Medicated" (acid-containing) corn plasters should be AVOIDED unless under specific direction of your podiatrist. (People with impaired circulation or nerve sensations should NOT use these products.)

  • Foot and toe deformities can be surgically modified. Hammertoes can be made straighter. Bunions and bunionettes can be reduced. Irritating bone spurs can be removed. Deviated metatarsal bones can be repositioned. It is better to deal with these problems when you are healthy and your healing potential is greater; otherwise, there will come a time when you will just have to live with the deformities, limitations, inconveniences, corns and calluses and disabling, deformed toes and feet.


A podiatrist will evaluate your feet to help pinpoint the problems and their causes so that they might be dealt with professionally. Periodic podiatric care can enhance your own efforts and improve your chances of successfully reducing or eliminating corns and calluses.

Have you had less than desirable success elsewhere? Have your own efforts at home been difficult and fruitless? Would you like a caring and competent professional for guidance and care? Then, call us and come in to see us! We will do our best to help you too.

We look forward to serving you, your family and friends for this and other foot and ankle concerns.

Dr.Ken Sokolowski