When it comes to problems with the feet, corns and calluses are among the most common, although many people aren’t treating them properly. They can be uncomfortable and can leave many feeling self-conscious about how their feet look.
Although corns and calluses often get lumped together, there are some slight differences between the two. Corns are circles of thick skin that commonly form on the toes and soles of the feet, while calluses are hard and rough patches of skin that are typically yellow in colour and form on the balls of the feet. Calluses also tend to be bigger than corns and can also appear on the hands.
“Corns and calluses are often related to pressures in the foot,” Ambassador for Australian Podiatry Association Christina O’Brien tells Starts at 60. “We see corns and calluses as sometimes occurring as a pattern as to how that person might be walking.”
Corns can also form when people wear shoes that don’t fit properly. For example, shoes that are too big can cause rubbing, while some designs cause extra pressure in certain parts of the foot.
Similarly, a callus can also develop in areas of the foot where skin rubs against something, be it footwear, the ground or even bone. They’re more likely to appear on the heel as this is the part of the foot that takes the most force when walking or exercising.
Both can also develop as a result of dry skin and in people with naturally bony feet. Many over-60s naturally lose protective cushioning in their feet as they age, which is why corns and calluses are so common in older members of the community. While the temptation to pick at or even perform home surgery is appealing to many with corns, it isn’t recommended by health professionals.
“I definitely wouldn’t recommend any home surgery on corns or calluses because I’ve heard horror stories of people using razor blades and things to try and get rid of them and that’s just awful,” O’Brien says. “The best thing to do would be continually to dry your feet really well after your shower and moisturise your feet.”
There are over-the-counter creams and products that don’t require a prescription that can help soften the skin with the help of special ingredients. A pharmacist will usually be able to offer general advice and information, however, the most effective thing to do is to visit a podiatrist. They will be able to remove a corn or callus, while most over-the-counter options will temporarily ease pain. For most people with corns and calluses, seeing a podiatrist is going to be the safest and quickest way to fix the problem.
“We are trained and do it daily, 20 times a day on different people,” O’Brien says.
In cases where corns and calluses become inflamed, painful or infected, medical treatment should not be delayed as it could cause further problems. Hard skin can be debrided or enucleated away by professionals, particularly when people get a deep pocket of hard skin on the foot. In other cases, thickened skin can simply be cut away. Unlike some health problems, corns and calluses won’t go away on their own and until removed, the skin can become thicker and more painful.
Read more: The best way to treat painful heels
Following removal of a corn or callus, the podiatrist may prescribe different shoes, padding or special insoles to prevent further problems from occurring. Similarly, a number of products such as creams that hydrate the skin or special wedges that ease pressure.
“Your podiatrist can clear it for you and offer up ways you can potentially go home and manage it yourself if it’s appropriate,” O’Brien adds.