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A corn is a small, round area of hard, dead skin that can cause significant pain when pressed on, making walking very uncomfortable.

A corn is similar to a callus in that it is a thickened area of dead skin that is caused by pressure or friction. Unlike a callus that spreads over the surface of an area of the skin and can cover the entire heels, corns are much smaller, measuring anywhere between 2mm and 20mm, and move deeper into the skin. Specifically, corns are actually conical (cone-like) in shape, with the widest end of the cone being visible as a circular shape on the outside of the skin. Their shape means that corns are typically much more painful when pushed upon or walked on if they’re present in a weight bearing area, like on the ball of the foot, or an area that directly pushes against shoes as you walk, like on the outside of the big toe. 

There are several types of corns that can develop on the feet:

  • Hard corn: this is the most common type of corn that we’ve been describing that contains a firm core and is typically found over the joints of the toes, at the sides of the toes or under the heel or ball of the foot.
  • Soft corn: these are found between the toes, often appear white, and are rubbery in texture due to the skin being damp from absorbing moisture. These corns typically pose a greater risk due to the surrounding skin having absorbed excess moisture, causing it to break down, meaning extra care must be taken when these corns are present.
  • Seed corn: seed corns are very small corns, sometimes appearing as dots that are not much bigger than the tip of a ballpoint pen, which often occur in clusters on the soles of the feet in people with dry skin.
  • Neurovascular corn: this is a type of hard corn in which blood vessels and nerves become involved. They are often very painful and can be difficult to treat.

You may suspect a corn if you notice:

  • A small, circular patch of thickened skin that is notably firmer than the surrounding skin
  • The area inside the corn may have a deeper, darker or yellow-brown colour 
  • Pressing down on the corn causes pain
  • If you feel like you're walking or standing on a rock or another foreign object when pressure is applied over the corn
  • A corn between your toes may be hard and yellow (hard corn) or soft and white (soft corn)

It is also very common for corns and calluses to occur together, given they have the same initial cause of pressure or friction over an area.

What Causes Corns On The Feet?

Corns develop in direct response to abnormal pressure or friction (rubbing) over an area of skin on the feet. This pressure or friction may be linked to or exacerbated by:

  • Your shoes: if your footwear is too tight or narrow, it can rub against the feet and lead to corns. If your footwear is too big or loose, the same can occur from your foot repeatedly sliding against the shoe. For some, it’s the type of shoe they choose - namely those without adequate support or cushioning through the sole that increases pressure on the bottom of the foot and increases the likelihood of corns developing.
  • Your foot posture: if you have flat feet, this can place more pressure on certain areas of your forefoot, which can increase the likelihood of corns in this area. High arches can also place excess pressure on the outside border of the foot, as well as the heels and the ball of the foot.
  • Daily habits such as standing on your feet for long periods at work
  • Foot deformities such as hammer toes or bunions can increase your likelihood of corns due to the toes being in close proximity and rubbing against one another, especially when paired with narrow footwear.
  • Previous trauma or surgery that has altered the structure of your feet, leaving you placing excess pressure in certain areas of the feet.
  • Thin skin or reduced fatty padding: both ageing and certain medical conditions can cause the skin to thin and the fatty padding on the soles of the feet to decrease, making corns more likely to develop.
  • Walking barefoot: if you have a tendency to walk in bare feet without the cushioning and support from footwear, you may have a higher risk of developing corns.
  • Physical activity: those that are physically active place higher demands on the feet, making them more likely to develop corns.

Home Remedies For Corns On The Feet

Once a corn is present, it doesn’t shrink in size - it only grows with repeated exposure to pressure or friction. As such, you typically cannot get “rid” of a corn at home, but there is a lot you can do to help make life more comfortable at home until you’re able to get it removed by your podiatrist. This includes:

  • Using a piece of felt padding with a circular cut-out over the location of the corn. This will allow you to stay on your feet while reducing your discomfort by alleviating some of the pressure on the corn with every step.
  • Changing shoes to those that do not rub against the corn and cause you pain
  • Gently removing any callus that is present on top of and around the corn. Corns and calluses often occur together, and it’s common to see a corn with a firm layer of callus on top. In this case, reducing the thickness of the callus can help reduce the pain and discomfort from the corn. You can read our home remedies to help manage callus here.
  • Moisturising the feet daily to keep the skin hydrated and supple
  • In specific cases, you may try an at-home corn pad to help with your corn. Please note, this must be done very carefully, and will not be suitable if you have conditions like diabetes, your feet are at risk, or incurring any skin damage can have notable consequences for your health. Corn pads typically have an acid as their primary ingredient (often salicylic acid), which works to break down the skin. The acid cannot tell the difference between a corn and the healthy skin surrounding the corn. If the acid gets on the healthy skin, it can eat away at it, and cause you much pain and discomfort - often more pain than the original corn.

How To Treat Corns On The Feet

Here at Matt Raden Podiatry, our trusted and experienced podiatrists listen to the concerns, goals and needs of our patients with corns on their feet and utilise evidence-based treatment methods to help you get the best outcomes, including helping to reduce the chance of your corns recurring in the future. 

We treat corns simply and effectively by ‘scooping’ out the corn using our medical-grade podiatric instruments. As the skin of the corn is dead skin, this is typically painless, although you may feel some momentary discomfort from the pressure of pushing down on the corn. This is very short-lived and eases immediately once the corn is out. As corns are most often accompanied by surrounding callus, we will also debride this callus back to a comfortable level, meaning you feel fantastic on your feet after your treatment.

Your podiatrist will then discuss strategies to help prevent new corns from arising, based on your unique circumstances and what has likely caused your corns in the first place.

Treatment Options

If you’ve developed any type of corn on your feet, whether it’s one corn or many, our team is here to help - and to ensure you have the best experience doing so. We’re proud to go above and beyond for our patients, focusing not only on managing your pain and symptoms, but helping you get the best long-term outcomes in preventing this frustrating problem from continuing to recur.

General Podiatry

General Podiatry treatment involves routine nail cutting and treating problems affecting the skin and nails.

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