Corns and Calluses: What’s the Difference?

Corns and Calluses: What’s the Difference?

We depend on our feet to give us the gift of mobility, whether that’s walking to the kitchen for a snack or running a marathon. Your feet are vulnerable to a host of skin conditions, however, from eczema to ulcers. 


Two common problems are corns and calluses. They’re often considered interchangeable, but they’re distinct skin issues. Let’s get into how they’re different, how the discomfort they cause can slow you down, and the treatments our podiatry team provides at South Florida Foot & Ankle Centers.

Getting corns and calluses straight

The confusion of corns and calluses may come from their similar cause: repetitive friction and pressure against skin on the feet, often due to shoes that are too tight. 

Corns are usually small, round bumps that often develop on the sides or tops of your toes. If you notice a corn, it can be hard, soft, or something known as a seed corn. 

Hard corns have a firm center but are surrounded by skin that has thickened, while soft corns are more pliable, as the term suggests. They can be gray or white, and often emerge between your toes.

Seed corns tend to develop on the bottoms of your feet and are quite small. They can be very sensitive and may be linked to clogged sweat ducts. 

Calluses are generally larger areas of thickened skin and tend to have more uneven shapes than round corns. 

They frequently develop on the bottoms of your feet and places that are bony and receive pressure from your weight, such as your big toe, heel, or the ball of your foot. They can also develop on your hands. 

Corns and calluses are actually your body’s ways of protecting the layers of skin underneath them. 

Who’s more likely to get corns and calluses?

We’ve talked about how ill-fitting shoes can contribute to the development of corns and calluses, but you’re also at higher risk if you have a foot problem like a bunion, hammertoe, or arthritis. Smokers also tend to be affected more. 

Corns tend to be more sensitive, but calluses can develop fissures that are painful. If you live with diabetes, any skin vulnerabilities and injuries that might not be noticeable can become infected quite quickly and lead to serious complications. That’s why it’s essential to be under your podiatrist’s care if you’re diabetic

You can also develop corns and calluses if you forgo wearing socks with your shoes, partake in certain sports and activities, have posture or gait problems, go barefoot a lot, or stand or walk for long periods.  

Getting care for your corns and calluses

The South Florida Foot & Ankle Centers team is skilled at treating corns and calluses. After evaluating your feet, your podiatrist may recommend wearing shoes that fit better and using moleskin pads made especially to prevent the friction that’s responsible for the corns and calluses. 

Your podiatrist may also use a special bladed tool to gently remove some of the thickened skin. You don’t feel anything since the skin that is removed is dead. 

If your corn or callus is painful, your doctor might advise getting a cortisone injection for relief. In the rare cases when conservative treatments aren’t successful, often because of a foot deformity, surgery may be the solution. 

Home treatments for a corn or callus that hasn’t become too large can include soaking your feet and using a pumice stone to gently remove some of the dead skin. You can also apply a cold pack for 10-20 minutes. Moisturizing your skin is important as well. 

If you’re experiencing discomfort from corns or calluses, get treatment right away at South Florida Foot & Ankle Centers. Call to schedule a consultation at your nearest office, in Royal Palm Beach, Lake Worth, Palm Beach Gardens, or Belle Glade, Florida. 

You can also request your appointment here on our website.

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