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Corns and Calluses

What are corns and calluses, and what causes them?

Corns and calluses are not quite the same. They both develop as your skin tries to protect itself against friction and pressure, but corns and calluses are actually different:

  • Corns are smaller than calluses, and have a hard centre surrounded by inflamed skin, which is usually painful. They usually form on the parts of your foot that don’t bear weight like the sides and tops of your toes, but can develop in weight-bearing areas too.

  • Calluses are thickened, hardened layers of skin that usually develop on the soles of your feet under the heels or balls. Calluses can vary in size and shape and are usually much larger than corns, but are rarely painful.

Corns usually form from repeated pressure, like the rubbing of a shoe. The bones of your toes press up against the shoe, putting pressure on the skin. This thickened skin then irritates the tissue underneath.

Close up of baby toe with a corn

Calluses can form anywhere that pressure and friction are increased on your skin, but foot calluses usually form from the rubbing of a shoe or sock.

Close up of the underside of a foot with calluses.

The most common causes of corns and calluses include:

  • Shoes that don’t fit properly. If they are too tight, they increase pressure; if they are too loose, they increase rubbing and friction.

  • High-heeled shoes that put pressure on the front part of your foot.

  • Shoes with seams or stitching on the inside that can rub against your foot.

  • Socks that don’t fit properly, or not wearing socks at all.

  • Toe deformities, like hammer toe or claw toe.

Woman sitting on a stone ledge, holding her heel which hurts from wearing high heels