Difference Between Corn And Callus

Corns and calluses are both categorized as harder, thicker skin layers that start to develop when there is friction or pressure applied to certain areas of the hands, fingers, feet and toes. They are commonly mistaken for one another, due in part to the similar nature of the conditions and the reasons for getting either.

Outside of both conditions being unsightly, they can cause pain and discomfort and can be treated easily by relieving the cause of the friction and pressures on the affected areas.

It is worth knowing exactly what each condition is, so you can treat it in the correct manner.

What exactly is a “Corn”?

A corn is classified as a thicken, rougher area of skin that is smaller than a callus with a hardened centre, which is usually coupled with a surrounding of inflamed skin. Generally, corns do not usually develop on load bearing areas of the feet, but more commonly on the sides of the foot or toes, on the tops of both or in between the toes. When they do develop on the parts of the foot where weight is regularly applied to, it can be quite painful.

What exactly is a “Callus”?

Calluses generally occur on weight bearing parts of the foot, such as the heel or balls or on the palms of the hands, especially if hands are overworked for exercise or work. Occasionally they will occur on knees or elbows if there is excessive friction applied regularly. Calluses tend not to hurt and can vary in size or shape, but if excess pressure or friction is applied before seeking treatment, calluses can rip, causing further damage the layers of skin beneath.

How do you get corns and calluses?

Regular pressure or friction applied on the areas affected, or repeated contact with these areas are the root cause of both calluses and corns. Certain items of clothing and activities can aggravate these areas, especially if used or performed continuously. These include:

1. Wearing shoes that do not fit correctly

Wearing high heeled shoes or tightly fitted shoes can cause compression in the sides and tops of feet most commonly where corns form, but also the balls and heels of the feet can rub, causing a callus to form. Similarly, if you wear any shoes that are quite loose, the motion of the foot sliding and rubbing against the materials, seams and stitching can cause the same friction.

2. Not wearing socks

If you decide not to wear socks in your shoes, or wear sandals regularly you will not have adequate padding between your skin and the materials inside the shoe. The same issues can occur if the socks you are wearing are not the correct size.

3. Working with your hands

Many people who play instruments repetitively will notice that the pressure and friction caused when playing can cause calluses to build up, especially with string players. Those who do regular exercise, including weightlifting or rock climbing, will likely notice, and actually want, calluses to help with gripping. Also, those who work with their hands; for cleaning, DIY or building jobs will likely experience calluses from repetitive movements.

Other risk factors for corns and calluses

There are, of course, other factors that can increase your risk of developing a corn or callus:

  • Hammertoes

Hammertoe is a condition where there is a deformity in the foot which causes a toe to curl up, in a similar way to a claw. This can rub against shoes and cause corns or calluses on the affected toe.

  • Bunions

Bunions are an abnormal growth of bone at the base of the big toe joint. This protrudes out to the side and can rub against shoes. Wearing a bunion corrector can help to alleviate any pain associated with rubbing inside shoes and causes calluses or corns.

  • Bone spurs

Bone spurs are deposits of calcium which build up and cause not only pain, but can protrude into the skin causing another point at which to rub against clothing or shoes repetitively.

  • Improper hand protection

If you use tools or exercise regularly it is important to use proper hand protection to protect the skin from friction. Wearing protective gloves when handling tools or exercise equipment will help in preventing calluses.

Possible Treatments?

The most effective way to treat calluses and corns is to avoid the repeating actions that caused them in the first place.

Wearing shoes and socks that give adequate room will prevent the area from rubbing in the same fashion. The best way to test if your shoes have enough room to avoid calluses and corns is to wiggle your toes when the shoe is on. If you cannot perform this motion, the shoes are too tight and should either be discarded or stretched at the areas which are tight.

There are specific band aids and padding which can be used to alleviate the pain of corns. They are usually donut shaped and covered over with a band aid. The pad should be placed with the hole over the centre of the corn. If the corn is situated between your toes, a toe separator or cotton ball can be put between the toes to stop rubbing.

Other treatments

When the above treatments do not work there are extra ways a health care professional can help to treat the affected areas.

  • Trimming excess skin from the area

A medical professional may be able to cut or trim away excess skin build up around a corn in a sterile environment. Never attempt this method yourself as it can lead to infections.

  • • Medication to remove calluses

Patches of salicylic acid can be applied to calluses after filing or buffing the callus down with a pumice stone. These can be bought without prescription and applied at home, but it is recommended to ask your doctor how often to reapply the patches.

  • • Inserts of shoes

Some foot deformities will require extra padding for shoes to help prevent corns or calluses. Speak with your doctor to find out about custom padded shoe inserts.

  • Surgery

In more extreme cases, surgery may be recommended if you have any bone or foot deformity issues can is causing the issues.


Of course, the most effective way to avoid corns and calluses is by preventing them from forming in the first place. Adhering to the following tips should ensure you have a less likely chance of either condition forming:

  • Wear properly fitted shoes and do not wear any shoes that cause your feet irritation. Stretching shoes or inserting a toe protector can also help if you really cannot give up a pair of shoes.
  • Try to limit time spent in uncomfortable shoes such as high heels or a dress shoe.
  • Add padding or cushioned inserts that can reduce any friction or pressure experienced.
  • Smooth any rough skin on the hands or feet with a pumice stone or emery board as a smoother surface can help reduce further friction from repetitive actions.