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Callus (hard skin) and corns

What is it?

What causes it?

Callus is an area of hard skin, which usually occurs on the soles of the feet. A corn is a localised area of hard skin which has a central core.

Example of callus and corn

Pressure causes areas of skin to harden. Callus forms as a protective measure against this pressure. Some feet will be more prone to pressure because of their shape, for example, if any of the joints in your feet are prominent, or if they lack normal motion or fatty padding [1]. This can happen when you have certain medical conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or diabetes, and can also occur due to ageing [1].  

What are the symptoms?

When hard skin and corns build up they can become very painful. Corns usually appear as small areas of hard skin, or small “seed corns”, but it is also possible to get soft corns – which are white and rubbery and usually appear between the toes. Some corns can be vascular or fibrous, and these are usually the most painful [1].

In some cases, excessive pressure can lead to hard skin and corns breaking down (ulcerating). This is of particular concern if you have a medical condition such as diabetes [2].

What podiatry treatments are available?

  • Sharp debridement – our podiatrist will reduce hard skin and corns with specialist instruments. This is usually painless and will provide immediate relief [3].

  • Padding – special padding may be applied to temporarily deflect pressure away from the area of hard skin/corn, and to protect the area after sharp debridement.

  • Biomechanical assessment and management – for long term relief, our podiatrist will assess the way you walk and the motion in your joints to determine the underlying cause of your hard skin or corns. If appropriate, insoles will be prescribed for your shoes, to permanently redistribute pressure [3].

  • Emollient advice – at Open Podiatry we can advise on the best type of cream to soften your hard skin and improve general skin quality.


1.     Springett, K. and Johnson, M. (2010) The skin and nails in podiatry. In Frowen, P, O'Donnell M, Lorimer D & Burrow G. Neale's disorders of the foot. 8th edition. Churchill Livingstone, Elseview, Philadelphia.

2.     Murray, H.J., Young, M.J., Hollis, S., Boulton, A.J. (1996) The association between callus formation, high pressures and neuropathy in diabetic foot ulceration. Diabetic Medicine, 13 (11), p979-982.

3.     Timson, S., and Spooner, S. (2005) A comparison of the efficacy of scalpel debridement and insole therapy in relieving the pain of plantar callus. Australasian Journal of Podiatric Medicine, 39.2: 33-40.

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