‘I have something on my foot’. Corns & Calluses – what’s the difference?

This is a series of articles describing the most common skin conditions seen in our practice: corns and calluses. We will also discuss what is the difference between them, what does the treatment involve and how they can be prevented in the future. 

What is a corn?

Corns are small circles of thick skin that usually develop on the tops and sides of toes or on the sole of the foot. However, they can occur anywhere. They develop when the skin is exposed to excessive pressure or friction. The pressure causes the skin to die and form a hard, protective surface in shape of a witch’s hat, with the pointy tip digging into your skin. Hence, they can be painful.

Some of our patients describe them as having a ‘stone’ under their foot or a ‘thorn’ in their toe.

What causes corns?

  • Poorly fitting shoes. When shoes are too loose, they allow your foot to slide and rub

  • Certain shoe designs that place excessive pressure on a specific area of the foot, eg. high heeled shoes which may squeeze the toes and cause excessive pressure under the ball of the foot

  • Lack of natural cushioning on the foot i.e. bony feet

  • Foot problems such as bunions or hammer toes

Types of corns

Hard Corns – are the most common type of corns. They vary in size and are usually found on bony prominences on feet which are exposed to the highest amounts of pressure and friction. Although they may be very uncomfortable to walk on, they are easily removed.



Soft Corns – are whiteish and rubbery in texture. They are typically found between the toes where the skin is moist from poor drying after shower or from sweat. Like hard corns, they are also caused by pressure and friction.



Seed Corns – are typically painless and can be found either singly or in clusters on the bottom of the foot.



Fibrous Corns
– arise when corns have been present for a longer time. They are more firmly attached to the underlying tissues and can be painful, hence treatment requires fine and gentle approach.


Vascular Corns – these are either hard or soft corns which,as the name suggests,  have a very good blood supply. This means they can bleed easily if cut and can be painful.


Corns can be easily removed by a trained podiatrist or chiropodist, leaving you with immediate relief. However, if the cause of the corn is not addressed they may come back. Our podiatrist at South Dublin Podiatry will advise you how to reduce pressure on the affected site to prevent the corn from regrowing. This may include custom made toe separators, padding or orthotics.



South Dublin Podiatry strongly advises against the use of medicated corn plasters which are widely available from chemists and pharmacies. They contain an acid which tends to burn the skin and do more harm than good. You may, however, apply a non-medicated corn pad to alleviate pressure and pain until you see your podiatrist.

If you have a painful corn, its best to contact a professional to have it removed.

In the meantime, here’s a few tips you can use right away:

  • Soak your feet in epsom salts for 5-10 minutes. This old school remedy doesn’t go out of fashion.

  • File down the corn with pumice stone. It won’t remove the corn ‘seed’ but may give you a little relief. You should first dip the pumice stone in warm water and then use it to gently file the corn. Use circular or sideways motions to remove dead skin but be careful not to take off too much skin. Doing so could cause bleeding and infection.

  • Apply foot cream to the area daily. Look for creams with urea as they soften the skin more than lotions or regular creams.

  • Use padding like non-medicated corn pads or toe sleeves.

  • Wear shoes that fit properly.

Corns can be removed quickly and painlessly, so if you feel you have one, don’t put up with the pain as if it’s normal. Call our friendly Podiatrist on 083 8241454 to schedule your appointment and discuss your treatment options today.

Stay tuned, next week we will talk about calluses.

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