Part 2. ‘I have something on my foot’. Corns & Calluses – what’s the difference?

Last week we discussed in detail what are corns. This week we will talk about something we are all familiar with – calluses. Have you ever wondered what exactly is a callus, or how it forms on your skin? These extra-tough patches of skin are generally quite useful because they act like a kind of natural armour, protecting areas of skin that get an unusual amount of wear and tear.

What Exactly Is A Callus?

Callus formation is triggered by pressure or abrasion. The heel of your foot as it rubs inside your shoe, or the palm of your hand if you’re doing a lot of manual labour are good examples of this. While it might feel like a callus is something extra added to your skin, it’s actually just a build-up of what’s already there.

Here’s How It Works

Your skin has a number of layers of different types of cells. The outermost is a layer of hardened, dead cells. This top layer is usually about twenty-five cells thick, and it constantly replaces itself as the outermost cells flake off to be replaced by new hardened, dead cells underneath.

All About Friction

If your skin is subject to an unusual amount of friction, this layer of dead cells increases. New dead cells are added faster than the old ones slough away. This can build up the outer layer from twenty-five cells thick to over a hundred cells thick. You’ve grown a callus. While calluses are generally useful, if the process continues unchecked a callus can thicken into a cone-shaped structure called a corn. These super calluses can be quite painful, and may require the attention of a podiatrist or a chiropodist.



But What Exactly Causes Friction?

  • The major cause of friction and calluses appears to be poorly fitting footwear. This includes shoes that are too tight or have a small toe box. Walking barefoot is also a culprit. So are thin-soled shoes or high heels.

  • Athletes develop calluses from repetitive motion and recurrent pressure on the same spot. For example, runners develop foot calluses from repetitive pounding on hard road surfaces, while dancers and gymnasts develop calluses on their feet from certain weight-bearing positions.

  • Poor foot mechanics and foot shape also play a role in increased friction and hence increased callus formation. For example, people with flat feet or high arches tend to develop more hard skin on the soles of their feet. Hammer toes and bunions attract more calluses just as well.


Any Tips On Treating and Preventing Calluses?

Moisturise. Moisturise. Moisturise. Once a day if your skin is very dry and forms a lot of calluses. Warm-water soaks are also effective for softening the skin. Add some Epsom salts to the water for additional benefits. Once the skin is softened, a pumice stone or foot file can be used to gently file away at the callus, lifting the dead skin and stimulating fresh growth underneath.

Preventive care for calluses includes careful selection of proper footwear. Shoes that provide effective arch support and have a shock-absorbing rubber sole reduce the risk of developing a callus. Look out for wide toe box, lacing and a sturdy heel counter. See picture below for the main features of a ‘good shoe’.



Your podiatrist may also advise you on orthotics. These change foot mechanics by correcting functional problems or redistributing body weight. The goal of orthotics is to reduce pressure and friction and allow the skin to rest.

Take Home Points

  • Calluses are areas of thick skin.
  • When left untreated they can become corns, which can be quite painful.
  • Wearing well fitting shoes and keeping the skin soft will help to keep your feet CALLUS FREE 🙂


Here at South Dublin Podiatry Clinic, our podiatrist will not only painlessly remove any excess callus from your feet but will also help you to identify the underlying causes behind the callus formation and will advise you on the best treatment approach.


If your feet are sore call us on 083 8241454 to discuss your treatment options or click here to book an appointment with our podiatrist.



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Sonstroem, E. (2008) What are Calluses and how are they formed. Available at:
Frye, S. (2017) Callus. Available at: