What are corns?
Corns are little round bumps consisting of thick layers of skin and are similar to calluses. However, corns are generally smaller, round in size and can be painful. Corns also tend to only form on your feet while you can get calluses on both your hands and feet.
Corns can be either hard or soft. Soft ones are usually found between your toes, as the skin is moist.
How do you get corns?
Both calluses and corns form when there’s friction. A labourer’s hands, for example, are usually filled with calluses as they develop to protect the hands.
Corns form to protect the soft tissue of your feet, but unlike with calluses, the skin is sometimes inflamed and can, therefore, become painful. It can also become sore if the corn presses into deeper layers of skin in the foot, even if it’s not inflamed.
Furthermore, corns can develop from friction and bone pressure in a particular area of the foot.
As a general rule, you get corns from wearing shoes that are either too small or too big. If the shoes squeeze your toes together, that can cause unnecessary friction, as can wearing tight shoes that rub against your skin in one spot. Likewise, loose shoes that make your feet slide inside the shoes, causing friction, can be responsible, too.
You can also get corns from wearing shoes that put too much pressure on one area of your foot. For example, high heels tend to put unnecessary pressure on different parts of your feet.
As we grow older, the fatty tissue in our skin becomes depleted. This can lead to more corns and calluses as our feet become less padded.
Likewise, bony feet seem to be more prone to corns and calluses.
You may also have feet that are somewhat unusually shaped, therefore putting pressure on a specific area. Check with a doctor to see if you need padded shoe inserts.
When buying shoes, don’t go shopping first thing in the morning. Stay on your feet for a while, so they're warm and a bit more swollen like they would be at the end of the day. This ensures you don’t buy shoes that are too small.
How do you get rid of corns permanently? You prevent them. You wear well-fitting shoes with excellent padding. You may even want to consider buying one size too large shoes and fitting a nice insole.
Are corns contagious?
No, corns are just thickened patches of skin, which have developed due to friction or pressure. Corns form to protect the soft tissue in your feet.
If you develop inflammation in or around the corn and it omits any discharge, you should treat it as a wound and wash your hands after touching it.
How do you treat corns?
For most people, home treatment is all that’s needed for corns. These are some popular home treatments for corns:
- Warm foot baths followed by rubbing the area with either a pumice stone, nail file, emery board, or washcloth (beware not to scrape off too much skin, as it can cause inflammation)
- After washing, apply a natural moisturiser, such as aloe vera, followed by a natural butter, such as cacao butter, or shea butter, possibly mixed with an oil, such as olive oil.
- You can also use a foot cream throughout the day.
- To remove pressure on the corn, use a chemical-free corn pad (these usually look like a doughnut with a hole for the corn).
- Follow the tips below for prevention—this is essential as the corn will only grow back otherwise.
- Corn removal pens and corn pads containing either salicylic acid or trichloroacetic acid (use this as a last resort)
Salicylic acid and trichloroacetic acid can irritate the skin and are best used under medical supervision. If misused, these acids can make the situation worse by causing inflammation. Neither acid should be used if you have diabetes, poor blood circulation, or heart problems.
When should you see a doctor about your corns?
You should see your GP if you have a corn and:
- It’s excruciatingly painful.
- The corn looks inflamed (red or swollen), bleeds, or omits pus.
- You have diabetes, poor blood circulation, or heart disease/heart problems and get a corn.
- You have tried home remedies for some time, but the corn won’t go away and is annoying you.
If you develop a corn and have underlying circulatory problems, suffer from heart disease or other heart problems, or have diabetes, you should immediately seek medical attention.
How can you prevent corns?
As previously mentioned, buying well-fitting shoes that don’t come with too high heels is a great starting point. In general, avoid any shoe that’s too tight, too loose, squeeze your toes, or put unnecessary pressure on one area of your foot.
Soft socks can also help prevent corns, as can footpads (such as heel pads) and soft insoles. Make sure to buy shoes with good soles that have some padding, too. Not only will it help prevent corns, but it will also help protect your feet!
If you get corns between your toes, try using toe separators.
And remember, even if you have to wear a particular style of shoes to work or social functions, you don’t have to wear them when travelling to or from there. Don’t put them on until the last minute and take them off as soon as you can! If you have a lunch break when you go for a walk, change to walking shoes.
You may also want to keep two or three different pairs of exercise or walking shoes so that you vary the pressure and friction on different parts of your feet.
Keep your skin soft by regularly using natural moisturisers and vegetable oils or butters, as well as a pumice stone on your feet. Don’t overuse the pumice stone, though; you don’t want to scrape off too much skin!
Frequently asked questions about corn removal and corns
If I develop a corn, when should I seek medical attention?
If you have diabetes, heart problems, or poor blood circulation and develop a corn, you should seek medical attention immediately. You should also seek medical attention if you develop inflammation in or around the corn. Signs of inflammation include the corn becoming very painful, red, or swollen. It may also omit put. Even if there is no inflammation, if the corn is causing you pain and no home remedies have helped, it’s time to see a doctor.
Will a corn go away on its own?
Do corns ever go away? Yes. Usually, a corn goes away when the friction causing it disappears. Therefore, changing shoes or wearing protective pads may help the corn to go away.
What’s the best corn remover?
Likely your doctor, but often a visit to the doctor’s isn’t necessary. So, if you’re wondering how to dig out a corn on your foot or want to find out about home remedies for corns, you’re lucky in that it’s easy. A hot foot bath followed by a good moisturiser and the use of a pumice stone/file can help remove a corn. Remove as much skin as possible without irritating the surrounding area. If you go too deep, you may irritate the surrounding skin. This can cause bleeding or inflammation.
When done removing skin, apply a cream that moisturises the area. Then, use a corn pad for protection. You can repeat this procedure two or three times a week.
You should do this in tandem with a change of footwear if this is what caused the corn in the first place. The best cure for corns is suitable footwear!
You can also try corn removal creams, pens, and patches before removing skin from the corn. Just beware that they can cause skin irritation and should be used as a last resort.
Will a doctor perform corn removal surgery?
A doctor will sometimes use a scalpel to scrape away the layers of skin in the corn. However, real surgery is only done if the alignment of a bone needs to be corrected.
Do corns have black dots?
No, that’s warts. Unlike corns, warts are contagious, though usually harmless.
Do corns have a root?
No, corns are basically spots of layered skin—usually hardened. If the corn is soft, it’s because it’s in an area where the skin is moist, such as a corn on your foot between your toes.
How does salicylic acid work on corns?
The acid “loosens” (dissolves) the skin, making it easier to remove.
How do corn pads work?
Corn pads usually form a cushion around the corn (i.e. they have a hole in the middle), thereby putting less pressure on the corn.
Do you use turmeric for foot corns?
Turmeric (or, rather, the active ingredient curcumin) is a well-documented anti-inflammatory herb. If your corns have become inflamed, you might want to try eating an anti-inflammatory diet. You can also take curcumin supplements or mix some dry turmeric with water and swallow it; just beware it colours things yellow! You can also use creams containing curcumin for the affected area. Your average Italian or French herbs boiled together with turmeric and lemon balm can also help ease inflammation of the skin. On this, I’m speaking from personal experience, so consult a doctor before use.
Some home remedies suggest putting turmeric, honey and milk directly on the corn. While the moisture may help soften the skin and the turmeric fights off inflammation, it’s not likely to soften your skin more than a hot bath would.
What are the best corn removal creams?
Corn removal products usually contain salicylic acid or trichloroacetic acid. Don't confuse patches with a corn pad that looks like a doughnut and acts as a protector—trying to prevent further friction around the area of the corn and thereby hopefully removing it.
Whatever cream works best for you will be a case of trial and error.
Note that the acids in the creams can cause skin irritation and shouldn’t be used if you have sensitive skin, poor blood circulation, or diabetes.
What happens if a corn is left untreated?
Either nothing happens—the corn remains—or it gets worse. It might become more prominent and cause pain by pressing into other areas of your foot. It may also become inflamed. However, if you change your footwear, so there is no longer any pressure or friction in the area of the corn, it may also simply go away on its own. Think of a corn as an area of hardened skin trying to protect your foot. If you remove the need for protection, the corn goes away, though you may help it along by removing the dead skin it contains.
If a corn doesn’t go away, then see a doctor.
What does a corn on the foot look like?
Usually, it is a bit lighter than the rest of the skin and feels hardened or rubbery to the touch. However, in areas between the toes and other moist areas, it may be soft. A corn is relatively small and round.
Can you remove corns on feet overnight?
While you can wear a corn patch overnight and scrape off the loosened skin in the morning, chances are it will take longer for the corn to disappear entirely.
Why are corns so painful?
Corns are painful because they are inflamed or deep or large enough to push into other areas of your foot. If there is friction or pressure from a shoe where the corn is, this can also cause pain. Usually, it’s a two-way stream. The friction or pressure irritates the skin, which in turn causes a corn.
How to use apple cider vinegar for corns on feet?
Many people suggest adding apple cider vinegar to food baths to help soften the skin. Like salicylic acid, apple cider vinegar is an acid. How effective it actually is in softening your skin, on the other hand, is debatable. I haven’t been able to find any studies to back it up, but it is antibacterial, so it won’t hurt to add some to your footpath. Just don’t add too much.
In closing: how to get rid of corns
Corns are generally harmless, but if very painful, omitting pus, red or swollen, you should seek medical help. You should also seek medical help if you have heart problems, diabetes, or poor circulation and develop a corn.
To prevent and treat corns, wear shoes that fit, use soft socks and insoles or footpads. It’s also a good idea to keep your feet moisturised and regularly use a pumice stone (after having a foot bath or shower). If you’ve already developed a corn, definitively use a pumice stone or file to remove the dead skin after a bath and then apply a moisturiser. When done, apply a doughnut-shaped corn pad to remove the pressure from the corn and prevent further irritation. Avoid using the shoes that caused the corn in the first place.