One of the most common foot problems and most simple for a podiatrist to treat is the presence of corns and calluses. However, sometimes contrary to beliefs, a corn is not the same as a callus. A callus is the result of pressure or rubbing on areas of the foot that usually bear weight, such as the bottom of the foot, or areas of the foot that are constantly exposed to pressure and rubbing, such as the sides of the foot. For example, a poor fitting shoe will cause calluses on the heel, the ball of the foot, the side of the 5th toe, or, if there is a bunion bump, on the 1st toe. Usually corns are much smaller than calluses and, unlike a callus, corns form on areas that do not bear weight, such as the top of the foot or in between toes, and areas still exposed to pressure and rubbing. For example, that same poor fitting shoe may cause a corn on the top of the foot or it may cause toes to rub or get pressed together resulting in a corn on the sides of the toes.
Another way to distinguish the difference between a corn and callus is by appearance. Both of them are thickened and hard with a shiny whitish wax-like appearance. The medical term for the thickened and hardening of skin is hyperkeratosis. However, a callus is hard and thickened from top to bottom where as a corn only has a hard center core, but then the surrounding skin will be red from inflammation.
Both corns and calluses can be very painful depending on the location and length of time without treatment. A callus may have small amounts of pain and will feel as though there is a little stone in the shoe that cannot be taken out. However, a corn, which is in between the 4th and 5th toes, is usually the most painful of all and is called a Heloma Molle. A Heloma Molle, besides being the most painful, often times appears very white. The appearances of corns and calluses vary enough that a podiatrist can tell which one is present; however, the appearance of a callus can mimic the appearance of a wart. To distinguish between a callus and a wart, a podiatrist will push down on the callus; if it is painful, it is a callus.
Getting rid of a corn and callus is a simple fix for a podiatrist and you. The podiatrist will debride the corn or callus, which involves scraping and cutting away of the hardened skin, which will relieve the pain. This treatment does not cause any pain. It is important that you do not try to perform this treatment at home since a podiatrist is specially trained. To try to prevent the corn or callus from coming back, you may be given some padding to put on the area or be instructed to buy a proper fitting shoe. If the pressure and rubbing cannot be eliminated, corns and calluses will reappear over time. For these patients they can return to the podiatrist’s office for routine foot care to have their corns and calluses debrided every couple months.