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Corns, calluses, hard skin: how can we remedy them?

Corns, calluses, hard skin: how can we remedy them?

Corns, calluses and hard skin are not serious conditions, but they can be painful. They are the result of repeated friction, prolonged walking or wearing ill-fitting shoes. What can be done to get rid of them? The answer is provided in this article.

Published February 16, 2024, by Manon, Scientific Editor — 4 min read

What are corns, calluses and hard skin?

Corns are characterised by a localised thickening of the skin with a hard core. They primarily appear in areas prone to repeated friction or excessive pressure. These stresses encourage the cells of the skin's superficial layer (keratinocytes) to increase their production of keratin in order to protect the skin, resulting in its thickening. Corns are typically located on the toes and the edges of the feet. They can particularly appear in individuals with toe deformities as this can lead to changes in the distribution of weight and pressures on the feet. These alterations in the foot's structure can create additional points of friction and pressure, thereby increasing the risk of corn formation.

The term calluses also refers to a thickening of the skin, this time on a larger area. They present themselves as small hard bumps with the appearance of a more compact and thicker area on parts of the body exposed to contact, pressure or repeated friction. Calluses can thus appear at the fingertips, on the palm of the hand or on the feet. Over time, they become painful if not treated.

Calluses are characterised by a localised thickening of the skin, typically on the sole of the foot, the heel, and the outer side of the big toes. These skin growths also exhibit a yellowish hue and a hard consistency. Calluses appear as a result of repeated friction with the bottom of the shoe. They are less likely to be painful, although they can cause discomfort if they become very thick.

What are the remedies?

Several solutions can be adopted to alleviate foot pain, or even completely eliminate these outgrowths.

  • Exfoliate the callus.

    To eliminate corns, calluses and hard skin, sanding with a pumice stone, a file or a rasp is ideal. Remember to soften the skin beforehand by immersing your foot in a hot water bath. Don't forget to moisturise your skin immediately afterwards to restore its suppleness and elasticity.

  • The use of orthopaedic insoles.

    Specially designed insoles can help redistribute weight and reduce pressure on problematic areas to prevent exacerbating symptoms and worsening pain.

  • Local treatment.

    In certain instances, topical treatments containing keratolytic agents may be utilised. These promote the removal of dead skin cells, thereby reducing the thickness of corns, calluses or hard skin, which can alleviate discomfort and pressure on the underlying tissues. They also help to soften the hard skin of these skin growths, thus facilitating their gentle removal.

  • Surgery.

    It is entirely feasible to treat severe cases of corns or calluses through a minor surgical procedure under local anaesthesia. In this procedure, the podiatrist makes a small incision in the affected area to remove the skin lesion.

  • Use hydrocolloid dressings.

    Hydrocolloid dressings can be used to temporarily alleviate these foot growths by reducing friction and pressure on the affected area. These dressings are designed to create a moist environment that promotes healing and can help to soften hard skin. However, they do not treat the underlying cause of these conditions and are generally not considered a primary treatment.

  • Avoid wearing overly tight shoes.

    In instances of corns, calluses or foot hardness, it is recommended not to wear overly tight shoes that would exert pressure on these skin outgrowths and exacerbate the symptoms.Opt for flat and comfortable shoes that allow for comfortable walking without excessive friction.


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