Why Do My Calluses and Corns Keep Coming Back?

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A plantar callus

As a Toronto and surrounding area in-home certified foot care nurse, this is a question I often hear. There are many reasons why corns and calluses keep coming back. First of all, what are corns and calluses?

What are the three types of corns?

Seed corn – often found on the ball or the heel of the foot, it is a small, white plug in the skin. It can be painful.

Hard corn – often found on the top of the toe or on the outside of the little toe. It has a thick, white surface.

Soft corn – found between the toes, most often between the fourth and fifth toes.

What is a callus?

A callus is an area of skin that has been subjected to repeated rubbing or friction. An area of dense, rough skin develops to protect the sensitive skin underneath. A callus on the bottom of the foot is called a plantar callus.

What causes corns and calluses?

  • ill-fitting shoes that are either too tight or too loose
  • narrow or pointy-toed shoes
  • high heels
  • structural problems of the foot including hammer toes, bunions, lack of fatty padding on the ball of the foot

How do I stop or at least minimize the occurrence of repeated corns and calluses?

  • have shoes properly fitted
  • avoid wearing very high heels
  • wear mid-high heels that are no more than 2 inches high
  • make sure shoes have well padded insoles
  • there are many good insoles available in the foot care aisle of a well-stocked pharmacy
  • apply moisturizer to affected areas. Use a moisturizer that contains urea since this is especially effective.
  • if you have bunions,  hammertoes or wide feet, make sure your shoes comfortably accommodate them
  • while showering or bathing, use a pumice stone to gently exfoliate dry, rough patches
  • have your corns and calluses reduced by a certified foot care nurse who is trained to do so.

A word about diabetes and corns/calluses:

The risk of getting an infection in the foot is higher in a person with diabetes. Poor healing of open sores and wounds in the foot leads to infection and a higher risk of lower limb amputation. For this reason, a person with diabetes is strongly advised to avoid reducing calluses and removing corns on their own.

Copyright Terry McDermott. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of author

The Importance of Nursing Foot Care for Elderly Parents

shutterstock_3306989Increasingly, McDermott Footcare receives out-of-town and out-of-province enquiries from people requesting nursing foot care services for their parents or other family members who live in Toronto, Canada.  This indicates families’ close involvement in the care and well-being of their elderly parents.

Often, people express concerns that mom and dad are unable to care for their feet because of these common underlying factors:

  • a diagnosis of diabetes
  • arthritis that makes self-care challenging
  • limited mobility
  • poor eyesight
  • inability to reach their feet
  • a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia
  • other medical conditions that limit self-care
  • the use of blood thinner medication
  • thickened, fungal toenails that are difficult to clip

In the elderly population, fungal nail and skin conditions as well as painful corns, calluses and structural changes are common.  An important consideration to note is that parents may be reluctant to show their feet or talk about foot-related issues because they are embarrassed by the appearance of their feet.  Patience and understanding are needed when discussing these issues with elderly parents since mom and dad hesitate to show their feet, even to their adult children. Very often a new client will say to me: “oh nurse, you’ve never seen feet as ugly as mine.”   Mom and dad need reassurance that they can seek nursing foot care without embarrassment or fear of judgement.

If mom or dad express pain and difficulty when walking, gently ask them about their feet.  In most cases, maintaining regular nursing foot care visits will resolve their concerns and enable them to remain active and on their feet.

Copyright Terry McDermott. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of author

Care of Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses can cause much discomfort and frustration for clients seen by McDermott Footcare.  Clients often say that the pain caused by corns and calluses limits their participation in daily and social activities.

What is a corn?

A corn, or heloma, is a thickened area of dry skin that has a visible centre, or nucleus, at the area of greatest pressure.  It is caused by direct pressure from shoes upon a bony surface of the foot.  The centre, or nucleus, presses on nerve endings in the skin.  If it is large enough, it can be quite painful.

Soft corns form between toes, caused by direct pressure from neighbouring toes.
In this case, the skin between the toes is moist.

In the picture, two large, painful corns are visible – one on the ball of the foot underneath the third toe and one on the tip of the fourth toe.

What is a callus?

A callus (tyloma) is an area of hardened skin caused by shearing friction – a constant rubbing back and forth – over the heels, balls of the foot and along the sides of bony areas of the foot.  The hardened areas may be whitish, yellowish or brownish in colour.  The picture shows callus formation around the corn on the ball of the foot, on the area underneath the big toe, and on the side of the big toe.

Common Causes of Corns and Calluses

  • ill-fitting shoes are the biggest culprit – shoes that are too tight, too small, too big, too high, squish the toes, lack cushioning, have seams that rub against the foot
  • structural deformities of the foot such as hammertoes and bunions that rub against the inside of the shoe.  Part of the problem are shoes that don’t accommodate the deformity.
  • walking too much on the outside of the foot (oversupination)
  • walking too much on the inside of the foot (overpronation)

Preventing Corns and Calluses

  • wear supportive, well cushioned shoes that fit well.  Wear socks that absorb moisture.  For tips on buying shoes and socks, read here.
  • daily washing, exfoliating and moisturizing the feet
  • if overpronation or oversupination is a concern, a chiropodist or pedorthist can fit you with corrective orthotics

Home Remedies for Corns and Calluses

Home remedies for treating dry, cracked heels work well for getting rid of corns and calluses since both are caused by a build-up of dry skin.   Read 8 tips for dry, cracked heels here.

Avoid over-the-counter medicated corn and callus pads since the acid in these pads can irritate healthy skin around the affected area.  A u-shaped, unmedicated pad is fine for corns since it avoids putting direct pressure on the area. Using razor blades and other sharp objects to cut away corns or calluses is just plain unsafe…..enough said.

Corns and Calluses in Diabetics

Diabetics must be extra careful with corns and calluses.  Because of poor circulation and decreased nerve functioning in the feet, diabetics have an increased risk of infection from corns and calluses.  The same applies to anyone who is not diabetic but has poor circulation or decreased nerve sensitivity in the feet.   Self-care of corns, calluses and other foot problems could put you at risk for infections and trauma.  Seek out the care of a certified foot care nurse who is trained in diabetic foot care such as at McDermott Footcare.

Copyright Terry McDermott. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of author