Corns and Calluses
Calluses are areas of thickened skin caused by repeated friction and pressure. They form to protect the skin and the structures beneath it from injury or damage. Calluses on the bottoms of feet thicken with time, and sometimes develop into hard corns. (Tips on how to get rid of calluses)
Having a tender spot in the middle, surrounded by yellowish dead skin, corns can be easily seen on the bottom of the feet and over the joints of the toes. Shaped like a pyramid, with the apex pointing inwards, they are tender when touched. They come in two types, hard and soft. Friction causes both types.
Ill-fitting shoes or toe deformities can produce hard corns, most commonly found on the tops and tips of the toes, and on the sides and bottom of the feet. Most people’s toes curl downward and remain curled inside their shoes. As such, the top of their toe joints may press against the inside of the shoe while the tips of the curled toes press against the sole of the shoe. Soft corns, usually the result of bone abnormalities in the toes, develop between the toes and are sometimes referred to as (yes, we find this disgusting, too) “kissing corns.”
High Fashion Can Lead to Corns
Some people’s toe bones are wide, causing friction between the toes, a problem that’s made worse by tight-fitting shoes. These people may develop soft corns which resemble open sores. So, too, might women who wear narrow, tapering, high-heeled shoes that squeeze the foot and shift the body’s weight to the front of the foot.
Humans typically spend several hours on their feet and take several thousand steps each day. This puts pressure on the feet equivalent to two-to-three times body weight. For many Americans, that could amount to almost half a ton of pressure. If you’re not wearing sensible shoes, the stress will damage your feet in one way or another.
Shoes that are too small irritate the feet, but so do shoes (and socks) that are too loose, allowing the foot to slide and rub against them. Start wearing shoes that support your feet. However, if you already have soft corns caused by excessively wide toe bones and you switch to wider shoes with more room between the toes, it could be too little, too late to provide adequate relief. You might need surgery. In the meantime, a bit of lamb’s wool (not cotton) placed between your toes helps cushion soft corns. You can obtain some from one of your many friends who spin natural wool into yarn.
In the case of hard corns, there are a number of “corn cures” (such as corn pads) you can purchase at pharmacies:
- Buy a pumice stone or callus file, using it regularly to soften and reduce the size of corns and calluses.
- A donut-shaped foam pad can be worn over the corn to help relieve pressure on it.
- If you want to use corn pads, the medicated variety may increase irritation and result in infection, so use non-medicated pads.
How to Treat Corns
Among the dozens of possible home remedies:
- Tape a fresh slice of lemon over the painful area overnight. Resist the temptation to squeeze it onto your breakfast of steamed mackerel the next morning.
- Rub with papaya or pineapple.
- A roasted and cooled bulb of the herb, Indian squill, held over the corn with a bandage overnight. Whether or not this works, it probably won’t do much for your love life. But neither will a lemon taped to your foot.
- The milky juice of green figs applied daily.
- Go to India. Apply the leaf sap of a plant called aak twice daily for a week. Then go home.
- Oil of oregano.
- Apply cider vinegar followed by tea trea oil
- A diet that contains fresh fruits and vegetables.
If you have no faith in home remedies, over-the-counter treatments, or healthy diets, see a podiatrist. He or she can trim the corn by shaving the dead layers of skin off with a scalpel or burn it off with a topical solution. (Don’t try this at home, kids, particularly if you have poor circulation, poor eyesight, a lack of feeling in your feet, shaky hands, or you faint easily.)
The podiatrist surgically treats soft corns by making a small incision in the toe, grinding down the piece of bone that causes the irritation, and closing the incision with a couple of stitches. It’s not as grisly as it sounds. You’ll get a local anesthetic and relax yourself during the procedure by reading the December, 1955 issue of the Podiatry Journal while the doctor happily grinds away. Recovery time is brief, and most patients obtain relief almost immediately.
Click here for more information on how to get rid of corns.