What is a corn on the foot?

Corns may be uncomfortable, but they grow to protect your foot from damage and can be easily treated. These are also called hyperkeratosis and are often caused by friction or pressure on the skin.

A corn is a hard, yellow lump of skin that usually grows on the feet. They grow because of stress and pressure on the skin, but are not considered a skin disease. However, sometimes they can develop infections and affect your daily activities.

Symptoms of corns

There are two types of corns: hard corns and soft corns. Hard corns have a cone-shaped root made of keratin, the protein found in hair, skin, and nails. 

Symptoms of a hard corn on your feet may include:

  • Dry, hard mass with a whitish center
  • Pain walking and standing
  • Difficulty walking

They grow on the baby toe, on tops of the toes, on bony lumps, or on toe joints.

Soft corns are softer lumps in the skin, usually between the toes. Symptoms of soft corns may include:

  • Soggy, soft skin between the toes
  • Pain while walking
  • Development between fourth and fifth toes

Soft corns are more prone to fungal or bacterial infections as the skin becomes soft and may open.

Causes of corns

Corns are caused by pressure or rubbing on the skin. Extra skin and keratin grows to protect against sores. As the skin and keratin build up, corns grow and can cause pain and difficulty walking. 

A number of factors can cause corns on the foot, including:

  • Bony lumps on your toes
  • How you walk
  • Poorly-fitting shoes
  • High-heeled shoes
  • Bone structure of your foot

Who can get corns

Poorly-fitting shoes are the most common cause of corns. People who wear shoes that are too tight or too small may develop corns. Corns also commonly develop on toes that have bony lumps, that curl under, or have a hammertoe deformity. 

People with darker skin and older people could be more likely to develop corns. People who wear high heels or narrower shoes may also be more likely to develop corns. 

People with diabetes, heart disease, or other circulation problems are more likely to have problems with their feet.

Diagnosis for corns

To diagnose a corn, your doctor will examine your feet. They may also ask you questions about your shoes, your physical activity, and your medical history.

Your doctor may perform other tests to check for bone problems or other underlying factors. These may include:

  • Dermoscopy, to examine the skin under a dermatoscope
  • X-Rays to examine bone structure
  • Pressure test of the feet

QUESTION

All ___________ have flat feet. See Answer

Treatment for a corn on your foot

Your doctor may suggest you manage the corn on your foot with treatment at home.

Medications

You may be able to find over-the-counter corn foot treatments at your pharmacy, including :

  • Salicylic acid pad or solution
  • Urea 40% cream
  • Silver nitrate dressing
  • Hydrocolloid dressing

These can be applied to the affected area and act as a softening corn treatment, but you must follow directions closely as these products can damage the healthy skin around the corn. You may also take pain relief medication to ease the pain. 

Home care and alternatives remedies

You can also manage the corn on your foot with at home treatment. You can:

  • Wear thick, cushioned socks
  • Wear wider shoes
  • Wear comfortable shoes with a low heel
  • Soak your foot in warm water to soften the corn
  • Use heel pads in your shoes
  • Use soft insoles in your shoes
  • Remove hard skin with a pumice or foot file
  • Moisturize your feet to keep the skin soft

Alternative therapies

Your doctor may recommend orthotics, specialized orthopedic shoes, or toe spacers to help take pressure and friction off your toes and the corns.

Surgery

Your doctor may perform minor procedures for the corn on your foot as part of treatment. These may include shaving away the corn, which reduces pressure and may help relieve pain. You may need to soak your foot in warm water and trim the skin regularly with a pumice stone after this procedure. They may also recommend laser removal.

Complications of corns

Corns are not a serious problem, however complications can develop. You should seek medical attention if:

  • Dark patches appear under the corn
  • Blood, pus, or discharge ooze out of the corn
  • It doesn’t improve after three weeks of home treatment
  • The pain is so severe you can’t do normal activities
  • You have diabetes, heart disease, or circulation problems

Do not try to cut off corns on your own as this may create more foot problems.

Health Solutions From Our Sponsors

Medically Reviewed on 3/18/2021
References
Al Aboud, M. Yarrarapu, S. StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 2020.

American Family Physician: "Corns and Calluses Resulting from Mechanical Hyperkeratosis."

Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School: "Calluses and corns."

National Health Service: "Corns and calluses."