What are corns?

Corns and calluses on the foot can be treated with over-the-counter remedies. But when they are recurring, the underlying problem may have more to do with the bones in your feet than just some ill-fitting shoes.

Corns and calluses are caused by friction, the rubbing of an area of your foot against your sock, shoe, or the ground. While caused in the same way, the two conditions are very different.

A callus is a thickened part of the skin, usually no more than 1 inch long, and most often found on the outside of the toes, on the bottom of the foot, or on the heel. Calluses are not usually painful.

A corn is much smaller, about 1/4 inch in diameter, round with a firm centre and inflamed around surrounding it. Corns are often painful to the touch, and agonizing when exposed to prolonged pressure.

Both of these occurrences only warrant attention if they become too painful or too unsightly. There are over-the-counter remedies for softening and removing corns and calluses, but if the underlying problem is determined to be bone-related, a surgical solution might be considered.

Corns can recur due to pressure from a prominent underlying bone. For example, if the corn recurs beneath the ball of the foot, the head of the metatarsal bone is usually too prominent and the metatarsal can be lifted or shortened to stop the corn coming back.

If corns recur in toes, the prominent underlying joint can be removed to prevent recurrence.

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