What can you do about corns and calluses?

Published: July, 2013

Eliminating the sources of these skin conditions is a good first step.

Corns and calluses, those unsightly, uncomfortable hardened patches of skin on the hands and feet, are the body's response to protect against repeated pressure or friction. Causes include poorly fitting shoes and pressure on the skin from an underlying problem such as a bunion or malformed bone.

No treatment is necessary unless corns and calluses are painful. "Removing the offending cause is most effective," says Dr. Brooke Sikora, a dermatologist at Harvard-affiliated New England Baptist Hospital. Treatment of any underlying condition will also help keep the callus or corn from returning.

To relieve pain, Dr. Sikora recommends using donut-shaped pads that reduce pressure. You can remove hardened dead skin with pumice stones or an over-the-counter product that contains salicylic acid. The best measure, says Dr. Sikora, is prevention. "If shoes are too tight or pinch the toes, corns will develop at the sites of pressure. Also, if shoes are too loose or you don't wear socks or stockings, the foot may slide around in the shoe, which can lead to the development of calluses to protect the skin from painful blisters."

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.