For years, I have suffered from severely callused heels that require regular filing to remove all the dead skin. My wife is worse. She has extremely bad calluses and corns following a double bunionectomy as a child.
I wrote this article after researching the subject to help my wife and me treat our own feet. Now that I've learned this information, I want to share the fruits of that research with my readers.
I have listed a number of remedies in this article. Personally, I use corn files regularly. My wife does, too, between visits to a podiatrist. That said, her feet problems improved immeasurably after she started wearing custom orthotics. Calluses still appear, although the frequency has declined. That has meant considerable savings due to fewer visits to the podiatrist.
I hope you find the article to be useful.
Corns, Calluses, and Painful Feet
Corns on the feet can prevent you from wearing sandals with confidence with these unsightly spherical patches of hard skin, the bane of many people’s lives.
In addition to being unpleasant to look at, they can also cause pain when walking, and simply wearing shoes can be irritating. Foot corns often form on the tops of the toes due to pressure from shoes, but can form anywhere where there is frequent abrasion, friction or pressure.
If you suffer from corns, you may well have reached the point where you are so fed up with them that you’ll do just about anything to get rid of these little blighters.
How to Treat Calluses and Corns on Your Feet
Cutting them off may seem like the right thing to do, but before you break out your craft knife and get to work on DIY home surgery, consider the following products and tips. They are far safer and are less likely to end with you maiming yourself and making matters considerably worse.
Corn Drops to Burn Away Corns
Burning away corns with acid is an effective way of removing these unsightly round lumps of hard ugly skin. If you are planning to drop acid onto your corns whilst laughing uncontrollably with glee at inflicting pain on the things that are hurting your feet, you should seek medical attention, and not for the corns.
Taking revenge on your own body is never good. Corn drops, however, can be highly effective, and contain salicylic acid to burn away the hard, dead, callused skin. Incidentally, salicylic acid is the active ingredient found in aspirin. It is a mild organic acid which will gently burn away the callused skin, after which it can be easily filed down with a fine corn file or pumice stone.
Remember however, that this method of corn removal is only going to be effective if you are able to apply the drops easily. Corn drops will burn away all that callused skin and make it a breeze to just file them away, but if your corns are on the soles of your feet, spare a thought for how you will apply corn drops without burning a hole in your carpet or spilling it on your nicely polished laminate flooring.
Corns on the tops of the toes are perfect for this type of treatment, but if they are in an awkward to reach place and you are not a contortionist of Olympic standards, it's best to forget about this type of treatment.
If you have a willing partner to help in your quest, then you will be good to go. However, remember that it’s probably best not to suggest they help you to remove foot corns on a first date. It is at least a third date scenario, and best if you are married, by which time it’s too late for them to run to the hills in horror.
Always read the instructions on the bottle, even if you have used this type of treatment before. Different manufacturers instructions vary.
Warning: The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and just about every podiatrist and chiropodist will advise against this type of treatment. Why is this? The reason is simple. This type of treatment will make no differentiation between hard dead unwanted skin growth and normal healthy skin. You can burn away the dead skin, but can just as easily cause damage to healthy tissue. This can lead to ulcers and broken skin, which could cause far more problems than the corn itself.
If you have diabetes or circulation problems: DO NOT attempt to treat your corns. Get to a podiatrist and get the job done properly. This type of treatment can cause all manner of problems for your feet if you have any problems such as these.
My Wife's Calluses
The above photo shows my wife's callused feet. They get much worse. At this stage she usually books a podiatrist's visit. During the summer she doesn't wear her orthotics (they don't fit in flip-flops!), and the calluses return.
Filing Down Corns
Filing down corns and callused skin is probably the safest and easiest way to treat your corns at home, although it may take some good old fashioned hard graft.
The hard skin which makes up foot corns and calluses is rich in keratin, which is a particularly robust and fibrous structural protein which is also the major structural component in fingernails and hair. Abrading it can be hard work, but to make the job considerably easier, it is best to soften the skin first. Soak the feet for around 10-15 minutes in a bowl full of hot water with some Epsom salts mixed in, or take a long and luxurious bath before getting to work on your corns. If you do not have Epsom salts in your medicine cabinet, you can raid the cupboards for some alternatives.
Try soaking the feet for 15 minutes in hot water, and then applying a little baking soda and a touch of water. This can help get rid of corns and make them easier to file down. Alternatively, household vinegar can be applied before going to bed. Simply dab the corn with vinegar, and try filing down your corns in the morning.
A hard skin file, pumice stone, or specialist corn file is the best bet for filing down corns. It may be long, slow and laborious work, but you are not likely to do yourself an injury. Corn removal is often best done over a period of days, taking a small amount of dead skin off each day.
Of course everybody loves a gadget, and why do manual labor when you can get a machine to do all the hard work. If you also have callused skin, and you always seem to be removing dead skin from your feet, it might be worthwhile investing in the Bario electric callus remover.
It's like Tool Time for the feet, and whilst callus and corn removal is never "fun," its certainly more enjoyable with a gadget!
Cutting Corns Off With Razor Blades
Armed with a razor blade, craft knife or scalpel you can cut the time it takes to remove a foot corn to a matter of seconds, but remember, toes do not grow back. Whilst the chances of slicing off a toe are probably quite low, the chances of cutting away too much of the dead skin and removing some healthy living tissue is pretty high.
There is a reason why podiatrists charge the rate they do for this kind of treatment, and that is because they do it safely and have spent a good few years training and getting well practiced with the old blade. If you cut off too much, the skin will bleed and you run the risk of getting an infection. Bacteria and fungi love shoes and socks, and an open wound is often too much for them to resist.
If you do want to take the fast route to corn removal, then make sure you use a professional corn parer, as these are far safer, and will only let you remove a small portion of the dead skin in one go.
Leave the Corns Be
There is of course good old fashioned neglect. Leaving corns on the feet untreated may not be that bad. If the corns on your feet are not causing you pain, you don’t actually have to remove them.
Feel free to file them a little bit from time to time for cosmetic reasons, but foot corns are not all bad. The reason they form is to protect your feet from abrasion, and as with callused skin, they prevent the lower layers of the skin from suffering damage. If you remove them they will almost always return, and many people leave them until they are painful.
If they are causing pain, try adding a little cushioning to ease the pressure, or better still, combine cushioning witha chemical treatment. Medicated corn pads will do the same as corn drops and gels, whilst easing pressure on the feet. The pads are often treated with salicylic acid, and will gently eat away the hard skin whilst you go about your everyday routine
Visit a Podiatrist or Chiropodist
Home treatment is all well and good, but you really can’t beat having foot corns professionally removed. If you book an appointment with a podiatrist, not only will they give your feet a proper check, but they will remove all the hard skin for you, cut off your corns and give you beautiful feet once more.
The main benefit other than the safe removal of foot corns is a podiatrist is the best person to tell you why your corns are forming. Unless the root cause is tackled, they will keep on coming back.
Wear Custom Orthotics
A visit to a podiatrist may highlight structural abnormalities in the feet as being the reason for the formation of corns and callused skin. This is often the case, either due to a congenital defect such as flat feet, poor bone structure or muscle weaknesses resulting in pressure hotspots forming.
A podiatrist will have a look at the feet and may recommend a foot pressure analysis or gait analysis to determine what can be done to correct the root cause of the problem. In many cases, custom orthotics will be recommended. Custom orthotics are usually shoe insoles which should be worn all the time in shoes. They will essentially correct weight distribution in the feet, and will make up for what is naturally lacking. In contrast to standard insoles which are concerned with improving comfort and reducing the effects of pressure, custom orthotics aim to provide more substantial correction.
Custom orthotics tend to be made of a more rigid material, are longer lasting than standard shoe inserts and will give the maximum level of correction. The downside is the cost, with custom orthotics usually costing between $200 and $300 a pair, with the ones above priced at a not insignificant 260 USD. The result is no more calluses in this case - well so far at least.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
marksmith8200 from New York on November 21, 2011:
Wonderful article...thanks for sharing this information...keep posting...
michifus (author) on September 15, 2011:
Thanks Leslie. My wife suffers from callused skin since a double bunionectomy when she was young. Good luck removing it!
Leslie A. Shields from Georgia on September 15, 2011:
Excellent easy read. Love the subtle humor and the advice. Calloused hands and feet are hereditary in my family and I honestly didn't know that anyone else in the world had the type of callouses that we have.
They have been a source of embarrassment and pain for many, many years. I have cut and bled, scrubbed and covered and not until recently have I been more emotionally secure with this condition.
I am however going to invest in an that electronic gadget and I am going to send the link to this hub to my other family members....
Thanks... voted up, useful, and awesome
Carlon Michelle from USA on September 15, 2011:
Great article. I perfer the non-chemical approach. Smile!