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Understanding the Difference Between a Corn and a Callus

Corns and calluses are two common foot conditions that we see frequently in clinic and often cause discomfort and pain. While they may appear similar at first glance, they have distinct characteristics and require different approaches for treatment. Understanding the differences between corns and calluses can help you to manage these conditions effectively and seek appropriate care. Let's delve into the details to distinguish between the two.


Corns are small, circular areas of thickened skin that typically develop on the toes or the sides of the feet. They form in response to repeated friction or pressure, often caused by ill-fitting shoes or abnormal foot mechanics. Corns can be painful, especially when pressure is applied directly to them.

Characteristics of Corns:

  1. Appearance: Corns are usually smaller than calluses, with a more defined center that may appear as a hardened, raised bump. They can be yellowish or grey in colour.

  2. Location: Corns commonly develop on areas of the feet where friction or pressure is concentrated, such as the tops and sides of toes or between toes.

  3. Pain: Corns tend to be more painful than calluses, particularly when pressure is applied directly to them or when wearing tight shoes.

  4. Types: There are two primary types of corns:

  • Hard Corns (Heloma Durum): These are the most common type, characterized by a dense, thickened area of skin.

  • Soft Corns (Heloma Molle): These are softer and typically develop between the toes where moisture accumulates.


Calluses are larger areas of thickened skin that form in response to repeated pressure or friction over a broader surface area. They are the body's natural defense mechanism to protect the skin from damage. Calluses are not usually painful unless they become excessively thick or cracked.

Characteristics of Calluses:

  1. Appearance: Calluses are larger and broader than corns, with a more diffuse thickening of the skin. They often have a more yellowish or pale hue compared to corns.

  2. Location: Calluses can develop on various parts of the feet, including the soles, heels, and balls of the feet, as well as on the hands or other areas subjected to repetitive friction.

  3. Pain: Calluses are typically not as painful as corns unless they become excessively thick or develop cracks, which can lead to discomfort or pain when walking or standing.

  4. Function: Calluses serve as a protective barrier for the skin, helping to prevent blisters and other forms of skin damage caused by friction or pressure.


Both corns and calluses can often be managed effectively at home with proper care and footwear adjustments. Treatment options may include:

  • Padding: Using protective padding or cushioning to reduce pressure and friction on affected areas.

  • Footwear: Wearing properly fitting shoes with adequate room for the toes and minimal pressure points.

  • Moisturisers: Applying moisturising creams or lotions to soften the skin and reduce dryness we have brands we tend to use in clinic and can recommend during a consultation.

  • Pumice Stone: Gently exfoliating the affected area with a pumice stone to remove dead skin and reduce thickness.

  • Orthotic Inserts: Using custom orthotic inserts to correct foot mechanics and redistribute pressure.

In some cases, especially if the corns or calluses are severe or recurrent, medical intervention may be necessary. As healthcare professionals, our podiatrists, can offer additional treatments, including trimming or debridement of thickened skin to make the area more comfortable and give advice about how to prevent or slow down reoccurrence.

If you think you may be suffering with a corn or calluses then please book in to see one of our team today who will be able to help.

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