Corns are areas of thick skin that develop on the foot, and they can become painful if they push into the skin’s deeper layers. Corns are usually roundish in shape.
There are two kinds of corns. Hard corns usually develop on the top of the little toes and side of the smallest toe. Soft corns can develop between the toes, especially between the fourth and fifth toes. Soft ones can become infected.
Corns are caused by a rubbing of the toes against a surface. In the case of hard corns, the opposing surface is usually an ill-fitting shoe. In the case of soft corns, it’s the friction between the two toes.
Corns and calluses are similar in a few ways. They’re both rough areas of skin, and they’re both formed by pressing against an opposing object, like a shoe or other toe. Although calluses aren’t usually painful, they too can press into the deeper layers of skin and become uncomfortable.
Calluses, however, tend to be larger than corns and have a less-defined shape. Additionally, calluses are more likely to be on the bottom of the foot, rather than on the top of the toes or in-between them.
Podiatrists use a variety of methods to treat corns, depending on how severe they are. Some common methods of treatment include:
Trimming, in which a podiatrist pares down a corn with a scalpel
Chemical treatments, which use medications to soften the skin on the corn
Switching shoes, which can reduce rubbing and pressure
Inserting footpads or toe protectors, which can also reduce rubbing and pressure
Sometimes, a foot abnormality causes corns to keep reoccurring. In these cases, a podiatrist may recommend surgery to address the underlying issue.