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What Are Corns?

A corn (also known as a “heloma”) is a small circular area of thickened, hardened skin, usually found on the non-weight bearing, bonier parts of the foot where the skin is thinner – like the toes. They are formed as part of the skin’s natural defence against excessive rubbing and friction. The thickening of the skin forms a protective cushion to prevent pain and blisters. Corns can be hard or soft. They are very similar to calluses and are formed by the same processes and causes. 

Corns are normal and usually do not cause problems.  However, when they get too big, they may become painful and make walking difficult.  

Corns are most frequently caused by shoes that don’t fit properly:  Ill-fitting shoes put excessive pressure and force on certain parts of the foot, particularly on bony prominences.

A corn is smaller than a callus, more circular shaped and has concentrated thickening in its center (calluses tend to be larger, are irregular-shaped, and the hardened skin is distributed evenly throughout).  Corns also form more often on non-weight bearing parts of the foot, whereas calluses usually occur on the weight-bearing underside of the foot.


What Are The Symptoms Of Corns?

A corn looks and feels like a small, circular area of hardened skin with a dense, thick center (called the “core’).  This core is usually surrounded by inflamed skin.  Corns usually develop on or in between the toes.  There are three types of corn:

  • Hard corns: These corns often are firm and dry, and typically form over the surface of the toes.
  • Soft corns: These corns, while still having hardened skin in the center, tend to be more moist and pliable than hard corns. They often form between the toes as there is more moisture in that area.  
  • Seed corns: These are smaller than the other corns, and usually form on the bottom of the feet.  

Corns may not be very painful when they first develop; however if they get larger, they can cause problems. Signs that a corn may require a foot specialist’s attention are:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Foot pain and irritation in the area of the corn
  • Brown, red or black discolouration (this is due to bleeding under the surface of the callus)


Why Do We Get Corns?

Corns form on our toes and feet from the friction generated by the rubbing action between our feet and the inside of our shoes. This is part of our skin’s natural defence mechanism to protect itself against blisters and pain. Repeated or prolonged friction causes the outer layer of skin to thicken.  This provides extra cushioning for the skin so that it can withstand the friction and pressure to which it is exposed.  

Problematic corns and complications can be caused or contributed by:

  • Ill-fitting footwear repeatedly rubbing against your feet  
  • Wearing shoes without socks
  • Biomechanical abnormalities: These can lead to increased pressure in certain areas.
  • Bunions
  • Bony prominences on the feet
  • Occupations or activities that require prolonged periods of standing or walking
  • Loss of fat pad (the cushion on the bottom of our feet):  This occurs more often in elderly people
  • Diabetes


How Do I Treat Corns?

Corns sometimes go away on their own without medical intervention.  However, if you have diabetes or any other condition that causes poor circulation in your feet, you should promptly consult a chiropodist to avoid complications.  You can also see a foot specialist if your corn is causing you pain, irritation and discomfort, or affecting your ability to carry out daily activities.  

A licensed chiropodist will safely remove your corns using a variety of treatments. Read about our callus and corn removal services for more information. Note: corns often reoccur, and therefore routine treatments every few months are often required.

If you have recurrent corns, shoe inserts or custom orthotics may be indicated.  These will address any biomechanical abnormalities affecting your gait that may be contributing to the formation of the corns on your feet. Our chiropodists can also recommend corn pads, spacers and other foot aids to reduce pressure points on the feet. 

Never try to cut or shave away your corn with a sharp object.

To schedule foot care treatment for your corns with our licensed Chiropodists, use our booking form or call 416-769-FEET(3338).

You do not need a referral to become a patient at our foot clinic.

Risk Factors

Certain risk factors may increase your chances of developing corns:

  • Wearing shoes that are too loose or too tight
  • Wearing shoes without socks
  • Foot deformities and medical conditions that alter the bone alignment in your feet (i.e.:  Bunions, hammertoes, bone spurs, etc.)
  • Biomechanical abnormalities that affect the gait and cause excessive pressure in parts of the feet.
  • Prolonged weight bearing activities
  • Smoking


How Do I Prevent Corns?

To prevent or reduce your susceptibility to developing corns, you can:

  • Wear shoes that fit correctly and comfortably:  Our foot clinic can help you find a proper-fitting shoe that accommodates bony deformities and provides extra support and cushioning  
  • Moisturize your feet regularly
  • Exfoliate your feet
  • Correct any biomechanical abnormalities with orthotics: An orthotic will correct faulty foot mechanics and redistribute your bodyweight appropriately.  This relieves the stress and pressure placed on callus-prone areas.  A chiropodist or foot specialist can assess and prescribe a custom orthotic that specifically accommodates your unique needs. 
  • Get periodic medical pedicures:  Our licensed chiropodists provide medical pedicures to address any developing concerns or abnormalities with the feet.  In addition to properly and safely removing any corns and thickened calluses, a medical pedicure also strengthens the skin on the feet, which reduces the risk of developing future issues.

To schedule an appointment with our licensed Chiropodists (foot specialists) for a medical pedicure, preventative foot care and maintenance, use our booking form below or call 416-769-FEET(3338).

You do not need a referral to become a patient at our Toronto foot clinic.

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Carolina Charles

Patient Relation Coordinator (She/Her)

If you’ve been to the clinic before, chances are you had the pleasure of meeting Carolina! Carolina’s daily goal is going above and beyond to make sure patients are always completely satisfied. Having worked in the podiatry industry for 22 years, Carolina brings a wealth of knowledge pertaining to client service, insurance policies, and procedures.​ She steers the ship to make sure everything runs smoothly on the daily. Carolina is known for spicing up every outfit with her signature costume jewellery.