Corns are small areas of skin that occur on the toes as a result of excessive pressure or friction from footwear or socks. There are two types, hard and soft, and they can cause some pain and discomfort.  In this article we explore what causes them, how they develop, and how they can be prevented.
The difference between hard and soft corns
Apart from the obvious difference between them in being hard and soft, there is also a difference as to where they occur. Hard corns tend to occur on the tops, tips and sides of toes and have a core that presses on nerve endings, which can cause pain. Soft corns tend to occur between the toes, and stay soft due to the heat and moisture in this area. Despite them being soft, they can also be painful.
How corns are caused
There are several possible causes as to why corns develop, but the most common cause is ill-fitting shoes. Shoes that are too loose can let your foot slide and rub (causing friction), whilst other shoes may place excessive pressure on different areas of the foot (for example high-heeled shoes which can squeeze the toes).
Abnormal walking patterns, standing for long periods, or repetitive activities using your feet (such as in sports) can also cause corns because of the pressure that is put on the foot.
Corns are more common in older people, because the skin gets thinner with age so there is less padding on the soles of our feet, making them more likely to develop. Corns also often occur on bony feet, because of the lack of natural cushioning.
On occasions, corns may be a symptom of another foot problem. For instance, they can appear as a symptom of bunions (a deformity on the foot that causes the big toe to bend towards the second toe), or hammer toe (a common deformity of the lesser toes in which the middle part of the toe lifts up).
How can corns be prevented?
Corns can be prevented by wearing comfortable shoes that fit properly and don’t rub and cause friction. It is advisable to shop for shoes in the afternoon, because your feet can swell as the day goes on and this is time of the day when shoes which fit will be comfortable. It should be easy to move your toes inside the show with a small gap between the front of the shoe and the longest toe. High heels should be avoided if possible as they increase pressure on the front of the foot.
It is also important to ensure that your feet are completely dry before putting on any shoes. Having wet, or even slightly damp, skin greatly increases friction. This means that any slight rubbing that may happen within your shoes will be greatly amplified, keeping the pressure in one place. By making sure that your skin is completely dry, you can limit the amount of friction, and thus the amount of pressure. When dry, applying a skin moisturiser to them can help to heal the hard skin and the excessive pressure to be redistributed. It is important to massage your feet until the cream is fully absorbed, so your feet are not moist.