What Is a Foot Corn?

Also known as a clavus

A foot corn—or clavus—is a type of callus. It is an area of thickened skin that forms to protect your foot from constant pressure or rubbing. The steady irritation promotes the growth of tougher cells that grow to protect the problem area.

Foot corns tend to appear on:

  • Your toes
  • The tops of your feet

They often form in places where the bones are close to the surface of the skin, called bony prominences. A foot corn can also form between your toes.

Foot corns are somewhat common, affecting almost half of the population.

This article describes a foot corn, its types, symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment.

foot corn on heel

Евгений Харитонов / Foot Corn

Foot Corn Types

There are three types of foot corns. They can be identified as follows:

  • Soft corn: Also known as a heloma molle or clavus mollis, a soft corn usually grows between your toes. It typically forms between the fourth and fifth toes when they become moist as they rub against each other in tight or pointed-toe shoes. A soft corn is tender, sensitive, and appears red with a smoother center. It usually has a rubbery, flexible texture but can cause extreme pain.
  • Hard corn: Also known as a heloma durum or clavus durum, a hard corn usually develops on dry, flat areas of your foot, especially the bony parts. It typically forms where the bone on the top of your toe comes into direct contact with the inside of a tight shoe that causes the toes to be abnormally curled, such as high heels. A hard corn tends to be small and circular, with a tough patch at the core that is harder than the rest of the corn.
  • Seed corn: A seed corn typically develops on the bottom of your foot. These corns tend to be quite small, with a seedlike appearance, which gives them their name. Seed corns form in clusters on the weight-bearing portions, or balls, of your feet. They can become very painful.

Symptoms of a Foot Corn

Foot corn symptoms vary based on size and location. A foot corn can have any of the following symptoms:

  • Rough, dull appearance
  • Raised or rounded like a wart
  • Inflammation on or around the corn
  • Growth of a central core or dense knot of skin in the center of the damaged area of skin
  • Pain that can range from mild to burning
  • Painful to the touch
  • Interference with normal walking or your ability to perform daily activities

A foot corn usually forms as a lump of hard skin in a place regularly exposed to rubbing or pressure. Some of the most common locations for a foot corn are:

  • Top of the foot at the toe joint
  • Top of a hammertoe (buckled toe joint)
  • Tips of toes that curl under your foot
  • Ends of toes that rub against your shoe

What Causes a Foot Corn?

A foot corn can result from any of the following causes:

  • Age: Corns become more common with age. Age-related physical and biomechanical changes to your feet can affect their structure and function. This can change the way you walk and hold your feet. As your feet change with age, it can impact the fit of your shoes or socks and cause irritation.
  • Socks: Socks that are too big can slip off your feet and cause friction. Too-tight socks can also cause irritation leading to a foot corn. Wearing shoes without socks promotes corn formation, leaving your foot without protection between your skin and your shoe.
  • Shoes: Wearing ill-fitting shoes can make you more likely to develop a foot corm. Shoes that are too big can allow your feet to slide and rub against the shoe. Shoes that are too small or narrow can cause friction between your foot and the shoe. A foot corn is more likely to develop when wearing tight-fitting or narrow, high-heel shoes.
  • Obesity: Having obesity can cause you to walk with an abnormal gait (the way that you walk) or weight distribution by causing foot deformities like flat feet, fallen arches, or flatter and wider feet. These characteristics can affect how your shoes fit, leading to the formation of foot corns.
  • Foot deformities: Foot deformities like hammertoes and bunions can cause abnormal foot mechanics in which your foot exerts unusual pressure. These conditions can promote bent toes, resulting in foot corns when they rub against shoes. Changes in the foot bones caused by osteoarthritis or trauma can also increase the risk of corn formation.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes are at risk of peripheral neuropathy, which causes foot numbness and muscle weakness in your feet. This lack of sensation can allow constant abnormal pressure on your feet without feeling it. Without treatment, the corn can worsen and lead to a diabetic foot ulcer, which can cause serious damage to your foot.

How Is a Foot Corn Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of a foot corn can usually be accomplished with a visual examination and a medical history. A podiatrist can usually determine whether the affected area is a corn, callus, wart, or other foot problem by examining your foot. They may also check your shoes and the way you walk.

The visible core of hard skin at the center of the affected area is an identifying characteristic of a foot corn. Lab tests usually are not necessary for a diagnosis. X-rays may be used to identify maligned foot bones, which have increased pressure and can cause calluses.

Foot Corn Treatments

The type of treatment a foot corn needs depends on its location and the symptoms it is causing. Treatment is aimed at relieving pain and correcting the pressure that caused the corn. Most mild corns usually go away on their own when the source of pressure and rubbing is removed.

Foot Corn Home Care

The following strategies can be used to treat a foot corn at home:

  • Change your shoes and socks: Ill-fitting or tight shoes or socks can cause and irritate a foot corn. Get both feet measured to ensure you're wearing the right size shoe. Select shoes with a wide toe box that is deep enough so it doesn't rub on the top of your toes.
  • Use corn pads: Protect your foot from pressure and irritation by using small, stick-on, ring-shaped corn pads to prevent rubbing in the area.
  • Soak the corn in warm water: Soak the corn in warm water for about five to 10 minutes, then use a pumice stone to remove some of the hard skin.
  • Moisturize daily: This is especially important after taking a shower.

Do not try to self-treat your corn if you have diabetes or another medical condition. Over-the-counter creams or treatments that contain urea or salicylic acid can cause a burn or foot ulcer, which can lead to serious damage if you have a wound-healing problem like diabetes. Consult a podiatrist before using this type of product.

Foot Corn Professional Treatment

A podiatrist can perform the following procedures to treat a foot corn:

  • Trimming the skin: Trimming the skin is a procedure in which your podiatrist uses a sharp tool to cut away the outer layers of skin that make up the corn.
  • Corn reduction: A corn reduction involves correcting the problem that's causing the corn. It can require cutting away extra bone, repositioning larger bones, or attaching joints. Cutting tendons or ligaments may be done to reduce tension on a bone or joint.
  • Cortisone injection: A cortisone injection into a painful corn can relieve severe discomfort.

When to See a Podiatrist About Your Foot Corn

While most corns improve with treatment that involves home care, you should consult a podiatrist if your corn involves any of the following issues:

  • Pain and discomfort
  • Problems in your daily life
  • Blood, pus, or discharge
  • Diabetes, poor circulation, or other serious conditions

Foot Corn Prognosis

The prognosis for a foot corn is usually positive. Without treatment, the corn may continue to grow and cause more pain. Proper care can prevent the corn from interfering with your ability to walk normally.

Complications of foot corn most often occur in people with diabetes or other chronic conditions that affect circulation. These problems can include foot ulcers and infections.

Coping With a Foot Corn

Taking steps to relieve the source of irritation causing your corn is the best way to cope with the problem. This can reduce pain, prevent growth, and help reduce the area of inflammation.

Avoid using tools with sharp edges like razor blades to correct the corn yourself. Doing this without proper training can result in injury. Consult your podiatrist for a corn that doesn't improve with home care or is causing severe pain.


A foot corn is an area of thickened skin that can occur on your toes, the tops of your feet, between your toes, or on the weight-bearing sections of the bottom of your feet. It often forms on places called bony prominences, where your bones are close to the surface.

Problems like hammertoe, osteoarthritis, or other foot deformities can change your feet and toes so they rub against your shoes. This can increase your risk of developing a foot corn.

A corn forms to protect an area from a source of constant rubbing or pressure. It results from the overgrowth of skin cells that form in response to the damage.

Treatment of a foot corn ranges from home care to the removal of the corn by a podiatrist. Without treatment, a corn can continue to grow. This can restrict your normal gait and hinder your daily life.

14 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Anna Giorgi
Anna Zernone Giorgi is a writer who specializes in health and lifestyle topics. Her experience includes over 25 years of writing on health and wellness-related subjects for consumers and medical professionals, in addition to holding positions in healthcare communications.