Corns on toes are abhorred due to their unsightly appearance and the occasional pain they cause. Corns are calluses that grow on frequently aggravated areas of the skin, especially toes.
Friction and pressure are often considered the primary causes of the growth. As a part of the body that has to bear its entire weight when standing or walking, toes mostly receive a lot of pressure, which is exacerbated by the fact that most people often wear shoes with incorrect size.
The cramped space inside the shoes will force the toes to bend, multiplying the pressure that the toes have to bear. Several treatments are available to remove corns on toes.
There are also several effective ways of how to get rid of corns on toes naturally. With proper treatment and lifestyle improvement, corns on toes can be removed permanently.
What Is Corn on Toes?
A corn is also called a clavus or heloma. It is a specific type of callus with distinct shape that emerges on thin, smooth and hairless skin surface. Corns often occur on toes and fingers, parts of the body where pressure is frequent. Corn can be either soft or hard.
Normally, when corn is formed, it becomes hard. When sweat is trapped in the growth, the hard tissue will be softened and a soft corn will be formed. Soft corns mostly occur on skin surface between toes, where sweat constantly accumulates.
How does corn differ from callus? Unlike calluses, which are generally painless, corns can be painful. This is due to the structure of the corns, which consists of a hard sensitive center surrounded by inflamed skin.
Callus appears as the thickening of skin surface, so does corn; however, unlike callus, corn has a concave center that presses on sensory nerves. Pain occurs if anything accidentally presses against this center.
Although corns may cause skin problems, such as ulceration and infection, corns are by no means caused by infection. It is caused neither by bacteria nor viruses and it is not considered a contagious disease.
Nevertheless, corns can become so stubborn that even if a surgical procedure has successfully removed them, they may reappear on the same spot as long as the cause of their occurrence is not properly dealt with.
What Causes Corns?
Corn occurs on the skin because of frequent pressure and friction. When a certain spot on the skin surface receives too much friction and pressure, the horny layer of its epidermis, which is called stratum corneum, will proliferate extensively.
As a result, a callus that has conical shape will form on the surface of the skin. The broad end of the cone will appear on the skin surface and its point will be projected inward, forming a dense center that presses on sensory nerves.
Direct pressure on this sensitive center often causes a great pain. Understanding the cause of corns on toes is important because even if proper corn removal treatment is done, the corn will mostly reappear if the affected area of the skin is still exposed to friction and pressure.
Corn Risk Factors
Corn may occur on the toes of every person; however, people with the following traits have higher tendency to have corns on their toes.
- People with bunions
Bunion occurs when the fluid-filled sac of the first joint of the great toe, also called bursa, is inflamed and when the joint is distorted. The inflammation of bursa is medically called bursitis.
If the bone of the joint thickens, bunion may become permanent. People with bunion on their toes are more vulnerable to corns because the protruding bunion may exacerbate the friction and pressure.
- People with hammertoe
Hammertoe is a condition in which the toe appears like a claw. This condition occurs because the joint between the two toe bones is bent downward. The skin around the bent joint will be more exposed to friction and pressure and as a result, corns will likely occur there.
- People with bone spur
If the bone of any areas of the feet is projected outward, the skin of the affected areas will be aggravated more frequently and violently. As a consequence, corns will be more likely to appear there.
- People with scoliosis
Scoliosis or excessive curvature of spine may cause faulty foot function. This, eventually, causes certain area of the feet to receive too much pressure and friction.
The rigorous physical activities that athletes regularly perform may cause the feet to bear too much stress. If this occurs over a long period of time, corns and calluses will start to occur on the most stressed areas of the feet and hands.
- Manual workers
Just like athletes, workers who regularly perform manual labors may have to use tools that stress and aggravate their hands and feet. Corns and calluses may occur on the most aggravated area of their hands and feet.
- People who rarely wear protective gear
People who wear shoes that are too tight and those who don’t wear socks when wearing their shoes are more prone to corns. Socks, or any other fabrics that have the same function, such as bandage, protect the skin from friction.
The risk of corns on toes will be bigger on people who wear their footgear without protection.
Although corns are not the same with calluses, both skin conditions share the following characteristics.
- Skin thickening on the affected area of the skin
- An area on the skin that becomes drier than its surrounding
- Tenderness under the skin that is often accompanied with painful sensation
- The formation of hard bump on the affected area of the skin
What makes corn different from callus is that the former has a hard center that becomes the source of pain. Calluses may also trigger painful sensation, but they do so less frequently than corns do.
It is important to remember that certain conditions, such as syphilis, keratosis and exposure to arsenic and sunray, may also trigger the occurrence of calluses and corns.
Therefore, when those symptoms occur, visiting a doctor is recommended not only to deal with the skin condition, but also to investigate more serious health problem that may become the underlying cause of the occurrence of corns or calluses.
Although corns and calluses are generally harmless, they may cause serious complications if they occur in diabetic people. On those people, the harmless corns may turn into serious infection and ulceration.
Doctor consultation is considered indispensable if diabetic people or those with insensitive skin have corns on their toes.
How to Prevent Corns on Toes?
Because corns on toes are caused by excessive friction and pressure, the best way to prevent corns on toes from occurring is by avoiding friction and pressure.
Choosing the right footgear with the right size and avoiding wearing shoes that are either too tight or too loose is an effective way to prevent corns.
Tight shoes will press the feet and cause the toes to bend whereas loose shoes cause the feet to slide, leading to frequent friction. By choosing the right size for the shoes, both pressure and friction can be avoided.
Because even sufficiently sized shoes can still cause friction, protecting the feet with socks and pad is also necessary to prevent corns. Be careful, though, when wearing socks because socks fill the space inside the shoes.
If wearing socks makes the shoes feel too tight, choosing slightly larger shoes might be necessary. The socks must also be made from comfortable and soft fabric. Socks made from rough fabric will aggravate the feet and exacerbate the friction.
Proper padding will also be great for preventing corns on toes and soothing the feet if the corns have already occurred. The pad has been designed to be able to transfer the pressure of the shoes from the painful spot where corns occur to another healthy spot.
Another problem that needs special attention is toenail. Toenail that is not properly trimmed will occupy the room inside the shoes. If the nail becomes too overgrown, the pressure of the shoes may damage the nail and injure the toes.
Frequently trimming toenail is necessary to make sure that it doesn’t cause the toes to receive too much pressure. In brief, corns will less likely occur if the feet are perfectly protected from excessive pressure and friction.
Diagnosis of Corns on Toes
Although corns have clear symptoms, proper diagnosis might be necessary to confirm the condition and to find out the health problem that causes their occurrence or exacerbates them.
During the diagnosis, the doctor will perform physical exam to confirm that the skin thickening is indeed a corn. There are other skin conditions that show almost the same symptoms, such as abscess and wart. A physical exam will affirm the type of the skin condition to be treated.
An X-ray might also be necessary to determine the cause of the corn. External pressure and friction are indeed the primary causes of corn; however, any abnormalities that occur underneath the skin, such as bone spur and bunion, which we already talk about above, may exacerbate the problem.
An X-ray might be necessary to diagnose those conditions because treating them is an essential part of corn treatment.
Clinical Treatments for Corns
There are several treatments that are known to be effective for removing corns on toes permanently. The most effective treatment, however, is the preventive one, that is to protect the toes from excessive pressure and friction.
There are two reasons why this preventive treatment is necessary. First, on healthy people who are not suffering from diabetes, corns on toes will disappear on their own if they successfully protect their toes from excessive pressure and friction.
Second, if this preventive measure is not taken properly, no treatment will actually work. The corn will reappear on the same aggravated spot after it is removed.
The doctor will mostly recommend his or her patients wear shoes that are not too tight and protect their feet with comfortable socks after they undergo corn removal treatment.
If the patients are unable to choose the right shoes due to certain abnormalities that occur in their feet, the doctor may recommend that they wear an orthotics, a custom-made shoe insert that allows the deformed feet to fit comfortably in the shoes.
Patients who can affirm their readiness to prevent their corns from ever reappearing again can undergo one of the following clinical treatments to remove corns on their toes permanently.
- Paring the corns
The most straightforward way to remove corns is by paring or cutting them using scalpel. This treatment, however, can and should only be done by a doctor.
Although there are numerous drugstore items that can be purchased and used for trimming the corns, trying this treatment at home without professional’s supervision may cause heavy bleeding and infection.
- Shrinking the corns
Instead of cutting the corns, gradually shrinking them can be considered a less invasive—thereby more favored—treatment. The pain will also be immediately reduced when the corns shrink.
Shrinking can be done using a patch containing 40% salicylic acid. This patch will gradually reduce the corns and make them disappear.
If the corn is caused by abnormalities in the bone structure, surgical procedure is mostly necessary. Through this procedure, the skeletal abnormalities of the feet that potentially trigger the occurrence of the corn will be corrected.
During the treatment, certain medications, especially the ones used to prevent infection, are usually administered to the patients.
How to Get Rid of Corns on Toes Naturally
Given the fact that corns on toes are generally harmless, undergoing expensive clinical treatment to get rid of them might be too much for most people.
For those who believe that the corn is a simple nuisance that can be treated at home, there are actually several ways to get rid of corns on toes naturally.
There are two ways to treat corns on toes naturally. The first is to prevent the corns from worsening and the second is to reduce them and to get rid of them permanently. We will start with the first.
How to Prevent the Worsening of Corns on Toes?
There are several home treatments that are meant to soothe the affected area of the skin and to prevent corns from worsening.
By performing those treatments, the pain caused by the corns can be reduced and you can perform your daily activities without aggravating your corns.
Here are some effective treatments to tame the corns and to prevent them from causing problem.
- Coating the feet with petroleum jelly
Petroleum jelly is a greasy gelatinous substance that can act as an effective lubricant. By coating the feet with petroleum jelly when wearing shoes, friction can be significantly reduced.
If there is already corn on the toes, the reduced friction will prevent it from being aggravated and the painful sensation that it causes can be prevented.
- Keeping the toes separated using lamb’s wool
Corns that occur on indentation between toes are usually painful due to their softness. The pain will occur not only when the corns are in contact with shoes, but also when they are in contact with the adjacent toes.
To prevent such painful contact, lamb’s wool, which is known to be soft, can be placed between the toes. If lamb’s wool is not available, cotton or another soft material can also be used to keep the toes separated.
- Keeping soft corns dry
If the corn is soft, keeping it dry by preventing sweat from accumulating on the affected area of the skin is necessary.
Although wiping the sweaty skin with soft and clean cloth does work to keep the skin dry, using natural ingredients, such as cornstarch, can work more effectively to maintain the dryness of the skin over a longer period of time. Talcum powder can also be used in lieu of cornstarch.
- Wearing corn pad
Certain pads are designed specifically to prevent already occurring corns from being in contact with the shoes’ hard inner surface. These pads surround the corns with soft material that perfectly protects the corns from accidental contact.
By wearing the pad, corns as well as the pain they cause can be effectively dealt with.
Those treatments are intended to protect the affected area and to prevent the corns from being aggravated.
On healthy people, simply keeping the corns away from accidental pressure, friction and aggravation will often cause the corns to disappear on their own.
If a faster way to get rid of corns is preferred, the next part of this article will discuss specifically about home treatments to remove corns.
Home Corn Removal Treatments
Certain home treatments can help reduce and permanently remove corns on toes. Those treatments are fairly easy to do and most ingredients that they require can easily be found at home.
- Soaking the corns
Soaking the corns in warm water allows the hardened skin to become softer. This treatment is also known to be effective for calluses. If the corns feel painful, adding Epsom salt to the water is a good way to relieve the pain.
Epsom salt is also an effective cure for swelling. By soaking the feet with Epsom salt solution, the swollen corn will gradually shrink.
The feet don’t necessarily have to be left immersed in the solution all the time. It is possible to soak the feet for a while and then to apply moisturizing cream to the feet and to wrap them in a plastic bag.
Keeping the feet wrapped in the bag for a couple hours is an effective home treatment to reduce corn-related pain and to allow the corn to shrink.
- Moisturizing the affected skin
If flaky dry crust is formed on the surface of the corn, applying moisturizing cream or natural moisturizer to it will keep the affected skin soft and moisturized.
There are various moisturizing creams that are available at the store. People who prefer to use natural moisturizer can resort to using coconut oil, olive oil or such plants as Aloe vera.
- Thinning the thickening skin
It is possible to sand the thickening skin and to make it thinner. Certain abrasive materials, such as pumice stone, emery board and nail file, are often used to remove dead skin cells on the surface of calluses, corns and other similar skin condition.
Sand the affected area of the skin regularly to exfoliate the skin and to allow healthy skin cells to replace the dead skin cells.
This treatment, however, should be done with caution because if the sanding is done too rigorously, the skin might be wounded and infection may occur.
The risk of infection is even greater on people with diabetes. Generally speaking, although this treatment is recommended for healthy people, it is not recommended for diabetic people.
Home Remedies for Treating Corns on Toes
In addition to performing the aforementioned treatments, using home remedies that will be explained below can also effectively remove corns on toes. Most ingredients of those remedies are available in the kitchen and nearby grocery stores.
Therefore, obtaining them should not be a difficult task. Here are some home remedies that are known to be effective for treating corns on toes and removing them permanently.
Pumice stone is a light porous rock that is not very harsh when used for sanding skin. We have been mentioned the effective use of pumice stone for sanding away the dead skin layer on the surface of the corns, but we have not elaborated more comprehensively how to get rid of corns on toes naturally using pumice stone.
If pumice stone is used to thin the thickening skin, here are the right steps to use the stone.
- Clean and sterilize the stone using clean water and antibacterial agent. Using unhygienic pumice stone is risky because the bacteria may infect the exfoliated skin.
- Soak the feet in the water and clean them with liquid soap. This is not only to make sure that the skin is perfectly clean before the sanding process, but also to soften the hard surface of the corns to make them easier to sand.
- Wet the stone with clean water. If the stone is too dry, the rubbing process will be too violent and there is a chance that the corns will be wounded.
- Rub the corns gently with the stone until you see thin skin flakes removed from the surface of the skin.
- Clean the feet once again using warm water to dispose of the flakes as well as the shedding particles of the stone.
- Repeat the rubbing and cleaning process until you see that the skin is thin enough, that is when you see no hard crust on the surface of the corns.
- Finalize the treatment by applying moisturizer and topical antibiotic to the treated area of the skin. The moisturizer keeps the skin hydrated and the antibiotic prevents infection.
Do this treatment regularly whenever you see dry skin layer on the corns. By performing this treatment regularly while avoiding friction and pressure, you can expect the corns to disappear soon.
There are two reasons why baking soda solution can be a great remedy for corns on toes.
First, baking soda is a potent natural exfoliant that eradicates dead skin cells and restores the skin’s youthfulness. Second, baking soda has antifungal and antibacterial properties.
Pathogenic fungi may grow on the damp feet and exacerbate the corns. Bacteria may also cause infection. The antifungal and antibacterial properties of baking soda obviously make it a perfect cure for corns on toes.
Follow the following steps to use baking soda as corn remedy.
- Mix two or three tablespoons of baking soda with warm water. Put the solution in a basin that can conveniently accommodate your feet.
- Immerse your feet in the solution for about 15 minutes.
- Once you see that the skin flakes have started to fall out, rinse your feet to remove the flakes.
You can also use pumice stone to further abrade the skin after soaking your feet in this solution.
Lemon contains citrus acid that works effectively in softening the hardened skin and removing dead skin cells. There are various ways to use lemon for treating corns.
- The simplest way is by applying the lemon directly to the corn.
- It is also possible to apply the juice extract of the lemon instead of the fruit. When applying the juice, it is possible to use bare hand or clove. Using clove will improve the healing potency of the juice because of the healing properties of this aromatic plant.
- You can also mix lemon juice with baking soda and water to create a paste. You can then apply the paste topically to the corn.
- Similar lemon juice paste can also be made by mixing the juice with Brewer’s yeast.
When using lemon juice paste to treat the corn, be sure to cover the corn with bandage and to leave it overnight after applying the paste.
White vinegar has almost similar characteristics to those of baking soda. Its high acidity allows dead skin cells to fall out and its antifungal and antibacterial properties make it a potent remedy for preventing infection, which is highly necessary during the treatment of corn.
To use white vinegar for treating corn, take the following steps.
- Prepare a 25% white vinegar solution with water.
- Apply the solution to the corn before you go to sleep.
- Cover the treated corn with clean bandage.
- Leave the bandaged corn overnight.
- When you wake up in the morning, remove the bandage and rinse the corn to remove any shedding skin flakes. If there are skin flakes that are still left, use clean and wet pumice stone to remove them.
- Moisturize the affected skin using moisturizing cream or natural moisturizer.
Perform this treatment once every day until the corn completely disappears.
Many people like to use turpentine oil to treat their corns because this oil is capable to remove corns on toes fast. One obvious reason of its fast healing properties is its fast absorption rate.
Once applied to the skin, it will be absorbed quickly by the skin, allowing it to work faster in removing the corns. Here are the steps to use turpentine oil for treating corns on toes.
- Cool down the treated skin area using ice. Massage the skin during the cooling process.
- Dry the skin and apply turpentine oil to it. It is also possible to mix turpentine oil with coconut oil and camphor oil to improve its potency and to add moisturizing properties to the remedy.
- Cover the treated area of the skin with clean bandage and then leave it overnight.
- In the morning, you can see the dryer layers of the skin shedding away. Using pumice stone can help shedding away any flakes that are still left on the skin.
Do this treatment every day until the corn disappears.
There are many other home remedies that can be used to treat corns on toes, such as garlic and chamomile tea. Basically, the procedure to use those remedies is the same with the procedure of using the aforementioned five home remedies.
You need to apply the remedy topically to the corn and leave it overnight. All of those remedies are completely harmless as long as you are healthy. You can use them to treat your corn without having to fear any side effects.
However, you will need doctor’s supervision if you have diabetes or another health condition that causes skin insensitiveness and vulnerability to infection.
Corns on toes are completely harmless and they are not contagious. The only reason why you want to get rid of them is because they cause discomfort and because they are unsightly.
There are some home remedies that can be used to treat corns. You can use those remedies without worrying about side effects; however, getting doctor’s assistance and supervision is always recommended, especially if you are diabetic or you have health condition that makes your body more vulnerable to infection.