Treating painful corns and calluses involves removing the cause of the pressure or friction and getting rid of the thickened skin.
You may be advised to wear comfortable flat shoes instead of high-heeled shoes. If calluses develop on the hands, wearing protective gloves during repetitive tasks will give the affected area time to heal.
If you're not sure what's causing a corn or callus, see your GP. They may refer you to a podiatrist (also called a chiropodist). Podiatrists specialise in diagnosing and treating foot problems. They'll examine the affected area and recommend appropriate treatment.
See below for more information about podiatry and how to access it on the NHS.
Hard skin removal
A podiatrist may cut away some of the thickened skin using a sharp blade called a scalpel. This helps to relieve pressure on the tissue underneath.
Don't try to cut the corn or callus yourself. You could make it more painful and it might become infected. You can use a pumice stone or foot file to rub down skin that's getting thick.
Read more about preventing corns and calluses.
Foot care products
Pharmacies sell a range of products that allow thick, hard skin to heal and excessive pressure to be redistributed. Ask your GP, podiatrist or pharmacist to recommend the right product for you.
Examples of products that can be used to treat corns and calluses include:
- special rehydration creams for thickened skin
- protective corn plasters
- customised soft padding or foam insoles
- small foam wedges that are placed between the toes to help relieve soft corns
- special silicone wedges that change the position of your toes or redistribute pressure
Some over-the-counter products used to treat corns and calluses may contain salicylic acid. Salicylic acid is used to help soften the top layer of dead skin so it can be easily removed. The products are mild and shouldn't cause any pain.
Salicylic acid products are available for direct application (such as a liquid or gel) or in medicated pads or plasters.
It's important to avoid products containing salicylic acid if you have:
This is because there's an increased risk of damage to your skin, nerves and tendons.
Salicylic acid can sometimes damage the skin surrounding a corn or callus. You can use petroleum jelly or a plaster to cover the skin around the corn or callus.
Always read the instructions carefully before applying the product. Speak to your GP, podiatrist or pharmacist first if you're not sure which treatment is suitable.
Podiatry is available free of charge on the NHS in most areas of the UK. However, availability may vary depending on where you live.
Your case will be assessed individually, which may affect how long you'll need to wait to be seen. For example, people with severe diabetes are often given priority because the condition can cause serious foot problems to develop.
If free NHS treatment isn't available in your area, your GP can still refer you to a local clinic for private treatment, but you'll have to pay.
If you decide to contact a podiatrist yourself, make sure they're fully qualified and registered with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) and an accredited member of one of the following organisations: