How to Get Rid of Corns on Your Feet Naturally
What Are Corns?
Corns are irritating and sometimes painful patches of hard, dead skin that form in response to pressure, stress or friction. They usually occur on thin or smooth, hairless skin surfaces, especially on the tops of toes or in between them.1
- Present as a thick, upraised area that is circular or cone-shaped
- Can have an unsightly red and swollen appearance
- Are smaller than calluses
- Have a hard center
- Usually develop on parts of your foot that don't bear weight i.e. tops and sides of feet or even between your toes, though they can develop on weight-bearing areas as well
- Can be painful when pressed
- Have a texture that can vary from dry, waxy and transparent to a horny mass
Corns typically form in these areas:2
- On the outside of the pinky toe where the foot rubs against the shoe
- Between the 4th and the 5th toe (these corns are sometimes a different kind — soft and white-ish — these are sometimes called soft corns)
- On the bottom of the foot or on top of the toes
How to Get Rid of Them
Corns are an annoying foot problem.
To have a corn go away permanently, you'll need to remove the source of friction that is causing them. You can do this by changing your habits or your footwear, or by covering the corns in protective layers like thicker socks, moleskin, or donut-shaped pads that help distribute weight more evenly around the corn.
According to Dr. Neuhaus in the video below, sometimes abnormalities in the foot are the cause of the corn, such as bone spurs or hammer toes. In these cases, you might need to have surgery in order to prevent the corn from coming back even after you've used an over-the-counter remedy or changed your footwear habits.
You'll find special medicated shields along with other remedies available in pharmacies which can help eliminate corns (though they won't treat its underlying cause). A number of these products contain salicylic acid solution which can be effective, but can also cause skin discomfort if used incorrectly.
Many of these medicated products chemically work at the layer of dead skin to help make it easier to rub off.2 These products come in many different forms, including drops, applicators, pads, and plasters. The salicylic acid, the same ingredient in over-the-counter wart removal, will turn a layer of the corn white, allowing you to trim or peel it off. Eventually, the corn will protrude less and be less painful.
In addition to over-the-counter medications, you can try these home remedies as well. Just remember that the only lasting treatment is removing the underlying cause of the corn.
- Pumice Stone. First, soak the foot to soften the tough skin. Then, using light pressure, rub a wet pumice stone back and forth across the corn. Pause every couple of minutes to wash away the dead skin, and repeat until it is smooth.3
- Baking Soda and Hot Water. Soaking the affected feet in a solution of baking soda and hot water is effective in removing the tough, dead skin. Put three tablespoons of baking soda into a bucket of warm water and then soak your feet. Alternatively, you can massage the affected area with a baking soda paste made up of three parts soda to one part water. Then, rub the area with a pumice stone.
- Vinegar. Before bed, soak a cotton ball with vinegar and attach it to the affected area, leaving it on overnight. The following day, use a pumice stone to rub the corn away.
- Moisturize. Apply moisturizer to the affected areas in order to keep the skin soft.
- Separate the Toes. To relieve corns that develop between the toes, separate them using organic cotton or lamb's wool.
Keep in mind that the reliability of these home remedies cannot be guaranteed. Check with your doctor to develop an appropriate treatment plan for your foot problems.
What Not to Do
Do not attempt to cut your corns or calluses at home. This is a procedure that only a medical professional should do. It is also advised that diabetics or those with poor blood circulation see a doctor before attempting self-treatment of corns.
Corn vs. Calluses and How to Treat Them
Should You See a Doctor?
Most people won't need to see a doctor for their corns unless yours are especially painful or inflamed, or if they have become infected.
You should also see a doctor for any foot issues if you are diabetic or have poor blood flow, since attempting self-treatment may lead to an open ulcer on your foot.2
How Do Corns Develop?
Corns are natural defense mechanisms that help protect the skin against friction and pressure.1 According to the Mayo Clinic, some factors that can contribute to their development include:
- Foot abnormalities, such as hammer toes
- Bony prominences on the foot (such as bunions)
- Ill-fitting footwear (whether too tight or too loose)
- High-heeled shoes (which put pressure on the front of the foot)
- An irregular gait
- Ill-fitting socks
- Flat feet
- Walking on hard surfaces
- Not wearing shoes
- Repetitive motions4
People over the age of 65, diabetics, and those who are frequently engaged in farming and gardening work are also at a heightened risk for developing corns and other foot problems.
Though corns do not necessarily pose much of a problem beyond discomfort, they can potentially lead to tissue damage or ulceration due to their funnel-like composition.
While there are some good do-it-yourself solutions, it's always best to prevent corns from forming in the first place. Here are some steps to follow:
- Notice Points of Pressure and Friction. Corns and calluses come from friction and pressure. So if you notice a frequent rubbing sensation when you walk, try to identify and remove what's causing it.
- Trim Your Toenails. The pressure from overly long nails can push the toe joint up to rub against the top of your shoe, leading to a corn or callous.
- Petroleum Jelly. Moisturize areas of the feet which tend to have a lot of friction, particularly when you need to do lots of walking.
- Buy Shoes That Fit. Always purchase shoes that fit correctly and are comfortable to walk in. It can be a good idea to go shoe shopping in the later part of the afternoon as the feet tend to swell slightly at that time. You should also have your feet measured to get as accurate a sizing as possible. Women who need to wear heels for work should reduce the height as much as possible and wear comfortable shoes to work and change there.5
- Foot Pads. You can find pads at your local drugstore which, when applied to a sensitive area, can take the pressure off your corn, giving it time to heal. You can also find toe separators to keep your toes from rubbing together or insert lambswool between your toes.
- Wash, Dry, and Moisturize Your Feet Daily. Keeping your skin soft will help prevent the formation of corns, and the daily attention to your feet will help you catch problems before they become a bigger issue.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Corns and Calluses." April 27, 2017. Mayo Clinic. Accessed May 10, 2017.
- Stoppler, Melissa Conrad, MD. "Corns." April 26, 2017. MedicineNet. Accessed May 10, 2017.
- "Calluses and Corns: Using Pumice Stones - Topic Overview." (n.d.) WebMD. Accessed May 11, 2017.
- Min Han, Kyoung, DPM, AACFAS. "Corns and Calluses." October 24, 2016. eMedicineHealth. Accessed May 10, 2017.
- Reviewed by Lisa Bernstein, MD. "Understanding Corns and Calluses: Prevention." March 27, 2017. WebMD. Accessed May 10, 2017.