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Last week we learned about what calluses and corns are and what causes them.  This week, let’s talk about how to treat them and things we can do to prevent them.

How do we treat calluses and corns?

Before we talk about ways to treat calluses and corns, it’s important to take into consideration any health conditions you may have (ie. diabetes, peripheral vascular disease).  Improper treatment can potentially put you at risk of other complications.  For example, you can risk causing an infection or creating a wound if you over-treat a callus or a corn.  So before you start, ask your family doctor or your chiropodist and see whether self-treatment is a safe and viable option.  

To start off, calluses can be lightly filed using a pumice stone or a foot file to remove the superficial layer.  Be careful when you do this because you don’t want to take off too much.  Taking off too much skin can lead to oversensitivity in the area so it’s best to leave a tiny bit of callus behind.  You can also file down the overlying layer of skin on top of a corn.  This will help to reduce pressure and discomfort while walking.

Secondly, apply cream to your feet twice a day.  I like to recommend creams with an active ingredient of urea in it.  Urea helps in water retention of the skin and acts as a keratolytic meaning it helps to break down the strong bonds between skin cells.  Remember to apply the cream all over your feet EXCEPT in between the toes.  We want to avoid introducing more moisture in between the toes as this can cause breakdown of the skin.

Now what about those corn removal products we can find at our local pharmacies and stores.  Are those safe to use?  The active ingredient to a lot of those products is salicylic acid.  Salicylic acid acts to break down the skin cells and allow for the sloughing away of skin.  I typically discourage the use of these to my clients especially those with a lack of sensation in their feet.  Salicylic acid is unable to distinguish between good and bad tissue and improper use of the product can lead to potential wounds or even infections.

Now what if none of these methods help or you’re having a hard time treating it yourself?  Well it’s a good time to seek help and advice from a medical professional like a Chiropodist!  Treatment of calluses and corns are one of our specialties.  As a Chiropodist, we will assess the condition, determine the cause, and provide advice on ways to prevent them from coming back.  We debride calluses and enucleate corns to get rid of the discomfort so that you will leave the clinic much more comfortable.  It’s also a good idea to have corns and calluses looked at by a chiropodist as they can often mask other underlying causes that only a proper assessment will reveal.

Ways to prevent calluses and corns:

So how can we prevent or lessen the growth of calluses and corns?  The solution, get rid of the causing agents. 

Buy the right shoes:

Now don’t go thinking that the solution is to buy bigger shoes.  In fact, buying shoes that are too big and loose can cause your feet to slip and slide inside which is not ideal.  Try buying a pair of shoes that fit your foot perfectly. 

Make sure the shoe accommodates all bony deformities in your feet and that the toe box has the right shape, height, and width.  A good tip that I give to my clients when purchasing shoes is (if possible) remove the insole out of the shoe and place it on the ground.  Take your foot and place it on-top of the insole.  Are all parts of your feet laying on-top of the insole?  If you notice any toes or bony deformities hanging over the edge of the insole, it means that either the shoe is too small or not wide enough.  Another thing you can ask is what the return policy is for the shoes you are purchasing.  If possible, buy the shoes and bring them home.  Wear them indoors at home for a couple days and see whether there are any signs of redness or irritation in your feet.  I also recommend softer materials in the uppers of a shoe (think of a mesh running shoe).  The mesh will accommodate bony deformities more comfortably and provide less pressure in the area.  If you find yourself trying to accommodate a bony prominence inside a pair of stiff leather shoes, consider visiting a shoe maker to help stretch out the leather material.

Remember, its repetitive pressure and friction that causes corns and calluses to form.  So if we are able to eliminate the cause, the chances of them growing are a lot less.

Offloading with padding:

You may come across these sticky donut pads in the foot care aisle of your local store or pharmacy.  These are totally safe to use.  The purpose of these pads is to help offload the area of pressure and to provide padding and cushioning.  You can either choose to stick the pad directly onto your foot or stick them to the inside of your shoes so they last longer.  Mole skin can also be used to help reduce sheering irritations inside of your shoes.  A lot of skaters will stick them to the inside of their skates to prevent blister and callus formation.

Orthotic therapy:

Orthotics are insoles that fit inside your shoe to help realign the body and redistribute pressure in the foot.  They can either be custom-made or over-the-counter (OTC).  The difference between the two is that custom-made orthotics is made specifically for your feet whereas OTC insoles are made for a more general foot type.  Custom orthotics can also cost significantly more ranging from $350 to $600 whereas over-the-counter insoles can cost around $30 to $50.  By helping to redistribute pressure evenly along the bottom of the feet, areas of high pressure are reduced leading to a decrease in callus and corn formation.  Different types of modifications and padding can also be placed into orthotics to further help with offloading such as a cut-out or a sweet-spot in the shell.  Whether you decide to go with custom-made or OTC insoles both help with shock absorption, redistribution of pressure, body alignment, and management of calluses and corns. 

Stay tuned next week for more foot for thought!

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