If you think corns are something only your grandmother has to worry about, think again.
The hard, thick patches of dry skin that build up in areas of pressure and friction on the foot frequently come from ill-fitting shoes. And heels can be some of the worst culprits.
"If there's a pressure point on an area of the foot, the skin grows more and more in that one particular area. As more skin grows, it forms the corn," explains Steven Neufeld, MD a Washington, D.C.-based orthopedic surgeon. "I see corns most commonly in women who wear shoes that are too tight."
Other causes of corns may include fallen arches that cause an abnormal gait pattern and the formation of bunions and hammertoes, which can put pressure on bony parts of the toes leading to corns, says Dana Canuso, DPM, a podiatric surgeon and founder of Dr. Canuso Skincare for Feet.
Once a corn has already formed, the best way to treat it is to determine the cause and get rid of it, says Canuso. "You may notice that a certain pair of boots, heels, or even sneakers make the corn more painful and may be aggravating it. Discontinue wearing those shoes immediately, even for a short period of time. That could be making the corn worse."
If you're experiencing significant pain, swelling, or redness around the area, or if you're diabetic, see a podiatrist, Canuso says. In the office, a podiatrist can easily remove larger corns with a surgical blade, if necessary. "They can use the blade to carefully shave away the thickened, dead skin without needing to numb or inject the area," explains Meghan Arnold, DPM, a St. Louis, MO podiatrist. "The procedure is painless because the skin is already dead."
Fortunately, medical intervention isn't usually needed when it comes to corn removal. With some detective work and patience (and maybe giving those ill-fitting heels to Goodwill) corns may go away on their own, Canuso says.
For those who find themselves dealing with mild discomfort from corns, here are six podiatrist-approved OTC products to both prevent and treat corns.
1. Profoot Care Vita-Gel Corn Wraps
To make your feet feel more comfortable right away, pads like these provide cushion and protection without medication that may break down the skin, says Canuso. "I always recommend trying corn pads and remedies without medication first, especially if you are diabetic."
2. ZenToes Gel Toe Cap and Protector
If the corn is in an awkward spot on a toe, try these padded gel tubes to ease the pain. They fit right over toes and can be cut to size easily, says Arnold. They're available online as well as in drugstores nationwide.
3. Kiehl's Intensive Treatment & Moisturizer for Dry or Callused Areas
Because corns are caused by a build up of dry skin, keeping skin hydrated is important for prevention and maintenance. Neufeld recommends a non-petroleum based, high-quality moisturizer like this one to help to avoid dry, chapped, and cracked feet.
4. Mr. Pumice Ultimate Pumi Bars
To prevent existing corns from growing in size, you can use a pumice stone to gently shave the excess skin down until it's smooth, says Neufeld. "If you can stop the growth cycle by smoothing it down, and keep your skin moisturized, you may not need to see a podiatrist or orthopedic surgeon," he adds.
5. AmLactin Foot Repair Foot Cream Therapy
To increase moisture and gently soften the skin, Arnold recommends moisturizing creams with lactic acid like this one, which is mild and easier on the skin. "Never use corn pads with acid as they can burn the skin and cause wounds or infections," she says.
6. Nature Made Vitamin E Dietary Supplement Softgels
The oil contained in vitamin E capsules is a great way to keep skin moist, says Canuso.
Warning: it can be a bit messy. Try applying it to your feet at night and then sleeping in cotton socks to absorb the oil.