Natural Ways to Soften Corns and Calluses

By Scott J. Banks, Joe Kraynak, J. J. Virgin

Corns and calluses are thick, hardened layers of skin that develop as your skin tries to protect itself from excess friction or pressure. A corn is smaller than a callous, usually appears on the top or side of the foot or toe, and is characterized by a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin. A callous is larger but rarely painful and usually forms on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.

Although they may be uncomfortable or unsightly, corns and calluses rarely pose a serious danger to your health, unless they become infected. Complications are more likely to arise in individuals with compromised immune systems or poor circulation, such as certain people with diabetes.

Don’t cut to remove a corn or callous because doing so can cause infection or bleeding. Instead, treat corns and calluses with a two‐pronged approach: removing the cause of the problem and then treating the corn or callus itself.

Removing the source of the problem

First, relieve the pressure or friction that caused the corn or callus. Avoid repetitive actions that caused the corn or callus to form and be sure that you’re wearing the right shoe for your foot. Check your foot size periodically (your foot grows as you age) and shop for shoes at the end of the day when your feet are swollen. Doing so prevents you from buying shoes that are too small.

For corns, you can also try nonmedicated corn pads, available in most stores to relieve pressure.

Consult a podiatrist or chiropractor to obtain custom orthotics — inserts designed specifically to support the three arches of your feet. Don’t settle for over‐the‐counter shoe inserts. Get two or three pairs — one pair each for your work, dress, and exercise shoes — to provide custom support for that particular shoe type and activity.

Removing the corn or callus

After you do what you can to avoid corns and calluses, then turn your attention to removing the corn or callus by following these steps (if you have diabetes, consult your doctor prior to trying any of the home remedies outlined in these steps):

  1. Soak your hands or feet in warm water or apply over‐the‐counter patches that contain 40 percent salicylic acid, as instructed on the label.

    This step softens the corn or callus.

    Soak your feet in warm water with Epsom salt, apply moisturizer, and wrap each foot in a plastic bag. Keep the bags on for at least one hour. You can do this while reading or watching TV.

  2. Use a nail file, emery board, or pumice stone to gently scrub away the dead skin.

    Scrub away only the dead skin. Dead, softened skin rubs off easily; if you need to scrub hard to remove the skin, either it’s not soft enough or you’re removing live skin and will end up with a painful raw area if you continue.

  3. Apply an antibiotic cream to prevent infection.

  4. Repeat Steps 1 through 3 one or two times daily until the skin feels normal.