Most people come to me for skin-related foot problems. By that, I mean warts, foot corns and callus.
I've written about corns vs warts before, but what about with skin callus added to the mix?
All three are ugly and uncomfortable. They're also tough to tell apart.
This confusion means you waste money on useless remedies. You limp on and on, ashamed to bare your sole.
So, here's a pro guide on wart vs callus (including pinch callus on toes).
You'll soon know the difference — and how to treat them!
Callus vs Wart
Two conditions, but it's easier to think of it as three — corns and callus vs warts
This is because you get callus and corns for (almost) the same reasons. You also get rid of them in a similar way.
Warts are a separate class of foot lump; you cure them with a different approach
Hard Skin Clues
When I see a new patient, the first thing I do is look for callus build-up.
Not only does this tell me what's going on further up, it also screams out where a corn may sprout.
Your feet are very obliging with clues, so you can use this to tell a wart vs corn vs callus.
But remember: this is a guide only and some cases even puzzle Podiatrists.
If you have any concerns, consult your medical professional before embarking on anything!
The Daily Grind: What Is Foot Callus?
Callus is the sand-dry yellow skin that's most obvious on your heels.
It occurs anywhere your foot grinds another surface. The gym floor, shoe or sidewalk; balls of the foot, toes and heels.
That's because the cause of callus is friction and pressure.
Your ever-protective body defends your feet from this by mechanical hyperkeratosis.
All this means is that you throw down extra skin (callus) wherever there's wear and tear.
Foot Callus Locations (And What They Mean)
Callus on The Balls of Your Feet
Callus on your toe-balls is due to several reasons:
Pinch Callus on Your Big or Little Toes
Anytime you see callus on the sides of your toes = friction from the side:
Callus on The Tops and Ends of Your Toes
Callus on Your Heels
Your heels attract yellow dry skin like a magnet. The main causes are:
Climate Change And Disease
Not all callus is from wear and tear. Some medical conditions pile on the dry, rough skin.
These include diabetes, hyperthyroidism and psoriasis. Thirsty thick skin can also be due to the climate you live in.
(I've noticed this applies to both very hot and cold conditions).
But, whether it's health, wealth or heat, you can still make major home improvements.
Pinch Callus Removal (At Home)
Expunging toe pinch callus isn't difficult. You should, because hefty calluses hurt (your confidence, as well as your feet).
The only real difference between home treatment compared to a clinic is the time it takes.
So for relief or nights on the town, do the following steps to banish your thick yellow foot skin.
Put The (Right) Cream on First!
First, get yourself the right foot cream: this means balm that contains urea.
Urea is a literal magic ingredient for feet.
(I use Gehwol Fusskraft Blue or Mint for everything callus related. It smells like stalk-fresh leaves and leaves a menthol after-cool)
Smooth the cream onto the rough yellow area and let it soak in for ten minutes.
Urea cream slips right into your skin. It softens, hydrates and makes it easy to remove.
Now comes the filing.
For home use, the best files are the Gehwol Pedicure Files. The level surface allows you to gauge the pressure you need to apply, better.
Emery boards break and pumice stones are too rough for the ideal amount of friction.
(Its also doubles up as a heel smoother and it's easier to use in the shower or bath)
Start slow and sand until you see the yellow skin go and healthy skin emerges. Use different angles, speeds and motions.
Once you're in the groove, don't be shy.
As well as getting rid of the hard, yellow skin, this step allows the next application of cream to work better.
Re-Apply Foot Cream, Give a Quick Second File
Grab the foot cream you put on earlier and re-anoint it. Then give your skin another quick file.
By re-touching with urea cream, you're further soothing your now new fresh skin.
For Really Bad Heel Callus...
You've rasped away the yellow and put the shine back into pink skin.
That is unless you have uber heel callus. This butt-end of your foot gets literal tons of pressure 'n' friction. The skin here gets thick 'n' cracked like dry clay.
Heel callus with big tears can need professional removal. With a blade.
But don't let that put you off. You'll still improve it tons by filing and slapping on urea cream.
What About Ped Eggs And Other DIY Scrapers?
Lots of people I treat own Ped Eggs and various other foot raspers.
TBH, I've never actually seen one. The only thing I'll say is: patients still come to me after they've used one.
So what does that tell you?
If it works for you, great. Just remember to put urea cream on after to supercharge the gadget.
Foot Corns: Callus Gone Rogue
Types of Foot Corn
Hard Corns: The Stone In Your Shoe Made of Skin
These are the yellow, oval-shaped ones you see in most pictures.
Often alone, they strike on your sole, heel or sides of toes.
Hard corns grow slow. What starts off as an occasional nip shifts to a shuffle — and when I say shuffle, I mean your new walk.
You tilt to other parts of your foot to avoid the pressure point.
Soft Corns: Cute Name, Hard Pain
They're named "soft" because they get mushy from sweat and pressure.
But don't let the cute name fool you for a second. If you've got a soft corn, you'll know about it.
One patient described the pain like a lit cigarette pressed into his skin. (Don't ask me how he knows what that feels like).
Soft corns form between your toes — most often, the pinky and the one next to it.
Seed Corns: The Missing Link
Seed corns are smaller than other corns and look like Sesames. They're also the ones most confused with plantar warts.
They're the first step between callus and corns, where mere dry skin turns into a real problem.
They're by far the easiest to home treat, but you have to catch them early. Seed corns gone wild often turn into a hard corn at some point.
A rare beast in the wild, smoker's corns are slowly becoming extinct.
Smoker's corns possess crushing pain, are easy to bleed, and a challenge to take out.
No one knows why only some smokers get them; neither do we know exactly why they form.
This one's a a curve ball.
A Lister corn is the name you sometimes see for an extra little pinky toenail.
"Lister's" are nestled right back (on the outer side) of you small nail. Rip or nip, they always grow back.
They're confused - and I can confirm this - as they look ultra similar to a tiny hard corn.
Only some people have this perma-split pinky toenail.
How To Tell Corns vs Callus
The main clue for a corn vs callus is the discomfort it gives.
Corns can hurt a lot. In fact, they can downright disable you. They can make you limp, change shoes, use the "good side" of your foot etc, etc.
A callus is more forgiving. True, it can sting, but this disappears almost straight away with the right cream and sanding.
The Inner Kernel
Foot callus is a uniform yellow. Corns have a different color in the center.
The hue varies between a lighter yellow to almost black. Sometimes it's even blood-red (guess why).
This isn't always super obvious, so the best thing to do is wet it. This highlights the color contrast.
Looking For a Raise
Corns are normally raised in the center compared to callus.
This might not be easy to see; run your finger over the center and feel for a rough, solid texture.
How To Get Rid Of A Corn at Home
With callus, addressing the pressure cause is optional. For corns, it's essential. If you don't, not only will it stay there, it'll keep growing.
For corns between your toes, you need a spacer and wider shoes. Gel or corn pads work for hard corns.
Seed corns usually need a change from sandals and generous dollops of foot cream.
To remove your corn at home, first, follow the steps to get rid of a callus. So apply the Gehwol cream and file until all the overlaying callus is gone.
This is super important because you almost always get hard skin on top of a corn.
Deleting this not only takes the pressure off, but it also lets you see the real cause of the pain.
Exposed And Vulnerable
Once you've taken off hard skin, you should see a sunken plug of hard skin.
This is the actual corn — and what's causing you 90% of the pain. Now, you need to apply a healthy dab of urea cream and let it go to work.
Put your feet up and allow it to soak in and soften the corn kernel.
This can be enough to get instant relief, but you may have to do it a few times.
If the above doesn't work, some people like to use corn plasters. The big mistake is to keep them on for too long. Don't overuse them and stick to the manufacturer's time recommendation.
Trust me, I know. I've spent a lot of time removing the built-up white skin it creates. Ironically, the corn is burnt out — but the rubber left over hurts more.
Plantar Warts - The Virus Manifest
How to Tell Wart vs Corn vs Callus
Small Black Dots
Tell-tale tiny black dots make up the classic "cauliflower" that most foot warts have.
These bleed with ease when filed or picked. Now, these can intermingle with callus, so it's a good idea to get a close-up shot with your phone if in doubt.
Sometimes, non-wart hard skin has black dots caused by injured blood vessels. In this case, look at its pigment...
Plantar warts are an off-grey color compared to the straw yellow of corns and calluses. This is super noticeable if you've spent time swimming or got your feet wet.
This virus skin will pick or peel off with ease, too.
A lot of wart cases splash about — or spread out in a very un-circular way.
This is unlike corns which are almost always oblong or seed shaped. Callus can cover a wide area but is usually in one big blob. It doesn't tend to have much smaller satellites that shoot off the main site.
Warts, on the other hand, do.
Callus vs Wart (and Corns)- Pinch Callus Removal
This is where it gets trickier as plantar warts can be stubborn to remove.
Unlike corns or callus, warts don't disappear overnight. You need to allow weeks, months even, for warts to clear.
Over-the-counter acids, like Bazuka, are good but don't use them forever.
It's best to stick to the instructions and then leave your skin to have a break from chemicals. Likewise for home freeze treatments.
In the break, cover the wart with adhesive tape for as long as you can every day. This works but you have to be consistent.
I'd say if your wart hasn't gone in three months, you're best off seeking professional removal.
Women (Have Worse Feet Than Men)
Yep, and it's all down to those ballet-tight footwear.
Fashion is an integral part of your life. Society says so — like corsets.
But it's not only shoes and buying apparel online is a double-edged razor.
You can access stuff you'd never see down your McHigh Street for sweatshop prices.
Then it rocks up and looks (or fits) decidedly different from advertised.
If you've got Amazon Prime, use Try Before You Buy.
You can order six items (including shoes, kids and men's clothes) and cavort in front of a mirror trying them for 7 days. You only pay for what you decide to keep.
(Returns are free).