What’s the Difference Between a Corn and a Callus?

Corns and callouses can be unsightly. Here's how to get rid of them. . LeventeGyori/Shutterstock

Corns and calluses are not interchangeable terms, but they may be used that way because not everyone knows the difference. Let’s start with the similarities: They’re both thick, hardened layers of skin that form to protect an area from irritation, according to the AmericanPodiatric Medical Association (APMA). They both occur on the feet, toes, hands and fingers. And neither one is very pretty.

Now, here’s how they differ. Calluses usually develop on the soles of your feet, especially under the heels or balls. People who work with their hands may develop calluses there, too. They are rarely painful, vary in size and shape and are often larger than corns, the MayoClinic says.

Corns are smaller than calluses and have a hard center surrounded by inflamed skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Corns tend to develop on the tops and sides of your toes and between your toes — the parts of your feet that don't bear weight (though sometimes they can be found in weight-bearing areas, too).

If a corn or callus becomes inflamed or very painful, it’s best to see your doctor, the Mayo Clinic says. If you have diabetes or poor blood flow in your feet, don’t treat a corn or callus yourself, the APMA recommends.

If you decide to try removing them yourself, here are some tips:

How to remove a corn

First, fill a wash basin with warm water, dish soap and about a cup of apple cider vinegar. Soak your feet in the water for 15 minutes, according to Reader’sDigest. Then, when the skin is soft, carefully use a pumice stone to sand the corn down. Cover with a corn pad containing salicylic acid to help keep infections at bay, the Mayo Clinic says. Repeat the process until the corn is gone.

Some websites like EarthClinic.com and LiveStrong.com suggest using just the apple cider vinegar — soak some into a gauze pad, use it to cover the corn and tape into place with surgical tape. Reader’s Digest also says you can rub vitamin A oil or vitamin E oil onto the corn each night and wear a pair of white cotton socks while you sleep. Repeat until the corn is gone.

Another home remedy to try? Lemon peels, which you can cut to size and tape onto your corn each night for a week or so. WikiHow says castor oil works well — apply a nice amount to gauze pad and apply for three to four minutes. It’ll soften the corn so you can exfoliate the area more easily. Reapply a few times a day.

How to remove a callus

For calluses, put some Epsom salts into a basin of warm water, and then soak your feet for 10 to 15 minutes, Reader’s Digest recommends. Once the dead skin has softened, use a pumice stone to gently scrub off the top layers. Continue to file the callus down once a day after bathing. This process is slow and might take some time, even a few weeks. But trying to remove the whole thing at once can make the callus worse.

How to keep them from coming back

Wear shoes that fit well, the APMA says. If you can’t wiggle your toes, your shoes are too tight, according to the Mayo Clinic, and that can cause corns to develop. (Your gorgeous new pointy-toed stilettos may, unfortunately, fall into this category.)

Also, try gel pad inserts to decrease friction and relieve pressure, the APMA says. (You can buy them at your local pharmacy.) Lastly, moisturize your feet, the Mayo Clinic says, to keep skin soft.