Dealing with corns and calluses caused by running

Corns and calluses explained

A corns or callus is formed by dead skin cells which form thick hardened areas on the foot. Frequently these are caused through ill-fitting running shoes or repeated pounding without adequate padding. To runners they can be a minor irritation or can be more serious if an ulcer starts to develop, so it's important to know how to deal with them or avoid getting them in the first place.

Never try to cut dead pieces of skin off calluses

Corns are considered more likely to occur on the toes and contain a cone-shaped core that can press on the nerves below, causing pain. They usually develop because of pressure caused by poorly fitting footwear.

Corns can also develop from wearing tight-fitting socks, or when the foot slides around in a loose-fitting shoe. Soft corns are located between the toes where sweat softens up the affected area. Complications can arise from corns, including bursitis and the development of an ulcer, a foot condition that is especially dangerous to diabetics.

Calluses are caused by pressure on a specific area of the foot and are normally found on the ball of the foot, the heel or the inside of the big toe. Some calluses have a deep-seated core known as a nucleation and can be especially painful to pressure.

This condition is often referred to as intractable plantar keratosis. High-heeled shoes; running shoes that are too small, obesity, abnormalities in the walking motion, flat feet, high arched feet, bony prominences, and the loss of the fat pad on the bottom of the foot, can all lead to calluses.

A callus is not a concern unless it causes pain, or shows signs of becoming an ulcer. Diabetics with calluses are at a much greater risk of developing ulcers if they notice pinpoint bleeding underneath the callus, in the form of small black dots under the skin.

 Tips to prevent and treat both corns and calluses

  • Wear properly fitted running footwear with extra room in the toe box — many runners wear a size up from their normal shoe size.
  • Avoid running shoes that are too tight or loose.
  • Use an shoe insert made with materials, such as a sorbothane insert, that will absorb shock and transfer pressure away from pressure points.
  • Avoid tight running socks to provide a healthier environment for the foot.
  • Steer clear of corn removing solutions and medicated pads, which can increase irritation and discomfort. Diabetics and all other individuals with poor circulation should never use any chemical agents to remove corns.
  • Never try to alleviate the pain caused by calluses or corns by cutting or trimming them with a razor blade or knife. This is dangerous and can worsen the condition. Diabetics in particular should never try this type of treatment.

If the problem persists, consult your foot doctor. Surgery to remove corns or calluses should be a last resort.

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