When we walk or stand, our body weight is carried first on the heel and then on the ball of the foot, where the skin is thicker, to withstand the pressure. When this pressure becomes intense, growths in the form of corns may appear. Corns always occur over a bony prominence, such as a joint.
There are five different types of corns. The two most common are hard and soft corns.
‘Heloma durum’ are the most common form of corn. They appear as small, concentrated areas of hard skin. Their conical shape intensifies the pressure at the tip and can cause painful, deep tissue damage and ulceration.
‘Heloma molle’ develop in a similar way to hard corns. They are whitish and softer in texture. They appear between toes, where the skin is moist from sweat, or from inadequate drying. A Podiatrist will be able to reduce the bulk of the corn, and apply astringents to cut down on sweat retention between the toes.
‘Heloma miliare’ are particularly small and tend to be less painful.
‘Heloma neurovasculare’ corns incorporate minute blood vessels and fine nerve endings. They are likely to bleed when they are cut and can be very painful.
Fibrous or neurovascular corns
Fibrous corns have a very similar appearance to regular corns. However, they are significantly more painful and sensitive to pressure due to having nerve fibres within them. They are more often found on the feet of smokers, so have also got the nickname ‘Smokers corns’.
There are many things a podiatrist can do to make walking less painful
Orthotics are a special type of insole that can be fitted into your shoes. They will help you walk in such a way to minimise the pressure on your affected joints.
As well as an orthotic, our Podiatrists can help you find shoes that are roomy enough to accommodate your foot – and orthoses – without adding unnecessary pressure. If your toes are beginning to stiffen or curl, for example, it’s important for you to wear a shoe with an extra deep toe box.
Our podiatrist may scan your feet, so a shoe can be tailored to your exact foot shape. Or we can send away for “off the peg” shoes which may be the right fit. Protective shields can also relieve pressure and reduce friction.
Do not cut corns yourself, especially if you are elderly or diabetic. Do not use corn plasters or paints which can burn the healthy tissue around the corns. Home remedies, such as lambswool around toes, are potentially dangerous. Commercially available ‘cures’ should be used only following professional advice.