Our feet take lots of abuse, and consequently, the skin on the soles of our feet is quite unique. In fact, the top layer of the skin, known as the epidermis, is thicker on the foot than it is anywhere else on the body! This skin is also unique because it can thicken up for a variety of reasons. The most common skin issues causing thickened spots on various areas of the foot are Corn vs Callus vs Wart.
Corn vs Callus vs Wart vs Other—The Sole Mystery
Calluses (aka callosities)
A plantar callus is the most common type of thickened skin on the bottoms of our feet. Calluses develop because of friction and pressure. For this reason, they tend to occur over pressure points, such as the sides of the feet or big toe, the bottom of the toes, our heels, and the ball of the foot – areas that frequently rub against the shoe. At times, calluses can grow large enough that they are uncomfortable.
The typical appearance of a callus is skin that is simply thickened but retains the normal footprint lines over the top of it. They can be of varying sizes but are usually the normal color of our skin.
Treatment of calluses first and foremost requires offloading the pressure and eliminating the friction that causes them in the first place. Examine your footwear. Consider wearing socks and shoes instead of going barefoot or wearing sandals or high heels. The greater the cushioning in your footwear, the lower the chances are that most types of calluses will persist or that you will develop them in the first place.
Certain moisturizers such as Amlactin or Urea Cream may help soften the thickened spots. Some patients with very good manual dexterity may find that they can thin calluses down by using an abrasive device such as an emery board or pumice stone. This is not something that we recommend doing repetitively however because the friction from this can cause a reverse effect, where calluses tend to be more persistent and thicken up more in time.
Corns (aka heloma)
In contrast to calluses, corns often tend to be smaller and have a central translucent appearing core. The footprint lines are generally lost in this central area. They will also tend to occur over pressure points and arise as a result of friction. Sometimes they can even develop between toes. Even more so than calluses, corns can be painful to the point of causing substantial discomfort with walking. Also, they are usually flesh-colored.
Treatments for corns are very similar to calluses. Pressure and friction which trigger them need to be eliminated. At Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands, we frequently recommend nonmedicated donut-shaped corn pads and callus pads to help offload the pressure and prevent corns and calluses. We recommend examining your footwear and making sure that you are wearing the softest and best insoles possible.
In contrast to corns and calluses, warts tend to have overlain black dots. These sometimes are referred to as the “seeds” of the wart—in fact, they are broken blood vessels known as capillaries. Warts can be solitary with just one spot or quite extensive.
- Common warts are caused by the human papilloma virus (HPV) which is spread by casual skin contact or through shared objects.
- Plantar warts are warts that develop on the soles of the feet and walking tends to force them into the skin, causing pain to the affected area.
Numerous different wart treatments are available. These include surgical and medical treatments.
Salicylic acid is a commonly used over-the-counter medication to treat warts. Please see our previous blog for more detailed information on warts— https://www.midlandsderm.com/warts-facts-treatment-omaha/.
For any spot on the foot, if it is not responding to pressure relief over the course of 3-4 months, consider seeing a dermatology provider in a consultation to make sure there is nothing more serious to worry about. Rarely other more sinister or serious skin conditions such as skin cancer can mimic these types of growths.
Advanced Dermatology of the Midlands | Best Dermatologist Omaha & Council Bluffs, IA | Board Certified Dermatologists
We hope you find this information useful when it comes to your feet. Remember to baby your feet and treating them right will pay dividends. Schedule a consultation, or call today to receive professional medical advice, diagnosis, and treatment.