Does the summer season and thoughts of showing off your feet make you cringe? Are sandals, despite the fact they may be at the height of fashion, just not in the cards for you this spring?

If you have corns and calluses, a common foot condition, this might be describing you. Corns are small bumps on your feet made of a "cone" of dead skin, usually positioned close to a bone, such as the joint in your baby toe, or between the toes. Calluses are similar, but more often occur on the soles of the feet, the heel of the foot, or the hand.

Corns and calluses are the result of repeated external pressure on the skin. Sorry, fashionistas, but it's usually caused by improperly-fitting shoes - especially the pointed-toe type. Your body automatically builds up dead skin in the area in response to that pressure. Most corns and calluses are merely unsightly and no cause for concern, but sometimes they can be painful.

Treatment of these sometimes troublesome problems depends on your current health. If you have diabetes, peripheral vascular disease (hardening of the arteries in the legs), a weakened immune system, or if you are over 65, you should see your family doctor, a podiatrist, or a chiropodist (these are doctors who specialize in foot problems).

For others, treatment begins with first eliminating the pressure problem by wearing better fitting shoes. The rest of the process you can do at home after first stopping at your local pharmacy. You'll need one of the following:

  • a pumice stone or emery board designed for the feet, and patches containing salicylic acid (get the size that corresponds to the size of the corn or callus)
  • a liquid corn or callus remover product and bandages or felt pads (moleskin)

Start by soaking your feet in warm water for about 10 minutes. While you are doing this, carefully read the instructions on the package of patches or the bottle of medication. After soaking, use the pumice stone on a wet foot or emery board on a dry foot to gently rub the skin over the corn or callus, taking off some of the layers of dead skin (exfoliation).

If you're using patches, apply the patch directly to the corn or callus, making sure that the medicated side of the patch is towards the skin and only on the callus or corn, not the healthy skin, since the medication can irritate healthy skin. There may be a second protective patch in the package as well. This serves to prevent the medicated patch from falling off and to reduce the pressure on the corn or callus. Leave the pad and patch on until the next day, when you will go through the exfoliating and medication process again.

If you're using the liquid product, apply it directly to the corn or callus, being very careful to keep it off the healthy skin. You may wish to apply petroleum jelly to the healthy area around the corn or callus to protect the surrounding area. Allow the medication to dry, then cover with a bandage or felt pad. Repeat this process daily until the corn or callus is gone - usually for about 10 to 14 days.

Stop using the medicated pad or liquid if any irritation occurs. Keep the medicated pads, patches, and liquid products out of the reach of children.

Voila! You're ready for summer!

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team