Home Corns What Causes Corns on Feet, Toes and Between Toes

What Causes Corns on Feet, Toes and Between Toes


If you have been wondering what causes corns, you will get the answers here in. Learn what causes corns on feet including what causes corns on toes and what causes corns in between toes. Also find out what causes calluses and corns and the similarities between them.

Corns on feet
A corn is caused by the buildup of hard, dead skin

A corn is caused by the buildup of hard, dead skin over an area of pressure or bony prominence. The hard skin is produced by special skin cells called keratinocytes, which are present throughout the entire epidermal layer of the skin. They form as an attempt by the skin to protect itself from pressure or friction it may encounter. If left untreated, the hardened skin forming a corn may result in pain.

Corns tend to form on the feet on areas that do not bear the body weight. This distinguishes them from calluses which form on weight bearing areas. To avoid situations in which the presence of a corn hinders movement, it is best to get treatment the moment they are recognized. This can be done through home remedies or by a qualified feet specialist.

What Causes Corns on Toes

The main cause of corns on any part of the body is prolonged pressure and friction. This is normally as a result of repetitive actions. What causes corns on toes will therefore vary from one person to another. Some of the actions that exert pressure on the toes are:

  • Improper footwear: Women’s shoe designs tend to make them more vulnerable to corns than men. High heels tend to exert pressure on the toes by compressing them to fit in narrow toe boxes. In case any shoes are loose, they will keep sliding and rubbing on the surface of the toes. Stitches that are wrongly placed or shoes that are a size smaller could also cause friction leading to corns.
  • Failing to wear socks: Shoes and sandals worn without socks could lead to friction. The direct pressure on the skin when done for long will also lead to corns.

    Foot deformity
    Foot deformity may be a reason for formation of corns

What Causes Corns on Feet

The feet are most vulnerable to corns. When rubbing and pressure are experienced, they could form either soft or hard corns. In women, continuous wearing of high heels is the greatest offender. Another cause of corns could be improper walking styles. Foot deformities could also attract pressure on the feet.

Since most of the time the feet are always in an enclosed environment which could get moist as a result of sweating, corns on feet are vulnerable to fungal and bacterial infections. In severe cases, discharges such as pus could form within the corns. It is therefore important to clean the corn areas thoroughly and ensure that feet are dried using a clean towel before wearing shoes. This will minimize the chances of infection.

What Causes Corns and Calluses

There is a tendency for people to confuse corns for calluses although the two are different. Corns tend to be smaller than calluses. While the surface of a callus is uniform and they form on weight bearing parts of the body, corns have a hard center and mostly form in leg parts that do not bear weight. Calluses are rarely painful but corns are. There however is a similarity in the composition of tissue making up the two. This being the case, it is inevitable to wonder what causes corns and calluses.

The major cause of corns and calluses is continuous pressure and force being subjected on an area, as a result of which there is hardening of dead skin. The source of the force could be:

Ill-fitting footwear
Ill-fitting footwear may lead to the formation of corns
  • Ill-fitting foot wear: Loose socks tend to gather at the tip of the shoe and thus subject the feet to excessive pressure. When they are too tight, the toes are squeezed together. Shoes of a large size tend to slide on and off the foot causing friction. In case the socks are small, the toes are confined and constricted in an inefficient space while the rest of the foot suffers undue pressure. This leads to formation of calluses or corns depending on which part experiences this.
  • Skipping socks: When one fails to wear socks, there is a direct interaction of the skin and the seams and stitches of the shoe. In case the shoes are thin soled, more pressure is experienced on the sole of the feet. This could be a source of calluses and corns.
  • Handling tools: Consistent use of playing and gardening tools can lead to formation of calluses on the hands. One can form the habit of wearing gloves to avoid this.

What Causes Corns in Between Toes

Corns between toes
Soft corns between toes

The kind of corns found between the toes is known as soft corns. They are the most painful of all corns. These are made up of skin buildups which form painful lesions in between the toes. This is as opposed to general corns which tend to form on top of the toes. These are likely to be seen between digits where there is warmth and moisture. What causes corns in between toes is a question that many seek answers for.

In women, the typical business dress code goes along with shoes of a particular shape. These usually are high heeled and have a narrow toe box which leads to a confinement of the toes. This provides a friendly environment for formation of soft calluses.  Soon after they form, they tend to become unbearably painful.

A bony prominence could also contribute to corn formation. At times, there could be spurs on toes that are adjacent to each other which worsen the situation. Corns between the toes get easily infected. In case one notices discharge, a discoloration or pain when the corn is touched, it is important to see a foot specialist to avoid further infection.

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