Do corns on the foot have roots?
Posted: Oct 01, 2020
As a podiatrist this is one question that I get asked a lot, both clinically and in social situations. They do not have roots. After a podiatrist removes a corn, they do tend to come back, but not because they have roots. They come back as the cause of the corn or callus is still there. A corn is an area of skin, typically on a toe that becomes thicker and painful. The cause of that thickened area of skin is too much pressure. It is quite normal for skin to get thicker to protect itself. Consider what happens when you chop a lot of wood and develop a callus on the hands. That is a normal protective process of the skin thickening up to protect itself. When you stop chopping wood, the calluses go away as the pressure that caused them as gone away.
It is the same process for a corn or callus on the foot. The skin thickens up in response to pressure. There are multiple reasons for that increased pressure. There could be a bunion or hammer toes or a dropped metatarsal or the shoes are too tight. As a result of the increased pressure the skin starts to thicken up like the calluses on the hand when you chop wood. However, unlike chopping wood the pressure on the foot from the shoes or toe deformity does not stop and as that pressure continues the skin continues to get thicker. A callus is a more diffuse area of thickened skin and a corn is a smaller but more discrete and deeper area of thickened skin. Eventually it gets so thick it becomes painful. A skilled podiatrist can easily debride that painful callus or corn without much difficulty and typically it will no longer be painful. However, if the reason for that higher pressure is not removed, then the corn or callus will come back. This is where the myth that they have roots come from. They are not like organic plants that have roots that they grow from. The podiatrist did not forget to remove the roots. They come back because the cause is still there.
To permanently get rid of a corn on the foot, then the cause has to be removed. After the corn has been debrided, then that will give immediate pain relief. A good podiatrist will then look deeper and determine what might have been causing that corn and what can be done to get rid of that cause. It may be as simple as giving footwear advice and using different or better fitting shoes. It also may be as complicated as needing surgery to, for example, correct a bunion that might have been causing the increased pressure. Sometimes if there is a callus on the bottom of the foot, foot orthotics may be used to relieve the pressure in those areas. The important thing to realize that that foot corns do not have roots and they have a cause. If you want to stop corns coming back then you need to remove that cause.
Craig Payne is a University lecturer, runner, cynic, researcher, skeptic, forum admin, woo basher, clinician, rabble-rouser, blogger and a dad.