Treating Calluses, Boils, Corns, and Warts

Patient Expert
View as:|
1 of 9

If you had to guess, how many steps do you think you will take in a lifetime? According to the Pro Foot Center, the answer is 115,000 miles. That’s roughly equivalent to walking across the United States 40 times. With all the walking we do on a daily bases in different types of shoes, it's no wonder foot problems are so common. Check out these four problems that affect the skin of the foot — but can appear anywhere on the body.



Corns commonly appear on top of the foot and are caused when the skin becomes repeatedly irritated in the same area, usually due to tight shoes. Their appearance can range from dry circles of crusty skin to inflamed round lumps. Most people can live with corns without much discomfort.


Treating corns

For those with corns, the American Podiatric Medical Association suggests two quick fixes: change your shoes, and use gel pad inserts to minimize friction. If the problem persist or worsens, the next step is to visit a podiatrist for more intensive treatments, such as shaving away the excess skin (which is dead, thus the treatment will be painless) or cortisone shots. The doctor can also take x-rays of the foot to determine other issues which may increase your risk for corns.



The difference between corns and calluses is literally as simple as the location of the dry, lumpy skin on the foot. If the tough, crusty patches mentioned appear on the bottom of the foot, you've got calluses, as these mostly appear on weight bearing areas of the body. A simple trip to the spa can solve most problems with calluses. (Calluses, of course, can also appear on the hands.)


Treating calluses

The American Academy of Dermatologist (AAD) suggests the following to rid yourself of pesky dry skin. Soak the foot in warm water for 10 minutes, gently scrape the skin away with a pumice stone, use a moisturizer in the area, and change your shoes if necessary. The first and last suggestion can also help with corns.



Boils can appear anywhere on the body, but a boil on the foot can be an excruciating nuisance. Boils are caused by the staphylococcus aureus bacteria. These pus-filled bumps form around the hair follicle or sweat/oil gland. One usually develops when the staph bacteria enters the body by way of a cut or bug bite. On the foot this can be particularly painful because of the pressure from shoes. The good news is that boils are usually easy to treat.


Treating boils

To treat a boil the AAD advises applying a warm compress to the area, take aspirin for the pain if necessary, keep the infected area covered, and closely monitor it to ensure symptoms don’t worsen. If not properly cared for boils can spread and turn into carbuncles, which are clusters of boils.



A wart can appear anywhere on the body, but these lesions on the foot are referred to as ‘plantar warts,’ and are caused by a strain of the human papillomavirus or HPV (not the same strains that causes genital warts). The Mayo Clinic reports that warts found on the foot “aren’t highly contagious,” but they can spread. If “spread from the first site of infection” (direct contact from the first infected wart area, or initial infected areas such as pools or showers), you may be at risk for more.


Treating warts

A primary care physician can evaluate the area by doing a skin biopsy to determine if you have warts. Once confirmed, the most common method of treatment is to use a chemical which will freeze the wart and essentially kill it. More intensive options include surgery, acid, and laser treatments.