Did you ever get a blister from a new pair of shoes? Maybe you play guitar and
have calluses on your hands, or you're a dancer and have corns on your toes.
Blisters, calluses, and corns can be uncomfortable, but they're also pretty common
and easy to prevent. All three happen because of friction — when two surfaces
rub against each other. In the case of these skin problems, one of the surfaces is
your tender skin.
What's a Blister?
A blister is an area of raised skin with a watery liquid inside. Blisters form
on hands and feet from rubbing and pressure, and form a lot faster than calluses.
You can get blisters on your feet the same day you wear uncomfortable or poor-fitting
shoes. You can get blisters on your hands if you forget to wear protective gloves
when you're doing things like using a hammer or riding a bike.
Areas on your body that form blisters and continue to be rubbed every day can go
on to form calluses.
What's a Callus?
A callus is an area of thick skin. Calluses form in places where there is a lot
of repeated rubbing for a long period of time. The skin hardens from the pressure
over time and eventually thickens. It gets a hard, tough, grayish or yellowish
surface that may feel bumpy.
Calluses can be a form of protection for the hands. Gymnasts who perform on uneven
parallel bars and other apparatus often get calluses on their hands. Guitarists can get
calluses on their fingertips from the guitar strings. Once formed, calluses may
make it easier for the person to swing around the bars or play the guitar.
But what about calluses on the feet? They can be painful because you're stepping
on them all the time. Foot calluses usually form on the ball of the foot (the roundish
part on the bottom of your foot, just behind your big toe). Some calluses also form
on the outside of the big or little toe or the heel.
Tight shoes and high heels often cause calluses because they put a lot of pressure
on your feet at points that aren't used to all of that stress.
What's a Corn?
Like calluses, corns are also areas of hard, thick skin. They usually look like a
soft yellow ring of skin around a hard, gray center. Corns often form on the tops
of the toes or in between toes, and they can hurt.
Like calluses, corns come from pressure or repeated rubbing of the toes. Corns
usually develop after wearing shoes that are tight around the toe area.
Preventing Blisters, Calluses, and Corns
The best way to deal with blisters, calluses, and corns is to avoid getting them
altogether. So how do you do that?
To avoid getting blisters and calluses on your hands, wear the right kind
of gloves or protective gear. For instance, you might use work gloves during
yard work or palm protectors called "grips" for gymnastics.
To keep your feet callus free, choose your shoes wisely. Try
to shop for shoes in the afternoon because that's when your feet are their largest.
They get a little swollen from you walking on them all day! Try on both shoes and
walk around a little bit before buying them. Even if shoes look really cool, don't
get them if they don't feel right. Often, a different size or width can make a big
Even if you love a pair of shoes, it’s best not to wear them all
the time. Mix it up by wearing a variety of shoes. That way, your feet will
get a break and won't always be rubbed in the same places.
Caring for Blisters, Calluses, and Corns
If you do get a blister, callus, or corn, you can usually take care of it at home:
Blisters usually heal on their own. Keep a blister clean and dry and cover it
with a bandage until it goes away. While it heals, try to avoid putting pressure on
the area or rubbing it.
You can help a callus go away faster by soaking it in warm, soapy water for 10
minutes, then rubbing it with a pumice stone. The stone has a rough surface and can
be used to rub off dead skin. Go easy when you do this. Rubbing too much can make
the skin raw and tender. You can also wear shoe pads inside your shoes to relieve
pressure so foot calluses can heal. You can buy pumice stones and foot pads in many
grocery stores and drugstores.
Corns take a little bit longer to go away. To help, you can buy special doughnut-shaped
pads that let the corn fit right into the hole in the middle to relieve pain and pressure.
Ask a nurse, doctor, or a parent about trying pads that contain salicylic acid. This
acid takes off the dead skin to help get rid of the corn, but people with some health
conditions (like diabetes) will want to avoid using these. If a corn sticks around
for a while and keeps hurting, you may need to see a podiatrist (the fancy name for
a foot doctor).