Corns and calluses are quite similar. Both are tough, thick layers of skin formed by friction and pressure. Corns are usually smaller than calluses and have a hard center known as the kernel. They can develop in a number of areas on the foot but are more often found in areas that are not weight-bearing, such as the tops and sides of toes. Calluses typically develop on the soles of your feet, and they don't usually become painful unless you develop cracked heels.
As with a number of foot ailments, prevention is your best line of defense. Shoes that don't fit -- both shoes that are too tight and shoes that are too loose -- can cause corns and calluses to develop. High-heeled shoes are another common culprit, as are narrow, pointy shoes. Wearing shoes without socks or wearing sandals that rub against your foot might also lead to corns and calluses.
Corns or calluses that don't cause too much discomfort and aren't inflamed can usually be treated at home. Treatment is simple. Use over-the-counter pads to provide a barrier between your foot and the cause of the friction on your foot. Use caution with liquid corn removals or pads with salicylic acid, as they can cause irritation [source: Mayo Clinic].
You can also soak your feet in warm, soapy water to soften the hardened skin. While you're soaking, or right after, use a pumice stone to remove some of the toughened skin. If you use a pumice stone, only remove a little skin at a time [source: Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists]. Then use moisturizer to help keep the skin pliable.
If your efforts to treat the problem at home are ineffective, see your doctor. A podiatrist can use a scalpel to get rid of some of the problem skin. He or she may apply a patch with 40 percent salicylic acid, prescribe an antibiotic ointment or suggest you use custom-made inserts for your shoes [source: Mayo Clinic].
Corns and calluses are usually caused by wearing shoes. The next problem that you'll read about, athlete's foot is somewhat the opposite. Read on to learn more.