Pedi-Cures: Protecting the Skin You Walk In

Walk a mile in his patients' shoes, and you, too, might be running to the doctor's office in search of fast fixes for corns on your feet, says Beverly Hills dermatologist David Rish, M.D.

Rish's rich and famous patients put their shoes on one foot at a time like everyone else, and they pay the common price for wearing shoes that put fashion before function. Says Rish: "It's very common to have corns on the feet because those pretty, pointy shoes just don't fit."

All told, one out of six Americans — about 43 million — have foot problems, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. While corns are largely man-made — owing to bad habits like squeezing into undersized footwear — some other common foot problems, such as athlete's foot and so-called plantar warts, can be harder to avoid.

Uncomfortable and sometimes extremefully painful as they are, foot problems can usually be treated, if not prevented, either by taking simple foot-care steps at home or with a doctor's care.

Foot Care Facts

With each step, the pressure on your foot is equivalent to 1.5 times your body weight. It's no wonder, then, that when the toes are positioned particularly tightly against each other or against a shoe, the constant friction can cause the skin on top of the toes and underneath them to thicken and irritate the tissues underneath. The corns or calluses that form from the pressure develop on the big toe or the "pinky" toe.

Many calluses can be easily prevented by making sure shoes fit properly. Women, more often than men, crush their toes into shoes whose shape is far different from that of their feet, says Rish. And high-heeled shoes can push women's toes into the front of their shoes, compounding the pressure.

Whether brought on by improperly fitting shoes or another cause (such as certain foot deformities called hammer toe or claw toe), the pain from these calluses can sometimes be reduced at home, by soaking your feet regularly and wearing drug store-bought pads, carefully positioned on the toe to relieve the pressure.

And as soon as you see a corn developing, Rish suggests, gently rub the callus with a pumice stone to remove the thick skin — "the key word is gently," he emphasizes — and then moisturize your feet to avoid drying and cracking.

Alternatively, Rish can easily rid a woman of her corn by shaving the dead layers of thickened skin off with a scalpel. So what's the problem? Seems that women don't want to give up their high-fashion footwear, he says: "I shave [the corn] off and fix it up, and they put those pointy, pretty shoes back on and they're back in a month."