Calluses, Corns and Warts - What's the difference?

Calluses, corns, and warts – all of these are very common problems affecting the skin of the foot, and they are similar enough that untrained eyes can easily mistake one for the other. But they each have different treatment requirements, and it’s important not to mix them up! Let’s look at some general differences between them:

Callus Hyperkeratosis | Family Podiatry Centre | Best Foot Doctor Podiatrist DPM Clinic Singapore Malaysia


When a particular area of skin is constantly rubbing on something (e.g a shoe), it thickens and hardens to protect itself. Therefore, calluses are the result of friction. Most calluses are not painful, but if left untreated, they may become uncomfortable. Many people have calluses treated for aesthetic reasons. Calluses are generally nothing to worry about and are very normal if you spend a lot of time on your feet, but they may indicate certain issues or abnormalities in cases where there shouldn’t be a reason for them to form.

For example, they may indicate biomechanical dysfunction, which is when the lower limbs are not functioning properly. It may also be the precursor to ulceration in a diabetic patient. Calluses look yellow, or white if they are dry, and may feel hard and not as flexible as the skin around it.

CORNS | Helomata | Family Podiatry Centre | Best Foot Doctor Podiatrist DPM Clinic Singapore Malaysia


Not all calluses result in corns, but all corns are calluses. In other words, corns are a type of callus where friction, pressure or compression occurs over a much smaller surface area. A corn will generally be situated in the center of an area of diffused callus. This central portion, the nucleus, will be well circumscribed and depending on where they form it will feel like standing on a tiny stone, or having a tiny stone between two toes. They are often classified as hard corns (sole of the foot) or soft corns (between toes). 

The build up of skin/callus is pushed inward due to the pressure of bearing weight or of surrounding structures (eg: a protruding bone). There are many other types of corns with beautiful exotic names like heloma durum, heloma molle, heloma milliare, heloma neurofibrosis and heloma vasculare, but none of them are pleasant. Most importantly however, you should not attempt to remove them on your own, or even have them dug out in the first place. This will simply cause them to return, along with the added complication of painful scarring. Always approach a podiatrist to help deal with corns for you.

Never try to remove corns on your own, and don’t let them get too big!

PLANTAR WARTS VERRUCA PEDIS | Heel Pain Area | Family Podiatry Centre | Best Foot Doctor Podiatrist DPM Clinic Singapore Malaysia


Plantar warts are the result of infection with the human papilloma virus (HPV) which may be picked up in public areas such as washrooms, pools and change rooms or from direct contact with someone else. The virus enters the bottom of the foot through a break in the skin, which may not even be visible to the eye – same way that you can get pimples on your face even though you don’t have any open wounds. On the sole of the foot, the subsequent lesions are pushed inward due to the pressure of standing, unlike other parts of the body where warts protrude outward from the skin. 


On close inspection, they are well demarcated lesions that may contain tiny little black dots like you see above, which are evidence of capillaries as the virus creates a blood supply to sustain itself. They have a cauliflower appearance and are often covered by a layer of callus. They may be of variable size and may be singular or multiple. Warts are often painful but may also go unnoticed – this is dangerous, as warts are highly infectious and you could easily pass them to your family without knowing.

Feel like you know more about how to distinguish between calluses, corns and warts? If you think that you’re suffering from one of these conditions, do not hesitate to contact us for a consultation.

Written by Mark B. Reyneker
Written by Mark B. Reyneker

Podiatrist 20 years of clinical experience. Practiced in South Africa, Malaysia, and Singapore. Pioneered CAD/CAM custom made orthotics in S.E Asia.

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