As Webster 1913 notes corn is the term used to describe keratinized skin typically found on affected toes although they may appear on other body parts as well. Practitioners will distinguish between hard corns which are thick and may be shiny and soft corns which are indeed white and sodden. Many sites state that corns are formed due to pressure or friction, both are the result of poorly fitting footwear. Corns are the result of concentrated pressure while calluses form from friction. Often corns will form on the top of rigid of hammer toes. Since the toe is unable to bend properly the superior surface presses against whatever material the shoe is constructed from.
Protective corn padding is sold at most pharmacies and stores such as Wal-Mart and Target, but unless you resolve whatever is causing the corn these pads will only offer some very temporary relief. Many online sites state that corns and calluses are not a big deal and really nothing to worry about. While they do not normally warrant a trip to the emergency room they are a cause for concern and should not be taken lightly. Do it yourself remedies are great if you know what you are doing, I would stay away from these unless you have the necessary training or letters like RN or MD behind your name.
A podiatrist can safely remove corns and shave down calluses, but unless you remove the source of friction or pressure they are going to come back. Advice given by TheLady in cracked heels and the quick and dirty repair of the sole is sound, avoid turning your corn or callus into a major medical issue by allowing a professional to address it properly. A professional will also be able to confirm that your corn is actually a corn as there is a very different treatment for warts which may look similar to corns.
Recently a friend of mine asked if I would take a look at her mother's feet. Upon inspection I saw the corn between the fourth and fifth toes on her right foot. My friend's mother was informed that surgical removal was her only option. She reported that the corn was extremely painful, her gait is already somewhat compromised due to an artificial hip on her right side, but that should not be causing a corn to form where it had. I am not a podiatrist but her podiatrist had already diagnosed the growth as a corn for us. What bothered me is that none of the professionals my friend's mother saw suggested that her footwear had caused the corn or mentioned that the corn could return if she had surgery but her footwear was not changed.
I had to tell my friend's mother that there wasn't anything I could do for her although I did recommend that she purchase some new shoes as the ones she was wearing were too short and probably not wide enough. In my opinion, this woman has a wide foot, the shoes she had been wearing did not give her toes adequate splay when she walked. Inspection of her footwear revealed that the sides of her feet hang over the edges of her soles which is a great indicator that a shoe is not quite wide enough for a particular foot. My belief is that the narrow shoe vamps compressed her fourth and fifth toes together, causing the corn to form.
My job puts me into a position where I work with people who are involved in foot care, diabetic education, and footwear sales. Periodically I find myself questioning the health care system that delivers goods and services to people. I refer to them as people rather than patients because in my opinion, and this certainly doesn't refer to everyone I work with, but many practitioners are failing to teach people how to shop for shoes that meet their podiatric and pedorthic needs. This educational lack sends an unknown number of people to chiropractors, medical doctors, podiatrists, pedorthists, pharmacists, surgeons, and physical therapists. It causes needless pain and potentially avoidable suffering, however there is more money to be made in surgery and treatments than there is in education. Let the buyer beware is an ancient saying, surgeons and medical professionals are busy, and to be fair to them, many of their patients are interested in immediate pain relief rather than functional medicine which searches for the root cause of why a symptom appears.
What is the answer to the system that rewards unethical practitioners and deprives patients of education they could benefit from? Many people do not know that pedorthic education is out there, since sales people are taught how to sell rather than how to fit. Stores focus on sales and customer service rather than educating both their customers and their sales force. Functional medicine is time consuming and working with a particular foot takes time, especially if there are multiple issues that need addressing. Consumer dollars drive certain models. Until people become fed up with the current model it will continue to damage feet in the interest of fashion which is typically funded by vanity, and ignorance which in turn breeds a contempt for those placed in the role of pedorthic educator. Unless an educator is able to explain things in a neutral, non-threatening manner to people of all ages and intelligence levels, and the focus shifts away from a product driven model to one that teaches people what kind of a foot they have and how to properly shoe it, this cycle will continue indefinitely.