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Corns, Calluses, & Plantar Warts: How to Tell the Difference

Corns, Calluses, & Plantar Warts: How to Tell the Difference

Your skin is thickest on your feet. It’s naturally durable to protect you from injury, but friction from shoes, cuts, and scrapes can happen to anyone. 

In fact, corns, calluses, and plantar warts are a few of the most common foot problems in the country. These conditions make the skin on parts of your feet look different than the rest. They can even be painful — but telling the difference between them isn’t always easy.

At The Foot & Ankle Specialists, Lisa Burson, DPM, and Joe Aoun, DPM, have the experience you need. Read on to learn the key differences among these common foot problems and what to do when you notice something’s wrong.

How to identify unusual spots on your feet

Corns, calluses, and plantar warts might look similar to the untrained eye, but their causes and treatments are different. Corns and calluses form as a result of repetitive friction, while plantar warts grow when human papillomavirus (HPV) enters your body through a small cut.

Here’s how to tell the difference among them.


Corns are almost always located on your toes. A corn may form on the top of any toe, the side of your smallest toe, or between your toes.

Calluses and plantar warts are more commonly found on the soles of your feet. Calluses usually develop on your heels, the balls of your feet, or the outside edges of your feet and toes.

Plantar warts usually grow on the heels or balls of your feet or the undersides of your toes. Sometimes, plantar warts grow underneath calluses.


Corns are small, raised bumps. They have a hard center surrounded by softer, swollen skin.

Calluses are patches of thick, rough skin. Sometimes, calluses make skin look dry, flaky, or waxy.

Plantar warts look a lot like calluses. These warts are usually flat and surrounded by rough, thickened skin. But unlike calluses, plantar warts often have tiny black dots in the center called “seeds.”


Corns are often painful when you press on them. They may feel tender if you wear tight shoes that rub against the bumps.

Calluses usually don’t cause any pain, unless there’s a plantar wart underneath. Plantar warts on the balls or heels of your feet can feel tender or painful when you stand or walk.

What to do about corns, calluses, and plantar warts

If you have a painful spot on your foot, never try to treat it on your own. This is especially important if you have diabetes, because diabetes increases your risk of slow-healing wounds and other foot-related complications.

Instead, make a podiatrist appointment to have your feet examined. Dr. Burson and Dr. Aoun can diagnose your condition and recommend the best treatment plan.

Corns and calluses

Corns and calluses that aren’t painful may not require treatment right away. We can recommend corn pads, orthotics, or other types of cushioning to reduce friction and keep the spots from getting inflamed.

For large or painful corns and calluses, we may recommend removing them. We use sterile surgical instruments to remove the growths. Then, we teach you how to cushion your feet to reduce friction after your procedure.

Plantar warts

Since plantar warts come from a virus, removing them usually requires professional wart treatment. We may prescribe a liquid wart remover, compound medications, or cryotherapy to kill the virus and eliminate the wart.

Find out what’s causing your foot pain and get the right treatment plan at The Foot & Ankle Specialists. Contact us online or over the phone to schedule your appointment.

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