You may have the world at your feet, but that don't stop the corns from hurting

High heels have caused painful-looking corns on Naomi Campbell's feet

High heels have caused painful-looking corns on Naomi Campbell's feet

Every time I watch famous actresses and singers waft down the red carpet sporting glamorous gowns, I think of the terribly witty Sally Rogers, played by Rose Marie, in the Dick Van Dyke Show. ‘You may have the world at your feet, but that don’t stop the corns from hurtin’ .  .  .’ she once said.

And it’s true, these divas often have fascinatingly ugly feet. A fondness for ill-fitting sky-high heels comes at a price – and many of today’s stars seem to be sporting painful-looking corns. Kelly Rowland, Katie Holmes and Naomi Campbell are just a few who spring to mind.

A corn is a cone of excess skin made of keratin – the tough protein that makes up the epidermis (outer layer of skin). When the skin is exposed to pressure or friction – rubbing on shoes, for example – this layer thickens to protect it. Should the pressure be over a joint or knuckled area, a small, hard plug of keratin forms and presses down into the skin – and even on to the underlying nerves. This is a corn.

These small, hard lumps can be the source of much discomfort and may even require surgical intervention. In some cases, the corn can press so hard into the skin that it makes an impression on the underlying bone. They range hugely in size, from tiny dots to an inch in circumference, and usually occur on hairless skin.

If they appear on the soles of your feet, they are to do with poor foot architecture, meaning you need assessment and corrective alignment of the foot using specialised insoles in order to remove the pressure.

If they occur on the tops or sides of toes (the little toe commonly gets painful recurring corns), it’s down to footwear. With no shoe to rub and press, there would be no corn.

If there has been injury to the feet that has left misshapen areas, then corns can form on these areas of high pressure. They can also occur on the soles of the feet under the metatarsals – the five long bones running down your foot to the toes. Intensity of pain depends on the location of the corn.

Those on the top or sides of feet are made painful by tight-fitting shoes, but those on the underside of feet hurt at every step. The pain can be crippling.

In between the toes is an especially painful place to get a corn. Sometimes referred to as ‘kissing corns’, it is a pleasant term for a horrible affliction.

These can become soft because the area
in between toes can be squidgy as sweat cannot escape. Kissing corns
are often mistaken as a fungal infection. It’s worth seeing a
chiropodist or podiatrist for a clear diagnosis.

people confuse a corn with a verruca, which is a virus. There is an
easy way to distinguish them. Pinching a verruca is painful, whereas
pressing a corn hurts.

what can you do about your corns There are various solutions –
depending on the amount of pain you’re in and how long you have had the

First, consider the
cause. I’m afraid that one of the most effective treatments is simply to
wear better – that’s usually more sensible – shoes. I recommend broader
and deeper shoes to eliminate the pressure on the feet.

Rose Marie spoke up for divas who suffer in silence with corns

Rose Marie spoke up for divas who suffer in silence with corns

Try not to buy slip-on shoes, as toes bunch up to try to keep the shoe on, and this makes the top-of-toe corns worse. Beach shoes are an excellent solution – flip-flops that have a thong for each toe are marvellous at restoring correct functioning in the foot and toe.

Never try to cut off a corn yourself – you will probably just create a wound and end up in more pain. You need to see a professional who will use a scalpel to cut out the central nucleus.

Corn plasters are fine – especially the ones with the holes – they can help protect the foot from the pressure that is causing pain. Podiatrists use something called Hydroheel, which is a specialised hydrocolloid dressing plaster that brings comfort and pain relief. You apply it over the area like a second skin. It absorbs moisture from the area and forms a gel-like cushion.

Do not use salicylic acid, especially if you have poor circulation or are diabetic. This can burn the surrounding skin, which will make the whole area more painful.

We podiatrists often see the mess created by a corn plaster/acid cocktail. Always seek the advice of a podiatrist or get a referral from your GP if you need help and advice.

Keeping corns soft helps – the harder they are, the more painful they’ll be as there’s more pressure pushing down on the bone. Moisturise and exfoliate your feet daily if you can.

Regular treatments are usually sufficient to keep them under control, and you can expect them to resolve completely with appropriate care and attention. Occasionally, surgery may be appropriate in chronic cases, if there is an underlying bony deformity such as a hammer toe (a misshapen toe) or a metatarsal alignment.

Surprisingly, dermal fillers – used in facial wrinkles – can also be used to plump up the underlying skin and relieve the painful corn.

Next time you are shoe-shopping, make sure they fit properly. If you’re lucky, you can avoid corns altogether.