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Key Differences Between Calluses and Bunions

Foot problems come in many shapes and forms, two of which being calluses and bunions. A common myth is that calluses and bunions are the same thing, but the truth is that there are key differences between the two that make them unique. We’ll break down the major differences between calluses and bunions to help you identify which (if either) you have.

What is a Callus?

A callus is an area of thickened skin that can occur anywhere on the body. The most common places for calluses to form are on finger pads/fingertips, toes, the heel of your foot, and the ball of your foot. 

Calluses tend to be more spread out than corns, which are more condensed and may be harder. The main cause of a callus is friction from rubbing against something repeatedly. Many weightlifters experience calluses on their hands. Additionally, wearing the wrong size shoes or walking around without socks are common causes of calluses.

What is a Bunion?

A bunion, also referred to as hallux valgus, is a painful bony protrusion that forms at the joint base of your big toe. Bunions form at the juncture of the phalanx bones and the metatarsal, also known as the metatarsophalangeal joint (MTP).  Unlike calluses, which are the result of excessive friction and dead skin, bunions are bone growths. While anyone can develop a bunion, they are more common in women.

Common causes of bunions include genetics and wearing shoes that are too tight. Most bunions start out small but worsen over time due to the MTP joint’s flexion.

Can Calluses Form on Bunions?

Calluses form on bunions when bunions rub against the inside of a shoe. This is common, especially given that bunions are the widest part of the foot. This may cause people to think that they can fit into shoes that are really too small to fit them and their bunions. Calluses can also form on the other toes where they rub against each other as a result of the increased pressure from the bunion.

How to Treat Calluses and/or Bunions

Calluses can be removed with a proper foot care routine that involves soaking your feet in warm, soapy water to soften the skin. Removing dead skin and moisturizing with a high quality foot cream for dry, callused skin may also help prevent or treat calluses.

Bunions do not resolve on their own.  Once the bunion (hallux valgus deformity) forms the next step is to manage the symptoms prevent worsening of the condition.  Conservative measures for bunion deformities, such as orthotics, should be employed first.  Many times conservative steps to manage your bunion deformity can slow or even stop the progression and resolve the pain.  It is important to see a foot and ankle specialist before the problem gets too advanced.   In the event that conservative measures fail, a foot and ankle specialist can review the best course of action from a surgical standpoint to address your problem. 

Making sure you have a regular foot care routine may also be helpful for preventing calluses and bunions. Take care of your feet and they will take care of you! 

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