Cracked heels (aka heel fissures) can appear, it seems, out of nowhere. Considering our feet hold up our body and if you are a runner, they are literally under a lot of pressure. This weight and pressure applied to our heels can cause the skin there to expand outward. Dry skin that becomes less elastic and rigid (you know as with aging) is also prone to fissures and cracking.
If left untreated this could lead to more serious problems. Cracked heels are a common foot condition that can cause discomfort or pain. The skin can also appear with yellow or brown calluses on the heels. Women have been more likely to report the condition maybe because of the heels being exposed.
The Causes of Cracked Heels and Feet
There are a few factors that could lead to your cracked heels. The following have all been connected to cracked feet.
- Sjogren’s syndrome (an autoimmune disease)
- juvenile plantar dermatosis (a foot skin condition)
Having flat feet, wearing shoes that don’t fit properly and living in a dry, cold climate can contribute also.
It is a normal reaction to reach for lotion when we encounter dry skin. If this contains any alcohol it may cause burning and stinging in addition to the skin drying out more.
Cracked heels may be a fungal infection. One of the most common reasons is actually Athlete’s Foot infection.
Athlete’s foot symptoms contain; skin that appears dry, itching between the toes, peeling skin, inflammation and blisters. Using an over the counter product should treat this within two weeks. If it doesn’t improve visit a podiatrist (foot specialist).
Prevention of Cracked Heels
To prevent cracked heels, the best advice is to avoid walking barefoot in public or wearing dirty socks. These both can expose your feet to bacterial and fungal organisms. Wear flip flops in locker rooms and public showers such as when going to a gym.
You might consider spraying the inside of your shoes each day with Lysol (this is in short supply currently, essential oils may be used) to kill any germs. Hang on to the little packets that come in shoes and other items to absorb moisture. Don’t forget to moisturize your feet.
Home Treatment for Cracked Heels
Keratolytic to thin. If the skin of your heel is thick a keratolytic may help thin it. This aids in the outer layer becoming loose and shedding dead skin cells. The ingredient allows more moisture kept by the skin.
Keratolytics are; alpha hydroxyl acids (lactic acid and glycolic acid), salicylic acid and urea (both keratolytic and humectant making it most useful).
Emollient or humectant moisturizer. Emollients soak into the skin helping to reduce water loss. They get between gaps in skin making it smooth and soft.
Humectants penetrate the epidermis and draw moisture from the air. This increases the water in the skin.
After showering, apply a moisturizer such as Eucerin Advanced Repair Cream or Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel (these products are all super hydrating; I’ve tried the facial mask).
Seal with an occlusive moisturizer. After the emollient or humectant has been absorbed, a thick layer of an occlusive moisturizer can be applied on top to seal moisture in, do this before bed. These provide a thin film to keep moisture from evaporating from the epidermis.
- Petroleum jelly
- Mineral oil
Petroleum jelly has been known to be more effective. Use caution when applying any of the above to feet, they can be greasy, slippery and sticky which may cause falling.
Wear 100% cotton socks to bed. Cotton is a fabric that allows the skin to breath. It will lock the moisture in from the occlusive and prevent your bed sheets from being stained.
You could also try lined socks or even heel coverings. Through following this routine the skin should soften after a few days.
Pumice stone. A pumice stone or foot file can be used in the shower to gently rub the heel of thickened hard skin and calluses. The products broke down these areas during the night making this easier.
This is not recommended if you are diabetic or suffer from neuropathy. Instead a dermatologist or podiatrist should be seen.
The use of razors or scissors should be avoided because of the safety issue involving cutting or scraping the skin leading to infection or scarring.
Liquid bandage for the cracks. There are liquid, gel or spray bandages that can be applied to the crack. These provide a protective layer, help reduce pain and prevent dirt and germs from entering encouraging the crack to heal faster.
If your heels are severely cracked or these suggestions are not helping them to improve after a week, visit your dermatologist or podiatrist.
If there are any of the following symptoms or severe pain at any location of the foot lasting more than a few days, visit your doctor.
Your doctor may provide medical care with severe cases including;
- Removal of dead skin
- Prescribe a stronger skin softener or removal agent
- Apply a medical grade glue to seal cracks
- In the case of infection, prescribe an antibiotic
- Strap the heel with dressings or bandages
- Suggest using shoe inserts, heel pads or heel cups
- Order gait training (change your walk)
Heeling those cracked heels may be challenging but it can be done. Be diligent about your foot care, especially if you have a condition that contributes to cracked heels.
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Header Photo females feet by Buenosia Carol on Pexels