Dry, cracked heels can not only be unsightly, but can often be a source of pain, itchiness and embarrassment. Most shallow cracks or fissures in the heels are able to be treated at home with a little bit of elbow grease, but for the best results, our podiatrist’s can remove the hard, dead skin in just 20-30 minutes leaving them soft, attractive and ready for sandals.
What are cracked heels?
Thick or dry skin around the heels can crack or split under the pressure of walking. When the skin around the heels becomes thickened or dry, it loses its natural elasticity and can split under the simple pressures of your day to day activities. This can lead to rough, unsightly, painful, and even bleeding, cracked heels.
Causes of cracked heels
(including but not limited to)
- Walking around in bare feet, thongs or open backed sandals can dry out the feet
- Prolonged standing on solid surfaces such as tiles, floor boards or concrete
- Poor fitting shoes
- Increased weight causes increased pressure on the heels which results in callous. With increased weight the fatty padding in the heel expands more and hence often cracks more
- Genetics – skin type is often genetic. Some heels get thick callous but don’t crack whereas others have no callous but crack badly after a day at the beach.
- Diabetes – autonomic neuropathy leads to less sweating and therefore less moisture.
- Thyroid problems
- Dermatitis, psoriasis, or eczema
- Fungal infection of the skin, i.e. tinea pedis or Athletes foot
- Downs syndrome
- Kidney disease
- Circulation issues
- Some medications
- Deficiency of vitamins, minerals, zinc and malnutrition.
Note: in the elderly or diabetic feet, calloused or cracked heel may be a sign of increased pressure or poor circulation and can be a precursor to a bed sore or an ulcer. These cases should be assessed by a podiatrist before commencing any at home treatments.
How a podiatrist can help
Here at Riverside Podiatry, our podiatrists have access to specialised podiatry equipment to quickly and painlessly remove the dead skin and callouses that result in cracked heels. We can also recommend appropriate emollients to improve skin integrity and elasticity to prevent recurrence. Our podiatrists can also perform a thorough neurological and vascular assessment to rule out more serious medical problems that often lead to cracked heels.
Referral to other health professionals may be necessary where this condition is caused by nutritional or other medical disorders.
Prevention and management at home
Most simple cases of cracked heels can be treated and managed at home with a little bit of effort. Some recommendations include:
- Moisturise the heels twice daily with a urea- or oil-based emollient
- For less severe cases a pumice stone or large emery board can be used to reduce the thickness of dry hard skin
- Wear enclosed shoes with socks. Breathable shoes with socks made from natural fibres, such as cotton or bamboo, are recommended
- Stay well hydrated with a balanced diet
- If your cracked heels start to bleed, apply an antiseptic to prevent infection and keep clean with a dressing until healed. If it is not healing, see a podiatrist.