Cracked heels are commonly experienced by many people. These usually result from lack of moisture at the soles of feet. Other causes may include repeated trauma and pressure to the skin of soles. Cracked Heels look unattractive. For most individuals, it is merely a cosmetic problem. But in long-standing untreated cases, cracks may develop into painful fissures. Therefore, these require proper care and treatment.
In this post, we would discuss about the causes and precautions to prevent development of cracked heels and home based care of cracked heels.Dr. Monika Misra
What causes cracked heels?
Dryness of foot is very common, as the skin of soles does not contain oil secreting glands. This is one of the most important cause of cracked feet.
Dryness of skin at soles and some other factors as repeated foot injury from walking barefoot or due to excessive pressure on the heel can irritate the skin of soles. On constant irritation, the skin of soles thickens to protect itself as a defence mechanism. At later stages, thickened skin cracks under pressure and painful fissures develop. Pain is typically worse on weightbearing and alleviated by rest. People with larger, deeper heel fissures have an increased risk of infection that may progress to cellulitis and ulceration, especially in those with diabetes.
Risk factors for cracked heels
Cracked heels commonly develop in middle age. It commonly occurs in winter seasons when there is excessive dryness of skin. Older adults who are diabetic or overweight are most susceptible. Women tend to be more affected because they wear sandals and shoes without socks. Common risk factors include:
- dryness of skin due to any reason as winters,dermatitis, medical conditions as thyroid disorder or diabetes
- walking barefoot
- going sock less
- wearing sandals or flip flops
- poorly fitted shoes without heel support
- poor foot hygiene
- congenital foot deformity
- poor posture or gait
How to prevent cracked heels?
Do’s to prevent cracked heels
- Do moisturize your heels regularly especially after shower and at bedtime. You can use simple ointments as Vaseline or special heel balms containing humectant as urea, saccharide isomerate or kertolytic agents as salicylic acid or glycolic acid
- Do wear shoes and socks
- Do use slippers at home
- Do avoid repeated injury to your heels
- Do maintain good foot hygiene
- Do regular inspection of any cracking on heel
- use pumice stone to scrape off hard skin before applying moisturiser
Don’ts to prevent cracked heel
- Don’t aggressively peel away cracked heel skin
- Don’t over-cut thickened skin
- Don’t wear sandals or poor fitting shoes
- Don’t let your cracked heels go too long
- Don’t try to do home surgery
We treat cracked heels
Complicated cases of cracked heels, like painful fissures, those not responding to home-based care, infected lesions, or cracked heels in diabetic patients require treatment by a dermatologist.
How to take care of cracked heel at home?
Frequently, cracked heels can resolve without medical treatment, if properly cared at home. A simple regimen to heal cracked heels at home includes:
- Soak your feet in warm water for 10-15 minutes.
- Rub the rough skin off your feet using a pumice stone or foot file while your feet are still wet. Rub off as much rough skin as possible without hurting your feet.
- Thoroughly dry your skin and apply thick Vaseline based thick medicated ointments or special heel balms (containing salicylic acid and urea). Leave it for overnight. Apply this ointment 2-3 times at daytime too.
- Wear socks and cushioned shoes daily.
How to prevent recurrences?
Recurrence of cracked feet can be prevented by regular care. Simple precautions as wearing cushioned shoes, socks and avoiding trauma and repeat injury to heels can prevent cracked feet. To prevent dryness of skin of soles, daily moisturizing is important especially after shower and at bedtime.