Monday, May 20, 2024
FOOT HEALTH Skin and Nail Problems

6 Interesting Reasons Why Your Heels Crack (With Helpful Tips)

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Cracked heels can be so painful, and not to mention embarrassing! The main symptoms include pain, itching, bleeding, and embarrassment (1). Caring for cracked heels is important to prevent them from worsening.

Your heels can crack due to excessively dry skin in the heels. Where there is a buildup of dry thick skin, you will notice cracks start to develop in your heels.

These are called “fissures”. Cracked heels should be addressed promptly. 

Some people have more dry skin than others. However, many things can cause your heels to dry out more. In this article, we’ll discuss why your heels crack with helpful tips on what you can do about it. 

Let’s dive in…

open back slippers

1) Wearing Shoes With an Open Heel Can Cause Cracked Heels

If you wear shoes with an open heel, your heel is exposed and this can cause the dry skin to worsen. This can be a problem, especially in the summertime!

A lot of people wear slippers and even shoes with platforms that may cause the back of their heels to dry out. 

Not only that, wearing shoes with a lift on them can cause pressure to disperse throughout your heel causing further cracks.

When you suffer from dry skin and heel fissures, applying moisturizer on the heel under occlusion can help. Meaning that after you apply a moisturizer to your feet, keep your feet covered with socks and closed-back shoes. 

Solution

As mentioned previously, something as simple as wearing socks and shoes with a closed heel can help with dry, cracked skin. This will help lock in moisture and prevent water loss in the back of the heel. 

If you need an extra cushion on the back of your heel, you can obtain Tuli’s heel cups from Amazon. You can order your size and place these directly into your shoes over your inserts.

This will give your heels some cushion, and prevent the cracked heels from worsening. They feel comfortable and can be used for a long time. 

Just make sure that if you buy heel cups your shoes are deep enough. If you have a low-back shoe, heel cups will cause your heels to lift when you walk, causing your feet to lift away from your shoes. 

cracked heel diabetes

2) Diabetes Can Cause Cracked Heels

Diabetes can cause many skin changes. One of which is dry skin. Unfortunately, if you are diabetic, you may suffer from more dry skin than someone who is not a diabetic. You may also notice that your skin dries out more quickly.

Read this supplemental post Actionable Solutions For Foot Problems From Diabetes.

Solution

The best thing to do (other than managing your blood sugar levels) is to practice good foot care. When you get out of the shower, dry your feet with a towel.

You can then simply apply Vaseline onto your heels. I would recommend applying Vaseline on your heels at night because you don’t want to slip and fall! 

After applying Vaseline, put socks over your feet to allow the Vaseline to penetrate the skin. If this is done daily, this can certainly help with dry, cracked skin.

coconut oil

Other Home Remedies for Cracked Heels

Coconut oil is beneficial for dry, cracked skin as well. It can be used daily on the skin. It has anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties and can be great for cracked skin. 

Use honey! Honey has anti-bacterial properties and works great for dry, cracked heels because it is a natural moisturizing agent. You can use honey as a foot scrub to help soften cracked heels. 

Foot Miracle Cream is gentle and can be used for cracked heels as well. It contains Aloe Vera which is an antioxidant and is helpful to soothe the skin. 

If you are diabetic, it’s important to use safe products, because the skin is sensitive. You will want to make sure not to use anything very harsh. 

If you are diabetic and have cracked heels, you are at higher risk of developing an infection. If you notice any redness, pain, or heat along your heels that would suggest infection, it’s time to call your foot doctor for help. You may need antibiotics.

Also, diabetics often have numbness in their feet. You may not even notice that the cracks in your heel have deepened.

Make sure to check the bottoms of your feet every day. If you can’t reach down to do this, put a mirror against the wall and lift your feet to check them that way.

standing feet

3) Standing All Day Can Cause Cracked Heels

When you stand all day (especially on hardwood floors) cracked heels can occur due to pressure (2). This can be problematic especially if you work more than 8 hours a day on your feet. 

Heel moisture and elasticity are the least in the center of the heels, compared to the outsides of your heels (3). This can cause pain to occur when standing along the center of your heels.

Solution

Practice self-care! A lot of times people want a permanent solution for cracked heels. The reality of the situation is that you need to practice self-care daily to prevent cracked heels from returning. Make sure you apply the right moisturizers to your feet. 

So What Moisturizers Should You Use?

I would recommend a combination of Urea as well as Salicylic acid for severely dry, cracked feet. 

Urea is a keratolytic meaning that it breaks down the hard keratin in the skin. It is also very effective in preventing moisture loss in the heels.

It can attract and hold water in the epidermis, which gives it excellent emollient properties (4). 

Salicyclic acid is also an effective keratolytic and can help shed some of the excess skin in the heels that cause cracked heels.

You can buy Ebanel’s product that contains both ingredients here on Amazon. This cream contains 40% Urea (a higher strength), and 2% Salicylic acid. It is effective and works well.

As mentioned previously, make sure you are wearing heel cups in your shoes for extra support and comfort while standing. 

Check out this article to read more about Foot Pain From Standing

feet water

4) Washing Your Feet in Hot Water Can Cause Your Heels to Crack

When you take a prolonged hot shower, this can cause your skin to dry out further. There is a misconception that soaking your feet in water can help cracked heels. Unfortunately, this can make the situation worse.

Solution

Aim to take a warm shower for no more than 10 to 15 minutes. Avoid very high temperatures and prolonged showers for 45 minutes or more.

When you get out of the shower, dry your feet and use a pumice stone to remove the dead skin on your heels. After this, you can apply a moisturizer to your feet.

obesity

5) Obesity Can Cause Your Heels to Crack

Obesity can cause your cracked heels to worsen due to increased pressure on the heels when walking.

Being overweight places a lot more pressure on your feet in general. Unfortunately, dry skin is more commonly seen. 

Solution

Of course weight loss is effective if you are overweight. However, what else can you do in the meantime? 

One of the things you can do is wear an orthotic that will help disperse pressure throughout your feet when walking. 

Wearing a simple orthotic with arch support can help to disperse pressure away from the heel.

You can obtain orthotics from Amazon that you can apply to your shoes.

I highly recommend the Powerstep ProTech inserts. This orthotic is supportive and has a firm arch and deep heel cup. The heel of the orthotic also has a poron pad, which will give you an extra cushion when you walk. 

Remove the shoe liners present in your shoes, and place these orthotics directly into your shoes. They are effective and can last 6 months to 1 year. 

skin condition

6) Skin Conditions Can Cause Your Heels to Crack

Certain skin conditions such as psoriasis, which is an autoimmune disease that causes hyperactivity of the skin cells can cause excessively dry skin formation with cracked heels.

Eczema, an inflammatory skin condition can also cause your heels to crack.

Solution

Although moisturizers can be effective to help dry skin for mild psoriasis and eczema, occasionally, prescription-strength corticosteroid creams/ointments may be needed to soften the skin on the heels.

It’s best to see your doctor for recommendations, as simple moisturizers aren’t always effective for chronic skin conditions. 

However, there are some things you can do. Make sure to avoid harsh soaps and hot water, as this can make skin conditions worsen. Use hypoallergenic soaps and detergents. 

Focus on eating healthy foods to avoid inflammation in the body, which can make both eczema and psoriasis worse. 

call doctor

When Should You See Your Doctor for Cracked Heels?

  • If you have cracked heels with calluses that need to be trimmed

If you have suffered from dry cracked heels for years, you may have developed a thick callus on your heels. This will need to be trimmed by a foot doctor.

Trimming the excess skin can give you some relief and allow moisturizers to penetrate better. This is a painless process and can be done in several minutes and can provide significant relief. 

  • If you have an infection

If you notice that the cracks in your heel extend deep and you notice sudden redness, pain, increased warmth in the heel, or pus, you should contact your doctor immediately.

Infections can be painful and should be addressed with an antibiotic. If left untreated, the infection can get into the bone. This may require long-term IV antibiotics.

  • If over-the-counter moisturizers don’t work

If you have used many creams on your feet without success, you may want to contact your doctor to receive stronger prescription medication for cracked heels.

Usually, the ingredients (like Urea) will be the same, but in a stronger strength. Also, your insurance may cover these medications. 

Conclusion

In conclusion, cracked heels can be so frustrating to treat and difficult to manage. It is something that needs to be treated every day to have the best results.

However, it doesn’t take too much effort to maintain proper foot health, if done regularly.

Do you suffer from cracked heels? What helped you treat it? I would love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment below!

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Related article: Foot Pain From High Heels: Causes & Solutions for Painful Feet From Wearing Heels

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cracked heels pin

References

  1. Longhurst, B., & Steele, C. (2016). Dry heel fissures: treatment and prevention. Dermatological Nursing, 15(3), 46-49.https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Belinda-Longhurst/publication/316880454_Dry_Heel_Fissures_Treatment_and_Prevention/links/5915b86d0f7e9b70f49da7b4/Dry-Heel-Fissures-Treatment-and-Prevention.pdf.
  2.  Wadekar, P. H., & Potnis, V. (2021). A Review on Heel Fissures and its Management. International Journal of Research in Engineering, Science and Management, 4(2), 96-98.http://www.journals.resaim.com/ijresm/article/view/516)
  3. Hashmi, F., Nester, C., Wright, C., Newton, V., & Lam, S. (2015). Characterizing the biophysical properties of normal and hyperkeratotic foot skin. Journal of foot and ankle research, 8(1), 1-10.https://jfootankleres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s13047-015-0092-7
  4. Bristow, I. (2016). Urea-the gold standard for emollients?. Podiatry Now, 19(10), 20-23.
  5. Oe, M., Takehara, K., Noguchi, H., Ohashi, Y., Fukuda, M., Kadowaki, T., & Sanada, H. (2018). Skin hydration of the heel with fissure in patients with diabetes: a cross-sectional observational study. Chronic Wound Care Management and Research, 5, 11-16.https://www.dovepress.com/skin-hydration-of-the-heel-with-fissure-in-patients-with-diabetes-a-cr-peer-reviewed-fulltext-article-CWCMR
  6. O’Sullivan, G., Fotinos, C., & St Anna, L. (2012). What treatments relieve painful heel cracks?https://mospace.umsystem.edu/xmlui/handle/10355/15740
  7. Singh, R. Best Home Remedies for Cracked Heel.https://pharmeasy.in/blog/home-remedies-for-cracked-heel/
  8. Davis, S. (2022). Caring for your skin when winter weather hits. South African Pharmacist’s Assistant, 22(2), 18-19.http://sapajournal.co.za/index.php/SAPA/article/view/954
  9. Lodén, M. (2015). Moisturizers: treatment of dry skin syndrome and barrier defects. Cosmeceuticals and Active Cosmetics, 3, 235.https://www.taylorfrancis.com/chapters/edit/10.1201/b18895-22/moisturizers-treatment-dry-skin-syndrome-barrier-defects-marie-lod%C3%A9n

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Vaishnavi Bawa
Dr. Vaishnavi Bawa is a Podiatrist who specializes in treating foot and ankle pathology. LifesLittleSteps mission is to educate the public about foot health in an easy-to-understand manner using evidence-based medicine.
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