I woke up this morning, pulled on my pants, and heard the awful scratchy sound of my dry cracked heels rubbing against my clothing. It’s like nails on a chalkboard. Not only do I hate that sound, but my heels are beyond unsightly and also uncomfortable. Why do I let them get to this point? I know that if I give my feet more attention, I can prevent this issue. And I do take care of my feet at times, but eventually, I get lazy and they go back to the way they were.
“As is the case for many medical conditions, prevention is the best treatment for dry cracked heels! In other words, don’t forget to give your feet a little love.”
This quote is from Dr. Fayne Frey, a Board-Certified Dermatologist (and owner of FryFace.com) who writes frequently for 50PlusToday. In one of her recent posts, she provides suggestions on how to prevent dry, cracked heels.
The problem of dry cracked feet is particularly common during the colder months. I am one of those unlucky people who experience horribly dry heels all year long. So here I am in June, it’s 98 degrees out, and my heels are as dry as ever.
What Causes Dry Cracked Feet?
Dry cracked feet can be caused by several factors. Here are some common causes:
Lack of Moisture
Dry skin, also known as xerosis, is a common cause of cracked feet. When the skin loses its natural moisture, it becomes dry, tight, and prone to cracking.
Harsh or Hot Water
Excessive exposure to hot water, especially during long baths or showers, can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness and cracking.
Cold, dry climates can also contribute to dry cracked feet. The low humidity levels and cold temperatures can deplete the skin’s moisture, resulting in dryness and cracking.
Wearing shoes that don’t provide adequate support or are too tight can lead to friction and pressure on the feet, causing dryness and cracks.
People who spend long hours on their feet, such as healthcare workers or retail employees, are more prone to developing dry cracked feet due to the increased pressure and friction on the skin.
Certain skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and athlete’s foot can cause dryness, itching, and cracking of the skin on the feet.
As we age, our skin produces less oil and moisture, making it more susceptible to dryness and cracking.
Individuals with diabetes often experience dry skin, including on their feet. The condition can impair the nerves and blood circulation in the feet, leading to dryness and an increased risk of complications.
Poor Foot Hygiene
Inadequate foot hygiene, such as infrequent washing or not moisturizing regularly, can contribute to dry, cracked feet.
It’s important to identify the underlying cause of dry cracked feet to determine the most appropriate treatment and preventive measures. If you’re experiencing persistent or severe symptoms, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional.
How Can I Prevent Dry Cracked Heels in the First Place?
I am way passed prevention at this time with my dry cracked heels, unfortunately. But once I remedy the situation, I want to know what to do to prevent them from becoming dry and cracked in the first place. My dermatologist suggested I incorporate the following practices into my foot care routine to decrease the likelihood of future problems.
Hydrate Your Feet
Keep your feet well-moisturized by applying a thick, emollient foot cream or lotion daily. Focus on the heels and other dry areas. It’s best to apply moisturizer immediately after bathing or showering when the skin is still slightly damp to lock in moisture.
Avoid Hot Water
Limit your foot exposure to hot water, as it can strip the skin of its natural oils and exacerbate dryness. Instead, use lukewarm water for foot baths and showers.
Regularly exfoliate your feet using a pumice stone or a foot scrub to remove dead skin cells. This helps to prevent the buildup of dry, thickened skin that can contribute to cracking.
Wear Comfortable Footwear
Choose shoes that fit well and provide proper support. Avoid tight or ill-fitting shoes that can cause friction and pressure on your feet. Opt for breathable materials that allow air circulation.
Moisturize Before Bedtime
Apply a generous amount of moisturizer to your feet before going to bed. Put on a pair of clean, cotton socks to help seal in the moisture overnight.
Drink plenty of water to keep your body hydrated. Hydration from within can contribute to healthier skin, including your feet.
Use Mild Soaps
When washing your feet, use mild, gentle soaps or cleansers. Harsh soaps can strip away natural oils and further dry out your skin.
Protect Your Feet
Wear socks and shoes in public areas, such as swimming pools, locker rooms, and communal showers, to prevent infections and minimize exposure to harsh surfaces.
Maintain Proper Foot Hygiene
Keep your feet clean by washing them daily with lukewarm water and a mild soap. Dry your feet thoroughly, paying attention to the spaces between your toes.
Avoid Excessive Moisture
While it’s important to moisturize, make sure to keep your feet dry, especially between the toes. Excessive moisture can lead to fungal infections.
Wear Moisture-Wicking Socks
Choose socks made of moisture-wicking materials, such as cotton blends or synthetic fibers, to help keep your feet dry and prevent excessive sweating.
Protect Your Feet From Extreme Temperatures
During hot weather, avoid walking barefoot on hot surfaces. In cold weather, wear warm socks and insulated footwear to protect your feet from drying out.
What are the Symptoms of Dry Cracked Heels?
The symptoms of dry cracked heels may vary depending on the severity of the condition. Here are common symptoms associated with dry cracked feet:
- Dryness: Dry skin on the feet is a primary symptom. The skin may appear rough, scaly, or flaky.
- Cracks: Cracks or fissures in the skin are a characteristic sign of dryness. These cracks can be shallow or deep and may cause discomfort or pain, especially when walking or standing.
- Redness: The affected areas of the feet may appear reddened or inflamed, particularly around the cracked areas.
- Itching or irritation: Dry, cracked skin can be itchy and may cause irritation or a burning sensation.
- Pain or tenderness: Deep cracks in the skin can lead to pain and tenderness, especially when pressure is applied or during movement.
- Bleeding: In severe cases, deep cracks can cause bleeding. This usually occurs when the skin is overly dry and lacks elasticity.
- Calluses or thickened skin: As a protective mechanism, the skin may develop calluses or thickened areas in response to the dryness and pressure. These areas may feel hard or rough.
- Peeling or flaking skin: Dry skin on the feet can result in peeling or flaking, where small pieces of skin may come off.
- Tightness or stiffness: Dryness can cause the skin to feel tight or stiff, limiting its flexibility and range of motion.
- Infections: If cracks in the feet are deep or open, they can increase the risk of bacterial or fungal infections. Signs of infection may include increased pain, swelling, warmth, discharge, or a foul odor.
It’s important to address these symptoms and take steps to treat and prevent further complications. If you experience severe pain, signs of infection, or if the cracks do not improve with home care consult a healthcare professional for evaluation and appropriate treatment.
What is the Recommended Treatment for Dry Cracked Heals?
There are several steps you can take to treat dry cracked heels once it’s become a problem. Here are some suggestions from my doctor.
Apply a thick, emollient moisturizer or foot cream specifically designed for dry skin to your heels at least twice a day. Look for products containing ingredients like urea, lactic acid, salicylic acid, or petroleum jelly. Apply the moisturizer after bathing or soaking your feet to help lock in moisture.
Regularly exfoliate your heels to remove dead skin cells and promote new cell growth. You can use a pumice stone, foot file, or an exfoliating scrub specifically made for feet. Gently rub the affected areas to remove dry, hardened skin.
Soak Your Feet
Soaking your feet in warm water can help soften the skin on your heels and make them easier to exfoliate. Add some Epsom salt or a few drops of essential oils to enhance the experience. Soak your feet for about 15-20 minutes, then pat them dry.
Avoid Harsh Soaps and Hot Water
Harsh soaps and hot water can strip the natural oils from your skin, making dryness worse. Opt for mild, moisturizing soaps and lukewarm water when washing your feet.
Wear Appropriate Footwear
Choose open-backed shoes or sandals that allow your heels to breathe. Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or don’t provide proper support, as they can contribute to dryness and cracking.
Use Heel Cups or Silicone Heel Sleeves
Heal cups and silicone heel sleeves are used in the treatment for dry cracked heals to help cushion and protect your heels. This reduces pressure and friction that can exacerbate cracking. They can also help keep moisturizers in place.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day to keep your body and skin hydrated from within.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
Consume a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals that support skin health, such as vitamins A, C, and E, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc.
What Type of Moisturizers Or Creams Should I Use To Treat Dry Cracked Feet?
When choosing moisturizers or creams for dry cracked feet, it’s best to opt for products that are specifically formulated for intense hydration and repair. Here are some recommendations for the treatment of dry cracked heels:
Look for thick, emollient creams that contain ingredients like shea butter, cocoa butter, or urea. These ingredients help to moisturize and soften the skin, promoting healing and preventing further dryness.
Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, can be effective in sealing in moisture and providing a protective barrier for dry cracked feet. Apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly on your feet, focusing on the cracked areas, and cover them with clean cotton socks overnight for maximum benefit.
Moisturizers With Ceramides
Ceramides are natural lipids found in the skin that help to maintain its barrier function and retain moisture. Look for foot creams or moisturizers that contain ceramides to help repair and replenish the skin’s natural moisture barrier.
Lactic Acid or Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) Creams
These ingredients help exfoliate and remove dead skin cells, promoting smoother and healthier skin. They can be beneficial for addressing dry, cracked feet. However, if your skin is sensitive or the cracks are deep, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional before using products with these ingredients.
Hyaluronic Acid Creams
Hyaluronic acid is a humectant that helps to attract and retain moisture in the skin. Look for foot creams or moisturizers containing hyaluronic acid to provide deep hydration to your dry, cracked feet.
Ointments With Panthenol
Panthenol, also known as provitamin B5, has moisturizing and healing properties. It helps to improve the skin’s barrier function and promote skin repair. Consider using ointments or creams containing panthenol for dry cracked feet.
Certain natural oils, such as coconut oil, almond oil, or jojoba oil, can provide nourishment and hydration to dry skin. Apply a few drops of the oil to your feet and massage it in gently.
It’s important to apply moisturizers or creams to clean, dry feet and focus on the areas that are dry and cracked. For optimal results, apply the moisturizer after bathing or showering when the skin is slightly damp to lock in moisture. Additionally, consider wearing clean cotton socks after applying moisturizer to help retain the moisture and enhance absorption.
The Bottom Line: Prevention and Treatment For Dry-Cracked Heels
Remember, consistency is key for treatment of dry cracked heels. It may take some time for noticeable improvements, so be patient and persistent with your skincare routine. Try the tips outlined above to eliminate the problem of dry cracked heels. If your problematic heels are severe, and painful, or don’t improve with home remedies, please consult a healthcare professional.
Once you have them looking healthy and pink, then keep in mind to continue to give your feet some love! Prevention is key.
1. When should I see a doctor for treatment for dry cracked feet?
While most cases of dry cracked feet are managed fairly easily with self-care measures and home remedies, there are situations where we recommend you see a doctor for further evaluation and treatment. For example, see a doctor if your dry cracked feet do not improve or show signs of healing despite proper self-care measures over a reasonable period, especially if they impair your ability to walk, stand or perform daily activities. Also, visit your health care professional if you experience severe pain or notice increased swelling, bleeding, redness, warmth discharge or a foul odor. For those with underlying medical conditions like diabetes or a compromised immune system, it’s essential to see a doctor. These conditions can increase the risk of complications and may require specialized foot care.
2. Are there any medical conditions that can cause dry cracked feet?
Yes, certain medical conditions can contribute to or cause dry cracked feet. Examples include eczema (atopic dermatitis), psoriasis, athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), diabetes, hypothyroidism, nutritional deficiencies, and allergic contact dermatitis. It’s important to note that the presence of dry cracked feet does not necessarily indicate the presence of an underlying medical condition.
3. Are there any natural remedies for treating dry cracked feet?
Yes, there are several natural remedies that can help in treating dry cracked feet. Remember, though, that while these remedies may provide relief and promote healing, they may not be a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Some examples of natural remedies you can try include honey, oatmeal, tea tree oil, and a chamomile tea soak.
4. Are there any dietary changes that can help with treatment for dry cracked heels?
Yes, certain dietary changes and supplements can support overall skin health, including dry cracked feet. While these changes are not a guaranteed solution, they may help improve the condition of your skin. Consider consulting a dietitian to learn appropriate ways to incorporate foods high in vitamin E, biotin, vitamin C, antioxidant-rich foods, essential fatty acids and zinc.
5. Can wearing certain types of footwear worsen dry cracked feet?
Yes, wearing certain types of footwear can worsen dry cracked feet. For example, open-back or open-toe shoes expose your feet to air, which can increase moisture loss from the skin. This can exacerbate dryness and contribute to cracking. Ill-fitting or tight shoes do not provide adequate space for your feet and can lead to friction and pressure on the skin. This can cause dryness, and irritation, and eventually lead to cracks. High-heeled shoes can cause excessive pressure on the balls of the feet and the heels, leading to dryness and calluses. The lack of support and altered weight distribution can also increase the risk of cracks and discomfort. Shoes made of synthetic materials, such as plastic or vinyl, can trap moisture and heat, leading to increased sweat and reduced airflow to the feet. This can contribute to a moist environment that can worsen dryness and increase the risk of fungal or bacterial infections. Finally, Lack shoes that lack proper cushioning and support can increase the pressure and impact on your feet while walking or standing. This can result in increased friction and dryness, potentially leading to cracked feet.
Remember, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options if you’re experiencing persistent or severe symptoms. This article is not intended as medical advice.
updated July 17, 2023