What causes cracked heels?

How should you treat cracked heels?

Cracked heels are very common and we see a lot of these in our podiatry clinic. You may feel embarrassed about seeking treatment for your cracked heels, especially if they’re not looking too great, but it’s important that you do. We can treat your heels, and help manage any pain and discomfort you’re experiencing, while they heal. We can also advise you on the best way to prevent cracked heels from occurring in the future.

Read on to learn more about cracked heels, what you can do to treat them at home, and how we can help if home treatment isn’t sufficient.

What are cracked heels?

Cracked heels are a very common foot problem. Most of the time, cracked heels are a merely unsightly to look at. However, if cracks (also called fissures) become large and deep, it can be painful to stand, walk or put any pressure on the heel. Left untreated, these cracks can also become infected.

Causes of cracked heels

signs and symptoms of cracked heels?

The first sign that you may develop a cracked heel is the formation of hard, dry callouses (patches of thickened skin) around the heel, which may be yellow or brown in colour.

 As the skin becomes more dried out, these callouses can develop small cracks. Left untreated, these cracks will become larger and deeper as continued pressure is placed on the heel. Walking or standing or any other pressure on the heel will be painful. Over time, these cracks can become so deep that they may even bleed. 

 

What causes cracked heels?

Cracked heels are caused by dry skin. When the skin around the edge of your heel becomes dry and thick, increased pressure on the pad under the heel causes the skin to crack. Cracked heels are more common during the winter months when humidity is low and the outdoor temperature is low. Other factors can also come into play including:

 

Causes of cracked heels

Who is at risk of developing cracked heels?

Anyone can develop cracked heels but there is usually a higher risk in people who have:

dry skin

eczema

juvenile plantar dermatosis

Diabetes

high bmi

palmoplantar keratoderma

psoriasis

Complications of cracked heels

Severe cases of cracked heels can lead to infection, including cellulitis (a common bacterial infection of the skin).

Cracked heels can also be serious for people who have neuropathic (nerve) damage. This can cause someone to lose feeling in their feet, thereby delaying treatment and increasing the risk of a serious complication. People with diabetes are at risk of complications such as diabetic foot ulcers.

Treatment for cracked heels

Fortunately, cracked heels can be treated successfully. However, the earlier you start treatment the better!

home treatment

Home treatments for cracked heels can successfully repair mild cases of cracked heels. These include:

Foot file

Gently exfoliating your feet with a pumice stone or foot file to remove callouses.

socks

Keeping heels covered by wearing breathable socks and avoiding open-heeled shoes.

Soaking feet in lukewarm water for up to 20 minutes to soften heels before exfoliating.

Moisturising the heels on a regular basis to hydrate skin. Look for heel balms containing urea as it helps remove dead skin. Be sure to moisturise after bathing or showering to help lock in moisture.

Podiatry treatment

In some cases, it may be necessary to see a podiatrist, particularly if home treatment is not making any difference, you are in a lot of pain, or the cracks in your heels are large. Podiatry treatment may involve:

treat your feet to a medical pedicure

There’s no need to suffer from cracked heels in silence. 

Our friendly, experienced podiatrists know exactly what to do to treat cracked heels, even in the most severe of cases.

Your Podiatrist will remove all dry skin and cracks around your heels. You will emerge from our clinic with hydrated crack free heels. 

How to prevent cracked heels

As they say, prevention is better than cure and that’s certainly the case for cracked heels.

Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to prevent this annoying condition by following these steps:

Prevent cracked heels

Frequently asked questions

Removing the overlying dry skin and a good heel balm. In severe cases we recommend seeing a Podiatrist for foot care.

Yes, Podiatrists not only treat cracked heels but can also diagnose any underlying conditions. 

A good heel balm should have urea as an ingredient. In some cases, creams which aren’t dense like a spray or mousse can absorb better into the skin. 

At The Foot Hub we stock Restorate Foot Balm and PodoExpert Repair Foam 

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medical pedicure is your chance for that regular ‘check-up’, when a trained podiatrist will look after everything from dry skin to discoloured nails, callouses to corns, all in the hygienic setting of a medical clinic.

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