Heel fissures, commonly referred to as dry, cracked heels, are caused by dry skin called Xerosis. If the skin around the rim of the heel is thick and has calluses, this can add to the foot problem and cause a lot of discomfort to the person suffering from cracked heels. Primarily a cosmetic problem, dry, cracked heels is a condition that can be very painful if the fissures/cracks are deep, making it difficult for the person to even stand as this may make the skin bleed. In severe cases, the cracked skin can become infected.
Symptoms of Cracked Heels
The edge of the heel can have thicker area of skin and look rough, dry, scaly, and hardened around the rim. Sometimes, the affected area is darker in color as compared to the rest of the sole. Wearing open or thin-soled shoes is not recommended as this makes the symptoms worse.
Causes of Dry, Cracked Heels
• People born with a naturally dry skin are predisposed to developing cracks in the skin and the thickened dry skin/callus around the heel has a greater likelihood of cracking due to mechanical factors increasing pressures in that area. This can be due to the way a person walks and the weight put on the heel area of the foot.
• Prolonged standing at work/home can cause dry, cracked heels, especially when people are working on hard floors.
• Overweight people are at increased risk of developing dry, cracked heels as the excess weight increases the pressure on the normal fat pad under the heel, causing it to expand sideways.
• Certain medical conditions can also lead to drying skin. Autonomic neuropathy in those with diabetes leads to less sweating and an under active thyroid reduces the body’s metabolic rate, both of which can cause dryness of the skin.
• Cracked, rough and dry heels can be a result of aging also and skin types and lifestyles play a major role in developing these feet fissures. Podiatrists attribute this underlying foot problem to inadequate attention given to feet and though skin in the heel and sole does become dryer and less supple as people age with the protective padding of the fat layer thinning, this formation of calluses can be prevented through positive foot care.Calluses, which are usually associated with dry, cracked heels, develop when there is excessive pressure on a particular area of the foot.
Preventing Dry, Cracked Heels: Self-treatment Tips
The first step is to follow a hygienic foot care routine, including wearing properly fitted footwear and avoiding tight-fitting stockings/socks. A twice-daily application of any good oil based moisturizing cream is very effective in preventing dry, cracked heels. The use of a pumice stone can reduce the thickness of the hard skin and make it easier for the application of the moisturizing cream to penetrate deeper into the skin, making way for softer, healthier heels and feet.