Most of us never even consider the skin of our heels—that is, until they become dry and cracked. Dealing with scratchy, dehydrated, broken heel skin can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. As the Institute for Preventive Foot Health explains, “cracked heels, also called ‘heel fissures,’ are a fairly common foot condition,” unfortunately. While “for many people they are merely a nuisance or cosmetic problem,” they can also become “painful” or even “bleed.” Austin podiatrist, Dr. Jeffery LaMour, and our team are here to help you handle any foot-related condition you come across. Read on to learn more about cracked heels and dry skin.
The Hassles of Heels
Even people who don’t otherwise have dry skin can suffer from cracked heels. In their article on the subject in Foot Vitals, Dr. Marc Katz and Dr. James Milidantri note: “The skin on our feet is naturally dry, unlike the skin on the rest of the body. The skin on our feet has no oil glands, so it relies on hundreds of thousands of sweat glands to keep our feet moisturized.” Heels are especially prone to this dry sensitivity, which can progress into split skin. Knowing that all heels have this tendency, it’s important to take particularly good care of yours.
Dry heel skin comes in several stages. Foot Smart describes: “One of the first signs of dry, cracked heel is formation of thick, discolored callus tissue that may cause pain with everyday pressure-related activities like walking or running.” Your skin may also turn red, yellow, or white, peel, flake, itch, or develop a rash. At this point, it is incumbent upon you to remedy your skin before it worsens. If you fail to treat this roughening skin, “you may eventually notice small or even deep breaks that may cause bleeding to occur.” This development could make being on your feet uncomfortable or even impossible. Furthermore, if still not handled, this open heel skin may swell or become infected, inflicting further damage on your feet.
There are many potential sources of dry, cracked feet.
Many include behavioral factors, such as:
- Bathing in very hot water.
- Using moisture-stripping soaps.
- Turning up your home’s heating system, which can dry out the air.
- Exposing your heels to excessive sun.
- “Standing for prolonged periods of time, specifically on hard floors,” according to Live Strong.
- Wearing “thin-soled shoes that expose the heel of the foot,” per LiveStrong.
Fortunately, these are relatively easy to avoid, thus protecting your pads in the process.
Chronic conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, thyroid disease, obesity, kidney problems, deficiencies in certain vitamins, or diabetes may also contribute to this disorder. In addition, many patients’ heels tend to become drier as they get older.
Fortunately, dry skin and cracked heels are typically quite simple to treat, especially if you catch this condition early enough. If your skin is beginning to become dry, simply ceasing risky behaviors (such as extra-hot showers or wearing thin-soled shoes) could do the trick. Dr. LaMour also recommends soaking your feet for 15 to 20 minutes in warm water and carefully exfoliating the skin with a loofah. You can also use a foot moisturizing lotion daily, particularly those with peppermint. If you’re willing to try an overnight treatment, you can also apply petroleum jelly to your heels, sealing it with thick socks while you sleep and it soaks in. Dr. LaMour only suggests this approach, however, if your heels have no open skin.
If dry, cracked heels have begun to take a toll on your ability to walk, putting bandages over the affected areas may help them heal. Dr. LaMour can also fit you for a custom-made orthotic to help take the pressure off of your heels.
In severe cases, Dr. LaMour and our team can help you treat bleeding or infection with prescription medications or procedures, as needed. However, we hope to help you handle your feet such that this isn’t necessary.
Contact Your Austin Podiatrist Today
Do you suffer from dry, cracked heels or another bothersome foot condition? Austin podiatrist, Dr. LaMour, can help. Contact our podiatry practice today to find out more and schedule an appointment.