January 02, 2018
Submitted by Heartland Foot & Ankle Associates
Cracked heels, also known as heel fissures, are a common foot problem. They aren’t usually serious and can be treated fairly easily, but they are often unsightly, sometimes painful, and if ignored, can lead to illness and infections. Cracked heels start out as areas of hard, dry, thickened skin around the edge of the heel. When pressure is put on the heel by standing or walking, the heel wants to expand. If the skin is not supple enough to accommodate this expansion, then it splits open. These cracks can become more numerous, get deeper, begin to bleed, and develop into open sores that are not only painful and more difficult to treat, but can allow bacteria and viruses to enter the body. This is especially dangerous for diabetics or people with compromised immune systems.
Cracked heels are caused by too little moisture in the skin. The dry skin may simply be the result of not adequately moisturizing your feet, or it could be due to underlying skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema, or some people just naturally have dry feet. The condition can be aggravated by cold winter weather, taking long hot baths, standing for long periods of time, wearing thin-soled open-back shoes, wearing shoes that irritate the heel, being overweight, or having diabetes.
Keeping the foot and heel moisturized is the key to preventing cracks from occurring. Slather on a balm specifically designed for the heel area or an emollient cream that includes aloe, shea butter, or urea. Coconut oil or Vaseline can also be good options. Wear wool or cotton socks over the moisturizer at nighttime. Following are some other tips for treating and preventing cracked heels.
- Do not allow your feet to be exposed to very hot water. While hot water might feel soothing, it is very drying to the skin.
- Do not go barefoot.
- Wear shoes that fit snugly in the heel so rubbing doesn’t cause the callouses to form. Shoes that “cup” the heel help prevent the skin from expanding.
- Add Epsom salt to warm water and soak feet for about 20 minutes. Follow this with moisturizing.
- Using a pumice stone or loofah after bathing or showering can help prevent the skin from thickening. Never try to cut or scrape off the skin yourself.
If at-home treatments are not working, see your podiatrist. A podiatrist can make sure that there isn’t a more serious underlying condition, can advise you on the best sort of cream to use, can safely remove some of the dead skin, and can prescribe medication or custom orthotics if necessary.
For more information regarding foot pain or any foot problem, please contact Dr. Lockwood at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates, at 309-661-9975 or www.heartlandfootandankle.com. Their office is located at 10 Heartland Dr. in Bloomington. They also carry Vionic slippers and shoes, which are good for preventing many foot problems including cracked heels.
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