Are your cracked heels causing alarm?

Foot Care

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Aug 5, 2017

If you’ve been outside barefoot or constantly wearing flip flop sandals this summer, you may have dry heels.

Give your feet a break from constant exposure, and find ways to treat your dry, cracked heels. John Brust, DPM, a podiatrist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Clinic – Killeen sees a number of patients who are dealing with foot problems and provides some tips for treating cracked heels.

Causes of Cracked Heels

If you’re wondering just how your feet got so bad, consider your daily habits. Are you constantly wearing sandals? Do you lotion your feet at night? When was the last time you wore socks?

“The most common cause of cracked heels is chronically dry skin in that area,” Dr. Brust said. “There are many reasons why someone might get dry skin.”

Here are a number of reasons you may have cracked heels:

  • The most common reason is the use of open back shoes. Primarily flip flops and sandals in the summertime. Open back shoes contribute to this because:
    • The heel is exposed to the air continuously
    • There is no support around the fat pad on the heel
  • Other reasons people have dry skin may be:
    • diabetic autonomic neuropathy (unable to self-regulate moisture/oils on the skin)
    • tinea pedis (athlete’s foot)
    • psoriasis
    • and eczema

More Than a Cosmetic Problem

If you have dry heels, it is more than just a cosmetic issue. Cracked heels are the result of chronically dry skin in that area that may worsen if not properly cared for.

“Many people are concerned about the appearance of their feet and get embarrassed about this problem,” Dr. Brust said. “I try to educate the patient that this is not only a cosmetic problem but can lead to deeper fissures causing pain and even infection. People usually come in to see me for this when it becomes painful.”

How to Treat Cracked Heels

To remedy cracked heels, you’ve probably tried every lotion or cream out there. You may have scraped off dead skin, only to find the problem still persists. It turns out that you need to change your habits in order to rid yourself of cracked or dry heels.

“The skin continues to grow and respond to its environment. So, if the area is scraped and the foot environment stays the same, the problem will return,” Dr. Brust said.

The best remedy is to wear socks and enclosed shoes more often.

“This will hold the moisture in and support the fat pad around the heel,” Dr. Brust said.

Other things you can do at home would be regular sanding or scraping off dead skin (called debridement) and constant moisturizing. If your case is serious, your podiatrist may perform a sharp debridement of the overlying callus that forms around the cracks or fissures.

The feet can also be evaluated to rule out a bacterial infection or other causes that may require medication such as an anti-fungal or steroids.

“Again, there are many causes of dry cracking skin on the feet and heels,” Dr. Brust said. “If someone is having a problem taking care of this at home they should be evaluated to see what is causing the problem and get treatment. The areas can become very painful and infected if left untreated.”

If you suffer from severely cracked heels, find a podiatrist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Health who can help.   

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