Every summer the heels of my feet seem to dry out and crack. Sometimes these cracks can be very deep and painful. How do these crack occur? Why are they more common in some people than others? Why do cracked heels affect some people in the summer and some in the winter? Let’s take a look:
How do we get cracked heels?
Cracks on the feet are caused by insufficient moisture. Our feet have no oil glands so they rely heavily on our sweat glands instead. When they dry out, our heels shrink and when they try to expand… “It’s kind of like if you put plaster on a balloon and let it harden and blow up the balloon, the balloon will expand the plaster and crack. The heel pad wants to expand outward, but the skin is not pliable enough to expand with it, so it cracks.” (http://goo.gl/0MZkuj)
READ MORE: Year-Round Footcare
Some people are more susceptible to cracks than others. Contributing factors can include diabetes, obesity, dehydration, and people who just plain don’t take care of their feet. Diabetics commonly suffer from diabetic neuropathy, loss of feeling in the feet, which means a small crack can go unnoticed and turn into a larger crack, which leads to more serious issues, and that’s never good.
For people who are overweight, the simple act of standing for long periods of time can lead to cracks. The increased pressure on the heel causes the heel pad to expand outward and if the skin is not supple enough, it will crack.
What are the dangers of cracked heels?
Cracks in the heel can be as minor as an aesthetic annoyance or as serious as a deep fissure that cracks open and bleeds. More minor conditions include redness, flaky, itchy, or peeling skin, and rash (usually from itching).
If minor cracks are ignored they can deepen to the point where they open and start bleeding. These more serious cracks can be an entry point for bacteria and viruses, which can lead to infection.
So what do I do about this?
There are a lot of ways you can prevent and treat dry feet. First of all, stay hydrated. Well-hydrated skin will not shrink and expand so the chances of cracking are lessened. Next, make sure you are moisturizing your feet daily. Use a non-fragranced, light lotion after you shower. Moisturize daily if you wear a lot of open heeled shoes (which can contribute to dry skin). Wearing socks to bed over moisturized heels is also a good idea.
There are a lot of other home remedies out there, but make sure you talk to your podiatrist before trying them out. Even things like pumice stones must be used with caution. Most importantly, don’t ignore your feet! A little crack or a little peeling skin can lead to bigger problems so catch it early. If you do have pain in your heel that won’t go away, see your podiatrist immediately.
READ MORE: Take Care of Your Feet