8 Tips for Dry, Cracked Heels

With the colder weather, I have seen an increase in very dry feet when visiting McDermott Footcare clients.  Dry, cracked heels are the most frequent concern.  If these cracks, called fissures,  become severe, they may cause bleeding, infection and pain when standing or walking.

What causes dry, cracked heels?

  • cold weather and indoor heating
  • ill-fitting shoes and boots
  • improper daily care of the feet
  • standing on your feet all day

It’s not just my clients who are asking for help.  Their caregivers and family members want advice too.  Since this is such a common problem, here are some tips that may help:

8 tips for dry, cracked heels:

  1. Heels will move around in shoes and boots that are too big.  This causes friction which forms dry calluses around the ridges and surface of the heels.  Make sure your shoes and boots are properly sized so that heels don’t move but at the same time, toes have wiggle room.
  2. Wash feet daily with warm, soapy water.  Don’t use hot water because it dries out skin.  Hot water is also harmful to diabetics and anyone else with impaired circulation to the feet.
  3. Exfoliate the feet, especially the heels, while washing.  Use a wash cloth, pumice stone, or loofah and rub the skin gently to slough off dead skin.
  4. Dry the feet thoroughly.  Dry well  between the toes since fungus and bacteria like to grow in warm, moist, dark places.
  5. Moisturize daily with body lotion.  If you feel you need something more emollient, ask the pharmacist to recommend an over-the-counter body lotion that contains urea.  Urea is naturally present in skin cells, but in dry skin, urea levels are lower.  Using a lotion that has urea increases the skin’s ability to hold in moisture.  Avoid moisturizer between the toes.  Put on cotton  socks.
  6. Foot soaks are relaxing and helpful if done properly.  Limit foot soaks to 10 – 15 minutes, 3 times a week.  Soaking for long periods dries out the skin.  Use a solution of  1/4 cup white vinegar and enough warm, never hot, water to cover the feet up to the ankles.  Mild acetic acid in vinegar softens dry skin.  Exfoliate.  Dry thoroughly.  Moisturize.  Put on clean cotton socks.
  7. For an overnight treatment, try the following:  massage olive oil mixed with a bit of white vinegar or lemon juice over the feet, concentrating on the heels.  Honey is a natural moisturizer so if you want, put some in your mixture.  Put on cotton socks.   In the morning, wash it off.  Exfoliate.  Dry thoroughly.  Moisturize.
  8. Over-the-counter callus softeners often contain ingredients that irritate the skin.

If dryness and fissures are severe with no noticeable improvement in a couple of weeks, see your family doctor.

Some factors that affect the skin on our feet can’t be helped, like the climate or a job that requires standing for long periods.  However, the tips I’ve given you are all easy and don’t take much time.  Try them and start seeing an improvement in the health of your feet.

Related post: 9 Tips For Moisturizing Your Feet

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