With summer quickly drawing near, you’re likely getting ready to expose your toes in a fashionable flip-flop or summer sandal set. However, while your toes may be ready, the rest of your foot may be in rough shape, such as your heels.
The skin on the heel of the foot is susceptible to fissures (cracks)—a common condition that can be uncomfortable or painful, as well as unsightly. That’s because, in addition to the cracks in the skin, the skin can thicken and brown or yellow calluses can form around the heels. Cracked heels happen when the fat pad located under the heel expands while walking. They can also be caused by:
- Cold temperatures or low humidity, resulting in the skin drying out
- Standing for long periods
- Taking long and hot showers
- Walking around barefoot
- Wearing shoes that don’t fit properly
In addition to everyday wear-and-tear or poor skin care, patients with the following conditions may suffer from cracked heels:
- Atopic dermatitis
- Fungal infection
- Juvenile plantar dermatosis
- Palmoplantar keratoderma
- Vitamin deficiency
In most cases, cracked heels are merely unsightly, but left unattended they can result in bleeding or can become infected. So, for the look and health of your foot, here are six ways to fix your cracked heels in the comfort of your own home:
1. Get handy with an emollient or a humectant moisturizer.
There are two kinds of moisturizers (e.g., topical creams and lotions) that can help treat crack heels:
- Emollients—which are designed to soften and smooth skin—help reduce water loss in the skin.
- Humectants help avoid water loss by penetrating the outer layer of the skin and attract moisture in the air. They also aid in increasing the skin’s water capacity. However, in the case of dry conditions they draw water from the skin’s lower layers—instead of the air—resulting in the skin becoming more dehydrated overall. In these situations, placing an occlusive moisturizer on top can help.
2. Seal the deal with an occlusive moisturizer.
Once you’ve applied one of the aforementioned topical treatments, keep the moisture sealed in with a thick layer of occlusive moisturizer. These coat the skin with a thin film and keep the moisture from evaporating from the outermost skin layer.
Occlusive moisturizers include:
- Lanolin, a wax secreted from the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals
- Mineral oil
- Petroleum jelly (most effective)
- Silicones (e.g., dimethicone)
3. Pummel thickened skin with a pumice stone.
The use of a pumice stone—after moisturizing—can help reduce the thickened skin that cracks love. However, those with diabetes or neuropathy should avoid using pumice stones and trust their skin care to a dermatologist or podiatrist instead.
4. Keep skin thin with keratolytic therapy.
Keratolytics are chemical agents that thin out thickened skin and loosen the outer layer of skin (epidermis). They also aid in the removal of dead skin cells.
- Alpha hydroxyl acids (e.g., lactic acid)
- Salicylic acid
Ideally, you should choose a product that contains both a keratolytic and a humectant, such as urea, that removes the thickened dry skin and moisturizes at the same time.
5. Cover up with liquid bandage.
Gel, liquid or spray-on bandages may be used to cover the cracks to provide a protective layer, reduce pain and reduce the risk of infection by keeping germs and dirt out of the cracks. They can also aid in speeding up the healing process.
6. Keep cozy with cotton socks.
As part of your routine to treat and prevent cracked heels, apply petroleum jelly to feet and put on 100 percent cotton socks before going to bed. This can help to:
- Keep the sheets from being ruined by the jelly
- Let the heel skin breathe
- Seal moisture into the skin
Of course, if home remedies fail to treat the issue, visit a specialist to have your cracked heels treated in time for summer sun and fun.
For more information on foot fungus treatment or to schedule an appointment with our specialists, contact Essex Union Podiatry today.