If you’ve ever had cracked heels you will know that they can be extremely painful, and I am a firm believer that prevention is better than cure. You get cracks in the heel when the skin does not have the elastic resistance to stretch when you walk on them. You need this because under your heel bone is a pad of fatty tissue that absorbs the stress, force and pressure of you walking on it. It does this by expanding with every step. If the skin can’t expand with it, it will split and crack.
First of all you have to work out why you have dry, cracked heels.
Is it dehydration of the skin?
If you’ve ever had tight, dry skin you know this can be quite fragile. Sunburn is a good example of this. The fact is our bodies need water, every cell needs water to function properly and this includes skin cells.
Medication or medical issues like diabetes?
Some medications can have an effect on the skin, even short term ones like antibiotics. Diabetes is well known for creating dry skin, especially on the feet.
Just dry or is there callus/hard skin as well?
If you have a thick layer of callus or hard skin around the heels this has no stretch to it. By its nature hard skin is very dry and can worsen cracks or splits in the heels.
Summer footwear like sandals and flip flops do exacerbate dry and hard skin around the heels. They are often thin and hard soled; they are also worn (generally) without socks so there is more direct force on the skin.
Lack of footwear?
Walking around barefoot, especially on carpets indoors, can actually draw the moisture from the skin and dry it out.
So what can you do to help it and stop it cracking?
1 – If you have hard skin or callus you need to remove this. Depending on its severity a visit to a podiatrist, like me, to take this off may be worthwhile. Using a high strength urea cream (25% heel balm) can help break down the hard skin when used daily.
2 – Make sure you are drinking enough water. This is just good practice for you generally day to day. It helps with all body processes and makes you feel better. I am totally guilty of not drinking enough water every day; it’s a constant goal of mine. I have found a water bottle that has the hours marked on it really does help.
3 - Dry skin needs hydrating, so make sure that you are using a good moisturiser. Use it daily to get the skin back into condition, and then you can do maintenance by applying it 3-4 times a week. I always suggest using a moisturiser that you like and works for you – everyone is different and everyone has different skin. If you want a recommendation I really like CCS footcare cream (10% urea). Using any cream with 10% urea in you should see a big difference within 2 weeks.
(Picture CCS 10% urea Footcare cream and 25% urea Heel Balm/Cracked heel repair cream)
4 – What are you wearing on your feet? At home if you like to be barefoot, maybe try wearing a pair of socks or slippers? Flip flops are great for the beach but they shouldn’t be worn all day, every day. If you are doing a lot of walking around something like trainers (with socks) would be better.
5 – Don’t sit with your feet in water for too long (10 minutes is enough) as this can dry them out further, especially if the water is hot or has chemical in it like bubble bath suds.
6 – Gently file any dry skin with an emery board once a week and apply moisturise daily. If you file too hard and too often you will cause more dry/hard skin to form. TIP – if you see smoke you are going too hard!
6 – Try wearing gel heel cups if the heels are painful. This can help cushion the impact of walking.
8 – If you have lots of thick hard skin and can’t get to the podiatrist for treatment there is something called ‘wet wrap method’. Soak the heel of one pair of socks in warm water and ring out so they are wet but not soaked. Apply a urea cream liberally on the heels. Put the damp sock on, and cover these with a dry pair of socks. Go to bed and leave on overnight (yes not pleasant but it works!) and clean off in the morning.
For some severe cracks the help of a podiatrist is needed. Get in touch if you are suffering and need some help and advice.
Let’s get those feet in tip top condition and help you live your best life!