Cracked heels, also known as fissures, are a common disorder. If you notice any dryness on your heels, you should address this as soon as possible because if you don't, they may crack, split the skin, become painful and are at high risk of infection.
What causes cracked heels?
Cracked heels can be caused by one or more of the following causes: Shoe stresses and irritation, open backed shoes like jandals, fungal infections, obesity, diabetes, a skin disorder like eczema, a biomechanical disorder that places force on the heel, and some of us lose the ability to sweat from our feet, which makes them very dry.
When stressors are placed on the foot, it responds naturally by forming callus for protection. Eventually cracks appear and the more callus that forms the longer and deeper the cracks become. For example, if you took a ripe tomato and placed it on a bench and with your open hand pushed down on it, it will split, the more pressure you apply downwards the bigger the split until it breaks. The same applies to the foot. Just from standing and walking the downward pressure applied causes cracks that run up the heel, and eventually the skin will completely split.
What can I do at home?
We should always apply moisturising cream to our feet, as they serve us well every day. If you notice any dryness then moisturise every day, and if it seems particularly dry apply moisturiser at night and wear a special sock to bed to keep the moisture trapped on the foot. If there is callus build up remove it with a nail file or pumice, but never let anyone else use these items, as this is how fungal infections can spread from one person to another. If the dryness is continuous then you can purchase heel balm from your chemist.
What can a podiatrist do?
If the callus is thick, there is only one way to safely remove it, using a scapel. This is a painless procedure, but may take several visits. We do not recommend buying callus removal pads, because the acid they release can seep into the cracks and eat away the last layer of skin, turning a crack into a wound, just what we are trying to avoid.
Cracked heels may seem harmless, but I cannot stress enough the risks involved if you do not remedy this condition. If you have any questions feel free to email me on the above address or drop in to the clinic for a quick chat.