One of the most common conditions we see at Healthmark are cracked and dry heels. These cases are usually secondary to the reason people come in to see their podiatrist, but are nonetheless treatable. Typically cracked heels take the form of gray or white cracked skin on the fatty layer between the bottom of the heel and the foot itself. The dryness and splitting on this part of the foot is often a result of tension on the skin.

Why are my heels dry and cracked?

There are various reasons why people develop dry, cracked heels. Sometimes poor footwear usage can damage the skin on and around the heel and foot pad. Shoes that lack a heel cup or have limited heel support can cause the heel to be much looser in the shoe which can result in rubbing or damage to the heel, bottom, and edges of the foot. We see this often with men and women who wear flip flops or strappy sandals; while the foot may be up off the ground, the surfaces of the foot and heel are all exposed to the surrounding environment.

Varying environmental factors can give rise to damage heels and foot pads. Walking barefoot can expose the feet to potentially hazardous surfaces that cause mechanical irritation which can compromise the integrity and health of the foot. Whether you’re at the pool, on the sidewalk, or at the beach, variables such as surface temperature, surface materials, and foreign agents such as chemicals and infectious disease may be present and ultimately a threat to your overall foot health. Moisture and dirt in addition to rubbing can expedite the formation of cracked and split foot skin because it softens the skin while irritating it through movement. Even going barefoot in your own home can expose the bottom of the foot to materials and substances that may be a compromise the cohesion of your skin.

How can I treat and prevent my cracked and dry feet?

Making sure the foot and heel are covered and protected can go a long way. Avoid wearing the same shoes all the time, it is important to wear different types of footwear as often as possible so that the foot, heel, and ankle can experience varying types of support. Try to avoid open shoes that can allow foreign materials to get trapped or embedded against the skin. If you’re wearing old shoes, you should just throw them away. Old and broken-down shoes can harbor bacteria and dirt along with limited structural support that can cause the heels and feet to rub, dry, and crack.

There are a multitude of creams, lotions, and ointments available over the counter and directly from your podiatrist. Each type of dermal application has it’s benefits and downsides, but the most important thing to remember is that everyone’s skin and foot condition is unique to them and usually have varying outcomes to treatments. We suggest trying multiple brands to find out what works best for your condition. Your podiatrist will know about specific brands, ingredients, and types of topicals that are ideal for you.

When applying a topical to cracked or split heels and feet, consistency is key. We find the best results and most measurable improvements in skin health come when people apply medicine on a regular basis. It is vital to thoroughly rub in all types of lotions, ointments, and creams and to let it set into the skin; try to avoid putting on your socks and shoes right away, or walking around the moment after applying medicine to your damaged skin. One option that is available is to wrap your feet in plastic wrap after applying a topical; we suggest consulting with your podiatrist or dermatologist before practicing this method.

“Use less and rub in more,” is what our doctors tell their patients. Make sure the distribution of the topical saturates the skin without missing any spots, but being sure not to apply wastefully. Emphasizing the outer edge of the heel and foot or wherever the driest, cracked skin is apparent will be the best place to target.

Cracked skin on the heels and around the foot is very common, especially at older ages, but can truly happen to anyone at any age. The podiatrists at Healthmark Foot and Ankle see and treat this condition every day. For more questions about your skin and foot health, call to make an appointment today at our four locations!