Rough, cracked feet and heels are a year-round problem for many of us. From wearing sandals and walking barefoot in the summer to enduring cold air and blustery wind in the winter, life in Chicagoland can be extra harsh on our heels.
You may be able to successfully treat cracked heels at home, or you may require a dermatologist’s care. Left untreated, cracked heels can develop deeper fissures that increase your risk of infection. So, it’s important to heal your heels as soon as possible – and the skin care experts at The Derm are ready to help.
Keep reading to learn what causes cracked heels, the best ways to care for them yourself, when to visit a dermatologist, and more.
What causes cracked heels?
With so many potential causes for cracked heels, it may take time to figure out the exact reason behind yours. For instance, cracked heels can be caused by:
- Improper footwear – Open-heeled shoes (including sandals and flip-flops) expose your heels to dry air, while poorly-fitting shoes can rub and irritate skin.
- Age – Skin becomes thinner as we age, and our production of natural oils decreases. Years of sun damage also take their toll, making your skin drier and more prone to cracking.
- Diabetes – People with diabetes and other health conditions that affect circulation have a higher risk of foot issues, including cracked heels.
- Flat feet and other foot concerns – People who have heel spurs, flat feet, or spend a lot of time standing experience cracked heels more frequently.
- Eczema – Eczema, an inflammatory skin condition that causes dry skin, itchiness, and scaly patches, often appears on feet.
- Not moisturizing enough – Many people forget to moisturize their heels, even if they moisturize the rest of their body regularly.
The best remedies to soften feet and heels
Moisturize at least twice a day
Give your feet and heels the attention they need by moisturizing them at least twice a day with a thick moisturizer (such as Cetaphil or Eucerin). Certain moisturizers contain skin-softening agents like urea, alpha hydroxy acid, or salicylic acid to help remove dead skin. The Derm offers a full line of skin care products, including moisturizer options. Ask your dermatologist which moisturizer is best for you.
Frequent bathing can dry out your skin, so try to limit baths or showers to 5-10 minutes. Dry your heels gently with a towel, then apply moisturizer immediately.
Treat your feet overnight
You should also make caring for your cracked heels part of your nighttime routine. Remove any visible dead skin, then coat your feet and heels with a heavy, oil-based cream or petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline). Add a pair of thin cotton socks to keep them well-moisturized and protect your bedding from any stains. The best part: the healing happens as you sleep.
Exfoliate every week
Once a week, set aside some time to exfoliate your feet and heels. Soften them in warm water for 10-15 minutes, then use a foot scrubber to gently exfoliate any dead skin. You will need to moisturize again after the exfoliation is complete.
Preventing cracked heels
In addition to moisturizing regularly, there are other things you can do to prevent cracked heels:
- Wear proper shoes – Tight shoes that restrict your heel movement or shoes that leave your heels exposed can both cause cracked skin.
- Wear socks more often –Socks add a valuable layer of protection for your skin, limiting damage to the outer layer of your feet and heels. Thankfully, Illinois weather is often sock-friendly, so wear them whenever you can – even at home.
- Don’t overuse harsh tools – Callus shavers, graters, and even pumice stones can aggravate your skin if you use them too much. Never file or rub over inflamed, itchy, or sensitive skin, which can make your condition worse.
When to see a dermatologist
If you’ve tried everything listed here and your heels are still dry and cracked, it’s time to seek professional advice. Schedule an appointment with the skin care experts at the Derm today, so we can identify what’s causing your cracked heels and discuss your treatment options.
The Derm can handle all your dermatology needs
At The Derm, we are committed to providing you with exceptional skin care from head to toe – including your feet and heels. Our board-certified dermatologists treat patients of all ages, with three state-of-the-art offices in Glenview, Park Ridge, and Wilmette to serve you. Contact us today to get started!