Did you know that the average person walks about 4500 miles in their lifetime? This means we take millions of steps and subsequently pound our heads with every stride. So it's no wonder many of us suffer with heel problems from time to time, particularly if we do not look after them and one of the most common complaints that many of us will have to end is cracked heels.
Known as heel fissures by podiatrists, cracked heels are splits in the upper part of the skin (called the epidermis) surrounding the heel margin and is generally due to the drying out of the heel from wearing open backed footwear.
It can be exasperated by heel calls and may be painful and / or bleed if the fissures are deep enough to enter the deeper skin structures (called the dermis).
They can be a variety of causes for cracked heels some of which are listed below:
- Being overweight
- Having diabetes will cause drying of the skin and heels
- Zinc Deficiency
- Standing for long periods in unsuitable footwear
- Constantly wearing open backed shoes
- Omega 3 Deficiency
- Suffering from dry skin conditions such as Anhidrosis
- Having eczema or psoriasis
Being obese can compound the problem of dry heels as excess pressure put on the heel margin may lead them to crack more seriously. Diabetes is a problem because it damages the nerve endings, particularly in the extremities such as the feet, which in turn can interfere with the function of the sweat glands. This inevitably leads to the drying out of the foot, sometimes leading to Anhidrosis, which is a severe drying of the skin.
Other skin complaints such as eczema and psoriasis or the use of certain medicines can also lead to dry heels and skin so it is important to recognize what's going on early enough to prevent the condition deteriorating.
So how do you cure your cracked heels once you realize you have them? Here are a few tips to help you:
Make sure you clean and dry your feet correctly every day. If they are severely cracked and possibly bleeding, it is a good idea to soak your feet in a bowl (or foot spa) of warm water with a tablespoonful of salt for 15 to 20 minutes each day. You can also put some essential oils into the water, such as tea tree oil which acts as an antiseptic, to help prevent infection.
Depending on the seriousness of the cracking and if there are any calluses present, you may want to exfoliate and file the heels down with a good quality heel file or pumice stone. Never try to use a blade on your own heels to remove calluses particularly if they are deeply fissured because you may cut yourself badly which may lead to more serious problems. It is always best to seek the advice of your podiatrist who will safely pare down your dogs with a scalpel and remove most if not all of the fissures.
Once they are washed and dried, it is important to moisturize them with a good quality emollient. If you only have minor cracked boots then a simple hand or body lotion can be applied to your feet.One of the quickest ways to resolve them is to wear plastic bags or cling film over your feet in bed at night after creaming them. The plastic acts like the covering for burns patients.
If the cracking is more pronounced, then you may need a specialist over-the-counter moisturizer such as Flexitol Heel Balm or CCS foot care cream, which contains a high amount of synthetic urea, known for its dry skin properties. They also have a CCS + lotion which contains over 50% urea for more serious cracked and thickened (callused) heels.
If you would prefer some more natural home remedies for cracked heels then here are some heel 'recipes' you might be interested in:
- Exfoliate with the help of strawberries and olive (or almond) oil. Mix 6 to 8 crushed strawberries with around two tablespoons full of almond or olive oil and a teaspoon of salt (table or sea salt). Apply the mixture as you would any exfoliate and leave for 15 minutes before washing off. Massaging the mixture in will also help with blood circulation.
- Apply and mixture of 1 teaspoon full of Vaseline with the extract from one whole lemon mixed together and applied to the cracked areas of your heels. Apply daily until the cracks resolve. Try applying a mixture of glycerine and rosewater on a daily basis will also help
- Try 100g of coconut oil with 3 teaspoons full of camphor and 3 tablespoons of melted paraffin wax. This will act similar to a waxed based aqueous cream like E45. Leave on overnight by using a pair of bed socks and wash off in the morning before applying a moisturizing lotion.
It is the juices and oils in these preparations that will help hasten the healing process of the cracks and fissures as they act as an emollient for your skin. However, before using any preparation, please be aware of any allergic reactions that may occur and always ask advice of a medical professional before embarking on self-treatment for your dry and cracked heels.