What Causes Dry & Cracked Heels

It’s the worst when the weather gets warmer and you go to put on your summer shoes, only to find your heels are dry and horrible. And it doesn’t just happen to older people. It can happen to anyone. So, what causes dry, cracked heels?

Dry skin usually causes cracked heels. When weight and pressure are applied to the fat pad under the heel, the skin expands sideways. If the skin is lacking in moisture, it becomes stiff, less elastic, and prone to cracking.

Other causes include:

  • standing for long periods of time, particularly on hard flooring
  • open-back shoes
  • poorly fitting shoes
  • friction from the back of shoes
  • a poor way of walking
  • dry, cold weather
  • obesity

Risk factors

Some conditions make people more likely to have dry skin and a greater risk of cracked heels. These include:

·flat feet
·athlete's foot
·fungal infections
·heel spurs
·Sjögren's syndrome
·juvenile plantar dermatosis

So how can we avoid this happening to our heels in the future?

  • avoid hot water/showers, use warm water instead and limit time in a bath or shower to 5-10 minutes to avoid more moisture loss
  • use a fragrance-free, mild cleanser
  • gently blot skin with a towel to dry and immediately afterwards, apply a moisturizer

Avoiding harsh soaps or scented skin care products

While it is important to keep cracked heels clean, dry, and free from infection, harsh soaps can dry out the skin further. Using a mild cleanser helps keep more moisture in the skin of the heel.

There are also emollient products that can be used in the bath and shower instead of soap.

Seek the advice of a doctor if your cracked heels are associated with a medical condition.

If the cracks are severe, it is important to get the advice of a specialist (eg a podiatrist) to prevent the wounds becoming infected.