Cracked heels are not fun. They cause discomfort, they don’t look good, and in severe cases, the cracks can get really deep and cause a lot of pain. They are also a very common problem. The Institute for Preventive Foot Health has reported that 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. have experienced cracked skin on their feet.
But with the right amount of attention and care, you can care for your cracked heels, as well as prevent them from ever happening. In this article, we will do a deep dive into what causes your heels to crack, what you can do about it, and what you can do to keep your heels from cracking.
What Causes Heels to Crack?
Your heels don’t crack out of the blue one day. It takes quite a bit of time for them to crack. What comes first is calluses forming. These are areas of dry thick skin that build up around your heel. As you walk, the pad of fat under your heel expands, which pressures the callus, causing them to crack.
Thus, cracked heels are caused mainly by two factors: dryness and pressure on your heels. Dry feet can be caused by a number of reasons, including walking around barefoot, cold temperatures, low humidity, and anything that strips the feet of its natural oils such as long hot showers. In terms of pressure, what you need to watch out for is applying too much pressure and not having enough support for your heels. This is why standing for long hours is a big reason for cracked heels, as well as not wearing shoes with the right heel support.
Additionally, cracked heels can also be related to a medical condition. Obesity is a risk since the added weight applies an abnormal amount of pressure on the heels. Diabetes is another related disorder due to high blood sugar leading to dry skin. In fact, many conditions that result in dry skin are all factors in cracked heels.
Lastly, aging is a big factor as well. As we get older our skin gets thinner, and this increases the likelihood of it cracking.
How to care for cracked heels and prevent them
Keeping your heels from cracking involves watching for callus build up, preventing your feet from being too dry, and properly supporting your heels so that the pressure doesn’t crack the callus. The following are easy steps through which you can address cracked heels and prevent them from ever happening.
1. Moisturize Your Feet
The first and foremost thing you need to do is keep your heels moisturized. Cracked heels get worse with dryness, so apply some moisturizer to the affected area. There are also specially made heel balms that exfoliate dead skin and moisturize your heels.
2. Exfoliate Your Feet
The reason why calluses form is because of a build up of dead skin cells due to repeated pressure and friction. To prevent calluses, it’s essential to get rid of the dead skin cells to prevent further build-up and cracking. That’s where exfoliating comes in.
One of the best ways to do this is to soak your feet in soapy water for about 20 minutes, then use a scrubber or a foot file to remove hard thick skin from your heels. If you don’t have time for a proper soak, exfoliate your feet while you’re in the shower. Don’t scrub your feet when they’re dry, because this might increase the risk of damage.
3. Wear the Right Footwear
If your heels are prone to cracking, you might want to change up your shoes in order to properly support them. Shoes with a durable and wide heel will be the best at cushioning your heels enough so that your calluses won’t break apart. Avoid shoes with skinny heels because these will cause your heel to spill out sideways and give that uneven pressure to your heel that will lead to cracks. Also, avoid open-back shoes as these do not provide the support you need.
In addition, avoid shoes that can increase the risk of your feet drying out. Our feet naturally produce moisture, and airing it out all day isn’t going to help. So stay away from flip-flops and sandals.
If you need to, try wearing custom insoles to cushion your heel. These insoles help your heel to evenly spread out, reducing the amount of pressure that gets concentrated into one area.
4. Protect Your Feet From Extreme Temperatures
Extreme temperatures, either being too hot, or too cold, result in dryness. So it’s very important that you protect your feet from being exposed to such drastic conditions at all times. If you’re at the beach during a blazing summer day then wear shoes, because the hot sand is terrible for dryness. In fact, any time you’re stepping onto a hot surface such as pavement that’s been under the sun for too long, wear proper shoes that shield your feet from such extreme heat.
Same goes for when it’s cold. Winter is when the air is at its driest, which means exposing your feet to the elements is a big no no. Keep your feet warm by wearing adequate footwear, and wear socks at night so that your feet don’t get cold while you sleep.
5. Wear the Right Socks
Lastly, socks play a big role in warding off cracked heels. First, a sock’s material is quintessential to how much moisture you retain on your feet. Fabrics like cotton lock moisture in unlike wool, which is moisture wicking and moves moisture through the fabric. Thus, if you suffer from dry feet, then it might be a better idea to wear cotton socks or other socks that help with retaining moisture on your feet. Feel free to check out our Manmade socks for ultimate comfort!
Plus, you can buy padded socks that give you more cushion on your heels, which helps distribute the weight pressure. Once again, it’s all about moisture and pressure.
Of course, even after all of this you might get cracked heels or have your cracks get worse. Then, it’s time to see a dermatologist to find out what more can be done. It can be that you’re lacking certain nutrients in your diet, or maybe there’s a fungus that’s making it worse. Perhaps the way you’re trying to prevent or treat cracked heels is wrong. Whatever it is, when in doubt always see a professional.
As we’ve said multiple times, it’s all about keeping dryness and pressure under control. Just watch out for those two things, and you’ll be much less likely to end up with cracked heels!