Woman Holding Their Cracked HeelDry, cracked heels are a common complaint. Also known as heel fissures, this podiatric problem is more than just unsightly and embarrassing. Cracked heels can be painful—and for people with certain health issues that affect the feet, they can increase the risk of infection and other serious complications. Fortunately, if you’re struggling with painful heel fissures, there’s good news: A daily foot care routine and regular visits with one of Shanandoah Podiatry’s skilled foot and ankle specialists can help you put cracked heels behind you and prevent them from coming back. Here’s what you need to know.

Heel Fissures Causes and Risk Factors

Cracked heels are caused by dry skin, but dryness isn’t the only thing at play. As skin around the heel dries out and loses its elasticity, thick calluses develop. These calluses can crack and split, causing deep, painful fissures that can bleed or become infected. Cracked heels causes and risk factors include:

  • Being on your feet for long periods at work or home
  • Standing on hard, unforgiving surfaces
  • Medical conditions such as diabetes, poor circulation, or obesity
  • Chronic skin problems, like eczema or psoriasis
  • Dehydration
  • Walking barefoot
  • Wearing hard, unsupportive footwear, such as flip flops, open-backed sandals, or high heels
  • Soaking feet in a hot shower or bath too long or too frequently
  • Cold weather
  • Dry climates
  • Infrequent or insufficient moisturizing
  • Harsh scrubbing or improper exfoliation
  • Biomechanical factors that place excess pressure on the heels

Home Care for Cracked Heels

Small cracks that aren’t too deep or painful often respond well to at-home care. Try this simple nighttime routine: Soak your feet in warm—not hot—water for 15 minutes, then dry them thoroughly. Apply petroleum jelly or a heavy-duty moisturizing foot cream, taking care to avoid moisturizing between your toes. Put on a pair of clean cotton socks and wear them overnight.

When to See a Podiatrist

Unfortunately, not all cracked heels will heal with home care. If your heel fissures are deep, painful, bleed when you walk, or force you to limit your activities, it’s time to seek professional treatment. People with health problems should seek help even sooner. If you have diabetes, poor circulation, or another medical issue that affects the feet, it’s always best to see a doctor at the first sign of troublein this case, dry, itchy, white skin or thick, hard calluses forming around the heel.

How We Can Help

When over-the-counter moisturizers and at-home care fail to provide results, our podiatrists offer effective solutions. Depending on the cause and severity of your heel fissures, our treatment recommendations may include:

  • Removing the hard, callused skin around the heel
  • Pulling deep fissures together using specially-formulated medical tape or skin glue
  • Using a prescription-strength moisturizer
  • Wearing custom insoles, orthotics, or heel cups to correct biomechanical abnormalities
  • Treating an infection
  • Making footwear or lifestyle changes

Keeping Cracked Heels at Bay

Developing a daily foot care routine can help you keep cracked heels in check. We suggest:

  • Washing feet with a mild, moisturizing bar soap that won’t dry out your skin
  • Applying a moisturizing cream or ointment at least once a day, preferably after a shower or bath
  • Limiting exposure to hot water, which can dry out the skin
  • Using a pumice stone or exfoliating lotion to gently remove excess dry skin once a week
  • Drinking lots of water to ensure you stay hydrated
  • Avoiding walking barefoot or wearing hard, open-backed shoes
  • Keeping regular appointments with your podiatrist

Leave Painful, Unsightly Cracked Heels in the Past

Cracked heels can be a pain, but with the help of a skilled podiatrist, you don’t have to let them limit your activities or cause embarrassment. At Shenandoah Podiatry, our exceptional doctors of podiatric medicine (DPMs) can set your feet on a path to healing. Complete the online contact form or call our Roanoke, Virginia office at 540-904-1458 to schedule an appointment with one of our specialists.