Dry, cracked heels are a common skin complaint – especially in cold weather and among those who wear open-heeled shoes frequently. Unfortunately, cracked heels can cause pain and discomfort and may occasionally signal more severe skin conditions.
If left untreated, dry heels may begin to crack or even bleed, making it extremely painful to apply pressure to the affected area.
So, it’s important to understand how to treat dry, cracked heels, what activities and products to avoid and when you should contact your GP.
What causes dry, cracked heels?
Dry and cracked heels can be caused by a whole host of different activities. Although it can be rather unsightly at times, it’s often nothing to worry about and can be tamed with standard moisturisers and slight lifestyle tweaks.
To prevent a problem from occurring or getting worse, you need to understand what causes them to avoid causing additional pain and discomfort.
Common causes of dry, cracked heels include:
- Weather – severe hot and cold weather can reduce humidity in the air and dry out the skin
- Over-washing – washing the skin of your feet too often – or spending too long in hot baths or showers – can also leave your skin feeling dry
- Harsh products – certain soaps and body washes can be laden with parabens that strip your skin of its natural oils, leaving your heels feeling dry
- The wrong footwear – walking around barefoot or only wearing open-back shoes exposed the delicate skin of your heel to elements – which can cause additional dryness
Dry heels may also be a sign of other underlying skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. This is not only tough to handle emotionally, but it can potentially lead to some nasty infections.
If you’ve been struggling with dryness or cracking – or it’s accompanied by redness, open sores and pain – contact your GP if you’re concerned it’s a symptom of a broader issue.
What are the risks of dry, cracked heels?
Dry, cracked heels can cause discomfort, especially if you’re on your feet most of the day. Flare-ups can be a common problem as symptoms emerge and subside as and when they feel like.
Some risks of dry, cracked heels include:
- Uncomfortable feelings of skin tightness
- Redness, deep fissures, cracking and bleeding
- Flaking or peeling skin
Severe cases of dry, cracked heels come with their own risks. Deep fissures in your heel open the door to bacteria and viruses, leading to infection and illness. Furthermore, it can potentially worsen into a condition dermatitis that renders your heels red, swollen and itchy.
Persistent dry, cracked heels are also associated with diabetes so, if you’re concerned that persistent dryness could be something worse, check in with your GP for peace of mind.
Preventing dry, cracked heels
Most cases of dry heels can be changed with minor lifestyle changes and making sure the skin is hydrated and free from bacteria. See our tips below of cracked heel treatments at home:
- Moisturising – applying thick moisturisers or heel balms to clean, dry heels offers a protective barrier against harmful UV rays while rehydrating the skin. Moisturisers can also have a cooling effect, helping relieve the discomfort associated with dry, cracked skin.
- Couple with petroleum jelly – partner your moisturiser with petroleum jelly to get the full effects of the product. Simply apply some after moisturising to lock in all of those nutrients.
- Avoiding frequent use of harsh products – using strong soaps can strip skin of its natural oils. If you need to use anti-bacterial body wash, apply moisturiser afterwards to limit the effects of drying.
- Dry your feet thoroughly - wet heels breed more bacteria than when they’re dry, which poses a risk to already-cracked heels. Dry with a gentle pat rather than an aggressive rub to prevent further irritation.
- Removing dead skin – remove some of the dead skin – provided it’s not too painful - to help added moisture penetrate deeper. A hard pumice stone or a loofah can help remove dead skin and help needed nutrients get in.
If symptoms of dry, cracked heels persist – even after exploring every treatment – get in touch with your GP. They’ll be able to offer a thorough diagnosis and even prescribe some more potent, targeted relief, like steroid creams.
Home remedies for dry, cracked heels
If you suffer from dry, cracked heels, there are plenty of proven home remedies that can help repair and rejuvenate damaged heels.
Common home remedies for dry heels include:
- Listerine and vinegar– at a first glance, it might seem odd, but the thymol and alcohol present in mouthwash wreak havoc on bacteria and viruses. Mild acids in vinegar quickly soften up dead or dry skin, making it effective at combatting cracking heels.
- Ripe banana – banana is a natural powerhouse against dry skin packing. It boasts a naturally high concentration of vitamins A, B6 and C to maintain elastic-feeling skin. Simply mash two bananas into a paste, apply and remove after 15 minutes. Avoid non-ripe bananas as these are too acidic and can be harmful to feet.
- Milk – milk is proven to treat dry, cracked heels. Milk contains rich fats that help form a protective barrier for the skin, preventing cracked heels from worsening. Alternatively, soaking dry heels in milk helps to remove dry and flaky skin while nourishing them simultaneously.
- Vitamins – your dry, cracked heels could be solely down to not getting enough vitamins. Vitamin E works as a natural antioxidant and helps protect collagen. Sunflower seeds, nuts like almonds and pine nuts, Salmon, mango and avocado are excellent sources.
- An oatmeal soak – adding oats to a lukewarm bath can have a soothing effect on dry skin. Blend whole oats into a fine powder, add them to a bowl and soak your heels for around 10 minutes. Oats carry anti-inflammatory properties that help skin hold onto moisture to prevent dry skin from becoming inflamed and agitated.
- Honey – honey naturally locks in moisture when applied to the skin – known as a humectant. Rub honey into dry heels in the same way as you would put on standard moisturiser and leave it for around 5 minutes before rinsing away. Dry, cracked heels will feel soft, smooth and hydrated.
A helping hand from StressNoMore
If you’re suffering from dry or cracked heels, StressNoMore is here to help. With a range of specialist hand and foot care products available, we’ve got everything you need to treat dry, cracked heels.
Our award-winning Swedish Formula Foot Care Cream cleanses and nourishes damaged heels while helping to repair wounds to keep them looking soft and supple.
Plus, our range of foot spas provides long-term care to dry, cracked heels by rehydrating and calming irritated skin.
B Skincare barrier cream softens dry, cracked heels forms a protective barrier that shields from dirt. It's great for gardeners, mechanics or anyone else who is regularly exposed to dirt and grime.
For more information on our products and how they can help you treat dry or cracked heels, get in touch with us today.
For more information on how to treat dry skin, why not look at our guide on home remedies for cracked hands.