For so many of us in northeastern Ohio, Old Man Winter hands out the same gift year after year: cracked heels. It’s not all the Old Man’s fault, however. We can take most of the credit for setting up the ideal circumstances for dry skin. Heel cracks can happen due to:
- Heat – once the furnace kicks in to warm up the house, our skin tends to lose moisture.
- Soaps and cleansers – if they’re too harsh, they can diminish the skin’s natural oils.
- Neglect – we keep our heels caged in socks and slippers, and we forget to keep them moisturized. As a result, our skin builds up into thick calluses.
- Pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, psoriasis, or hypothyroidism.
- Aging – over time, the heel’s protective fat pad wears down, leaving the skin more vulnerable.
Prevention and early treatment of Heel Cracks
The trick to managing cracked heels is twofold:
- Prevent them from forming. Wear shoes that fit well and give excellent support and cushioning. Cleanse your heels with gentle, non-caustic soap. Examine your feet every day.
- Treat them early on when they do occur. If you notice calluses building up on your heels, first soak your feet in warm water. Then, gently rub the heels with a pumice stone or a foot file. Next, rub the heels with thick moisturizing cream. Finally, repeat the process as needed.
Danger: when cracks become fissures
Soaking and moisturizing can be an easy fix for cracks that only penetrate the heel’s surface. However, if you allow surface cracks to linger without addressing them, they can develop into deep fissures. Then you’ve got a more serious problem. Heel fissures expose protected layers of skin; they may bleed, and they provide a perfect place for bacteria to enter.
People with diabetes need to be extra-vigilant about preventing heel fissures. They can quickly advance into a dangerous infection or diabetic ulcer.
Residents of Summit, Portage, Cuyahoga, and Geauga Counties concerned with dry, cracked heels can consult the expert podiatrists at Foot & Ankle Associates of Cleveland. Dr. Craig B. Frey and Dr. Megan L. Oltmann can help you with footwear, prescription moisturizers, heel inserts, and other methods that will stop cracked heels from becoming a danger to your feet. Call our Solon office at (440) 903-1041 or make an appointment online.