Cracked heels (heel fissures) are a common foot condition. The condition develops in dry skin or calluses on the heel if there is too much pressure on the skin. Moisturizing creams, clinical skin treatments, heel cups, or insoles can help. People with certain medical conditions, signs of infection, or significant cracked heels should contact a podiatrist for professional treatment.
Your skin is the largest organ of your body and covers your body to protect it from the environment. Your skin has three layers. The epidermis is the skin’s outermost layer. It protects the inner layers. Basal cells at the bottom of the epidermis move upward to replace the outermost cells that wear off.
A combination of dry skin and heel pressure can lead to cracked heels. Mechanical factors, such as the way you stand or walk, can contribute to pressure imbalances that affect the heels.
Heel cracks occur in dry skin, calluses, or thick skin around the edge of the heel. The cracks are usually visible. The heel skin may appear flakey, discolored, brown, or yellow. Your skin may feel painful when you put weight on your foot.
Your doctor can diagnose cracked heels by reviewing your medical history and examining your feet. The doctor may brush your skin with a swab to collect cell samples for examination to rule out an infection.
Over-the-counter moisturizing cream and gentle use of a pumice stone can help mild heel cracks. For persistent heel cracks, a podiatrist or dermatologist can professionally remove hardened thick skin to allow the cracks to heal. You should not try to remove heel cracks or calluses at home. On rare occasions, special glue is used to hold the skin together to promote healing. Your doctor may prescribe prescription moisturizers. Your doctor may recommend that you wear heel cups or custom insoles in your shoes to help relieve pressure. You should avoid wearing open back shoes. Regular professional foot care can help maintain healthy heel skin.
You can help prevent heel cracks by following your doctor’s instructions for wearing heel cups or insoles. Lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.
Am I at Risk
Risk factors for heel cracks include:
Skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis
Certain medical conditions, such as diabetic neuropathy, hypothyroidism, or inactive sweat glands
Wearing open back shoes or sandals or wearing shoes with thin soles
Obesity or overweight
Standing for long periods of time
Severe heel cracks may bleed or become infected. People with diabetes or vascular conditions should contact their doctor if they develop persistent heel cracks.