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The Ultimate Guide to Healing Cracked, Dry Heels

Article last updated: June 8, 2024

Table of Contents
Ah, cracked heels—the bane of our sandal-loving existence. In this article we've got the ultimate guide to transforming those dry, cracked heels into smooth, soft beauties you'll be proud to show off!

Common Causes of Cracked Heels

Before we dive into the remedies, let’s first understand why our heels go from fab to drab. Cracked heels are often the result of a perfect storm of factors, including:

Dry Skin

The most obvious culprit behind cracked heels is dry skin. When the skin on your heels gets dry, it loses its flexibility and can crack under pressure. This dryness can be exacerbated by a variety of environmental factors such as low humidity, cold weather, and exposure to harsh chemicals or soaps. The lack of moisture makes the skin rough and less elastic, leading to splits and fissures. Keeping your feet well-moisturized is crucial in preventing this condition.

Standing for Long Periods

If your job has you on your feet all day, you might notice your heels taking a hit. Prolonged standing exerts continuous pressure on your heels, causing the skin to harden and eventually crack. This is especially true for people who stand on hard surfaces for extended periods. The constant pressure and friction can weaken the skin’s structure, making it more susceptible to damage. To mitigate this, consider using cushioned mats or supportive footwear to reduce the impact on your feet.

Open-Backed Shoes

While they may be fashionable, sandals and flip-flops provide no support to your heels, allowing them to spread out and crack. Open-backed shoes do not offer the necessary support or protection for your heels, leading to increased pressure and stress on the heel skin. Without the proper support, the heel’s natural padding can expand sideways, causing the skin to crack. Opting for shoes that enclose the heel can help maintain its natural shape and prevent cracking.

Obesity

Carrying extra body weight means more pressure on your feet, which can lead to cracking. The additional weight increases the load on your heels, causing the skin to expand and potentially crack. This condition is more pronounced in obese individuals due to the greater force exerted on their feet with each step. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the stress on your heels and help prevent cracking.

Health Conditions

Various health conditions can contribute to dry, cracked skin on the heels. Diabetes can lead to peripheral neuropathy, reducing the sensation in your feet and making you less aware of developing cracks. Thyroid problems can decrease your body’s ability to sweat, leading to dry skin. Eczema, a condition characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed skin, can also cause the skin on your heels to crack. Managing these underlying health issues is vital for preventing and treating cracked heels effectively.

Genetics

Sometimes, cracked heels are simply a matter of genetics. If your parents or grandparents had issues with dry, cracked heels, there’s a chance you might experience the same. Genetic predisposition can affect the thickness, texture, and moisture levels of your skin, making it more prone to cracking. While you can’t change your genetics, being aware of this factor can help you take proactive steps in foot care to mitigate the impact. Regular moisturizing, wearing supportive footwear, and avoiding excessive pressure on your heels can help manage genetically predisposed cracked heels.

How To Prevent Cracked Heels

Prevention is better than cure, they say, and they’re absolutely right when it comes to cracked heels. Here’s how to keep your feet in tip-top condition:

Moisturize Regularly

One of the most effective ways to prevent cracked heels is to moisturize regularly. Apply a rich, hydrating foot cream daily to keep the skin supple and soft. Look for creams containing urea, glycerin, or shea butter, as these ingredients are excellent at retaining moisture. For an extra boost, apply the cream before bed and cover your feet with socks to lock in the moisture overnight.

Wear Supportive Footwear

Choosing the right footwear is crucial in preventing cracked heels. Opt for shoes that provide ample support to your heels and avoid open-backed options like flip-flops and sandals. Supportive shoes help to distribute weight evenly and reduce the pressure on your heels. Look for shoes with a firm heel counter and cushioned insoles to provide maximum support and comfort.

Stay Hydrated

Drinking plenty of water keeps your skin hydrated from the inside out. Dehydration can lead to dry skin, which is more prone to cracking. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day and increase your intake if you are active or live in a hot climate. Eating water-rich foods like fruits and vegetables can also contribute to your overall hydration levels.

Exfoliate Regularly

Regular exfoliation is key to removing dead skin cells and preventing the build-up of hard, dry skin. Here are some effective exfoliation methods:

  • Foot Scrubs: Use a foot scrub with exfoliating particles to gently slough off dead skin. Look for scrubs containing natural exfoliants like sugar or salt.
  • Pumice Stones: A pumice stone is a classic tool for removing rough skin. Soak your feet in warm water for 10-15 minutes to soften the skin, then gently rub the pumice stone over your heels in a circular motion.
  • Foot Files: Electric or manual foot files can also be used to remove tough, dead skin. Be gentle and avoid over-exfoliating, as this can cause irritation.
  • Foot Peel Products: Foot peels contain exfoliating acids like glycolic or salicylic acid that help to dissolve dead skin. Apply the product according to the instructions, and within a few days, the dead skin will start to peel away, revealing softer, smoother skin underneath.

Use Socks

Wearing cotton socks can help to lock in moisture and provide a protective barrier for your feet. After applying your foot cream at night, slip on a pair of cotton socks to enhance the moisturizing effect. Cotton socks are breathable and allow your skin to breathe while keeping the moisture in. This simple step can make a significant difference in preventing dry, cracked heels.

Home Remedies to Try

For those who prefer natural treatments, here are some home remedies that can work wonders for healing and soothing cracked heels:

Honey

Known for its antibacterial and humectant properties, honey is an excellent remedy for cracked heels. Honey not only helps to heal wounds but also hydrates and nourishes the skin. Here’s how to use it:

  1. Foot Mask: Apply a generous amount of raw honey to your clean feet.
  2. Wrap and Relax: Cover your feet with plastic wrap or put on a pair of socks to avoid mess.
  3. Wait: Leave the honey on for 20-30 minutes to allow it to penetrate and hydrate the skin.
  4. Rinse: Rinse off with warm water and pat your feet dry.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a miracle worker when it comes to dry skin. Its anti-inflammatory and moisturizing properties make it ideal for treating cracked heels. To use coconut oil:

  1. Massage: Take a small amount of coconut oil and massage it into your heels in circular motions.
  2. Overnight Treatment: For best results, apply the oil before bedtime and cover your feet with socks. This allows the oil to deeply penetrate the skin overnight.
  3. Repeat: Use this treatment daily until your heels heal, and then continue a few times a week to maintain softness.

Epsom Salt Soak

An Epsom salt soak can help exfoliate dead skin and relieve pain associated with cracked heels. The magnesium in Epsom salt also promotes skin healing. Follow these steps:

  1. Prepare the Soak: Dissolve 1/2 cup of Epsom salt in a basin of warm water.
  2. Soak: Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes, allowing the salts to soften your skin and relax your feet.
  3. Exfoliate: After soaking, use a pumice stone or foot scrub to gently exfoliate the softened dead skin.
  4. Moisturize: Rinse your feet, pat them dry, and apply a good moisturizer.

Repeat this soak 2-3 times a week for optimal results.

Banana Mask

Bananas are rich in natural enzymes and moisturizing properties that can help soften and nourish cracked heels. Here’s how to make a banana mask:

  1. Mash the Banana: Take a ripe banana and mash it into a smooth paste.
  2. Apply: Spread the banana paste over your heels and let it sit for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Rinse: Rinse off with warm water and dry your feet thoroughly.
  4. Moisturize: Apply your favorite foot cream or oil to lock in the moisture.

Additional Natural Remedies

  • Olive Oil: Rich in vitamins and antioxidants, olive oil can deeply moisturize and repair cracked skin. Massage a small amount into your heels daily.
  • Aloe Vera: Known for its soothing and healing properties, aloe vera gel can reduce inflammation and hydrate dry skin. Apply fresh aloe vera gel to your heels and leave it on overnight.
  • Lemon Juice: The acidic nature of lemon juice can help exfoliate dead skin. Mix lemon juice with a small amount of water and apply it to your heels with a cotton ball. Leave it on for 10 minutes, then rinse off and moisturize.
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