Cracked heels is a common foot problem that equally affects people of all ages. Also known as heel fissures, it is mostly caused by dry skin and thick skin around the heel area. Cracked heels are unsightly and at times painful. The cracks can be deep and may bleed or become infected. The good news is that, it is possible to achieve baby soft heels and feet with simple home remedies. Here is how to get rid of cracked heels permanently with simple remedies at the comfort of your home.
Dry Cracked Heels, Symptoms
The skin on feet and hands can be easily damaged due to exposure to dry air, excessive heat or cold. Symptoms of cracked feet from a simple one-time problem to cracked heels that keep coming back. The first sign of cracked heels is development of dry, hard, thickened skin around the edges of the heel. The skin of the rim around the heel will generally be thicker. The yellow discolored area of dead skin is known as callus. Initially small cracks will be seen. If left untreated, under the same pressure and environmental factors, the cracks become deeper. These may be accompanied by bleeding.
In addition to dry skin, cracked heels may be accompanied by symptoms such as:
- Rough skin on the feet
- Burning sensation
- Peeling of the skin
- Bleeding from the cracks
These symptoms tend to become worse during winter. The skin becomes drier in cold climates.
In severe cases, Deep heel cracks or fissures may become infected. This is a serious concern for people with diabetes. Thick skin predisposes them to cell death, neuropathic damage and diabetic foot ulcers which is very difficult to manage.
Note: Development of severe cracked heels in the elderly should be treated promptly to prevent formation of ulcers and bed sores.
What causes cracked heels
Why do heels crack? What is the meaning of cracked heels? Is it a telling symptom of serious medical conditions? According to podantics.com, on Cracked Heels, Callus and Fissures, cracked heels are caused by splitting of the skin. This may be due to excessive dryness or thickening of the skin around the heels- which breaks when under pressure. Dry thick skin loses its elasticity and can crack under simple pressure such as from walking or running. This may be hereditary or acquired. Here are other common causes of cracked heels:
- Prolonged standing
- Increased weight-being overweight, after pregnancy
- Genetics- some skin type tend to be very thick and crack easily on pressure
- Walking barefoot or using inappropriate footwear such as flip flops or open backed sandals
- Medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney and liver disease, non-celiac gluten intolerance
- Hormonal conditions such as underactive thyroid and estrogen imbalances
- Skin conditions and fungal infections such as eczema, psoriasis
- Deficiency of some vitamins and minerals such as zinc
- Poor circulation
Though not typical, cracked heels may be accompanied by fungal or foot infections caused by yeast. Wearing closed shoes without socks provides a good habitat for yeast and fungus infections.
How to Fix Cracked Heels, Permanently
Finding out the cause of your cracked heels ensures treatment is effective and provides long term results. There are two key points to help cure dry cracked heels in the long term: Exfoliate and moisturize. Here is how to fix cracked heels permanently:
- Exfoliate by removing callus to leave the heels smooth. While in the shower, gently rub your heels with a wet pumice stone. Use a foot file or an Electric Callus Remover to shave off dead skin cells. This is however not recommended in patients with diabetes, peripheral neuropathy or vascular disease involving the feet.
- Foot cream or lotions containing glycolic, salicylic acid and lactic acid chemically exfoliate while softening the heels.
- Moisturize- it is best to moisturize immediately after exfoliation. It aids in faster healing and prevents further cracking. Use moisturizing creams and balms with lemon and peppermint for added benefits. Moisturizing is best at night and followed up with a pair of cotton socks to hold in moisture.
- Address any underlying pathologies in relation to cracked heels. It is good to conversant with contributing factors especially for those considering home management.
- If the heel skin is split, treat and dress to prevent further cracking. This also helps to retain moisture and prevent entry of infection causing bacteria. Wounds should be treated promptly. Note however, that this is not an option for diabetic patients. Callus, fissures and wounds in diabetic patients should only be managed by a health practitioner.
- To seal fissures, apply adhesive tape to support tissue and close fissures.
- Avoid walking barefoot. Use proper closed shoes when possible. This protects the heels area and retain moisture.
- Use Antifungal foot cream such as Avon Foot Works Cream. In case of deep fissures, apply antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin which also has added benefits. Neosporin contains cocoa butter, petrolatum and olive oil which help soften skin and prevent loss of moisture. These products can be used alternately for a few weeks to get rid of cracked heels symptoms.
- A regular pedicure whether done at home or at the salon will give your feet a relaxed, pampered experience. It gives your feet required attention and helps you pick and deal with simple problems such as dry feet.
- Pain Relief- To reduce pain and aid in healing, treat fissures with a liquid, gel or spray bandage. Tissue glue such as cyanoacrylate liquid protects the skin.
How to Get Rid of Cracked Heels, Yourself, Over the Counter
Sore cracked heels are a common sight especially after cold winters. You can no longer hide your feet in socks. Stylish open back shoes and sandals will only leave you embarrassed. Dry feet and cracked heels means your feet are calling for attention. The skin on our feet does not have oil glands. It is very important to regularly moisturize. Here is how to get rid of cracked heels yourself
Cure Cracked Heels with Baby Oil, Glycerin, Petroleum Jelly
Petroleum Jelly and Baby Oil are both over the counter preparations effective in treating cracked heels. Petroleum jelly likes Vaseline contains mineral oil, wax and paraffin. It easily melts into heel fissures and creates a moisture barrier that protects the skin from drying out. Apply it at night before bed and cover feet with cotton socks.
Baby oil is best applied while the skin is still damp after a shower or bath. It lasts longer on the skin than water based moisturizers. It holds in water and prevents evaporation.
Glycerin is a natural moisturizer with healing properties. Apply it on cracked heels to accelerate the healing process. It is used together with rose water which is a great skin toner that is loaded with essential vitamins.
- Mix a tablespoon of glycerin with two teaspoons of rose water
- Add in a teaspoon of freshly extracted lemon juice
- Soak your feet in warm water for about 15 minutes
- Scrub dead skin cells, wash your feet and pat dry
- Apply the glycerin, rose water and lemon mixture to your heels
- Wear a pair of socks
Hydrogen Peroxide to Repair Cracked Heels
Use a hydrogen peroxide foot bath to melt away dead tissue. It removes dead skin allowing you to easily treat your cracked heels.
- Combine 2 cups of hydrogen peroxide and 2 cups of water in a basin
- Immerse your heels in the solution for 30 minutes
- Dry your feet and use a pumice a stone to scrap off the dead cells
- Apply lotion to your feet and cover with socks
Vicks Vaporub for Cracked Heels
Vicks contains eucalyptus and menthol in turpentine oil base. It is very emollient. When used on feet, it traps in moisture. Eucalyptus and menthol have very cooling effects on sore cracked heels.
Simply slather on a thick layer of Vicks Vaporub to the balls and heels of your feet. Slip on a pair of socks. In the morning, wash your feet with warm water. Gently exfoliate with a pumice stone and moisturize. Do this every night to maintain baby soft heels. How about an effective cracked heels remedy that will save you a few bucks!
Listerine Mouthwash and Vinegar Foot Soak
Quite an unlikely combination that seems to bad all positive reviews for repairing cracked heels. This inexpensive remedy not only treats cracked heels, it keeps your feet clean and fresh. Listerine contains Thymol that kills bacteria. Vinegar also has antibacterial properties. It also contains acetic acid that softens skin for easy exfoliation.
- In a basin with 2 cups of warm water
- Add in 1 cup of Listerine mouthwash and White or Apple Cider Vinegar
- Soak feet in the solution for 10-15 minutes
- Use a foot file or pumice stone to slough off dead skin
- Do this until you achieve desired results
Super Glue to Seal Heel Fissures
As crazy as this sounds, dermatologists actually recommend using glue to promote healing of heel fissures and prevent further drying. The active ingredient in glue is the same as that in liquid bandages used to close cuts and wounds.
According to Christie Lopez, MD, a dermatologist at the Cleveland Clinic Ohio,
- Make sure the heel cracks are cleaned
- Squeeze the edges of the cracks together and apply a bit of super glue
- Hold the edges of together until the glue dries- to make sure the crack does not open
Always remember to moisturize your feet as with the rest of your body.
How to Cure Cracked Heels with Aspirin
Aspirin for heel cracks sound like a huge stretch. You may not believe this works until you try it. It contains acetylsalicylic acid and has anti-inflammatory properties.
- Crash 10 uncoated aspirin tablets into smooth powder
- Add in250mls of medical alcohol (alternatives: vodka or lemon juice)
- Let the solution stand for 2 days
- Shake the solution
- Soak in a piece of gauze and place it on your heels (damp heels)
- Secure with a plastic foil and cover with cotton socks
- In the morning, gently exfoliate, rinse with warm water, pat dry and apply foot cream
Look forward to clean feet and soft heels after 10 aspirin treatments.
As old as it is (since 1899) bag balm has remained the same. It is made for chapped skin and superficial abrasions in cows. It is used to soothe sore cow udders after milking. It is an excellent moisturizer that guarantees soft feet after use. Ingredients include: 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate 0.3% in a petrolatum, lanolin base.
I can assure you the smell is not so attractive. Imagine soft cow udder with the smell of raw milk- yikes! It is best used at night or when idling at home. Slather on a layer and massage to your feet. Wear a pair of cotton socks to retain moisture.
You can get this at Walmart for $6.83 an ounce.
Home Remedies for Cracked Heels
Prevention is the best remedy to dry feet and cracked heels. Most people forget to look after their feet as they do to the rest of their body. Taking care of your feet means that you have to keep your feet clean, well moisturized and protected from extreme temperatures. Make sure you get proper nourishment too. Lack of some mineral and vitamins such as zinc, calcium, vitamin E can lead to dry cracked heels.
However, if you already have those unsightly fissures, there are effective DIY home treatments just for that. These home remedies for cracked heels will help you get clean, fresh, baby soft feet at the comfort of your home.
Oil Massage to Soften Cracked Feet
Essential oils are the best natural moisturizers. You can use them singly or mix them for added benefits.
- Coconut oil
- Sesame oil
- Olive oil
- Grape seed oil
- Almond oil
- Warm water
- Use one or a mixture of the oils listed above
- Wash your feet with warm water before going to bed
- Massage your feet paying attention to cracked areas
- Wear socks
- Do this every night till your heels are cured
Epsom Salt- Homemade Foot Soak
This is by far the best foot soak for cracked heels. Epsom salt foot baths soothe tired feet and promote circulation which aids in healing. It also helps to soften skin and remove thick dead skin from feet. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties to fight infections. Here is how to cure dry cracked heels with Epsom salt foot bath:
- Fill a basin with warm water
- Add in ½ a cup of Epsom salts
- Soak your feet in this solution for 10-15 minutes
- Use a pumice stone or foot file to slough off dead skin cells
- Wash your feet, pat dry and moisturize
- Do this three time a week
Note: Overuse of Epsom salt foot bath can dry out feet
Baking Soda for Cracked Heels
Baking soda can be used in form of a foot soak or scrubbing paste to get rid of cracked heels.
- Add 3 tablespoons of baking soda in a basin with 5 liters of water
- Stir until dissolved
- Add several drops of lavender oil
- Soak your feet in the baking soda water for 15-20 minutes
- Scrub gently with pumice stone
- Rinse with warm water, pat dry and moisturize
- Do this 2-3 times a week for baby soft feet
- Rub one half or a lemon on your heels
- Extract lemon juice, use a cotton swab to apply it to your heels
- Soak your feet in warm lemon water for 15-20 minutes
- After using any of the above methods; rinse feet, pat dry and moisturize.
- Mix freshly squeezed lemon juice with curd
- Massage into cracked heels for 5 minutes
- Wash off with mild soap, pat dry and moisturize
- Do this daily for 2 weeks for best results
Poor diet is one of the causes of dry skin. Dry cracking heels and feet can be caused by lack of certain minerals and vitamins. Vitamin E is a fat soluble vitamin with powerful antioxidants that destroy free radicals. Using products with vitamin E effectively reduces dry skin damage from sun. It also helps to keep your skin hydrated. Moisturizers with vitamin E might help to cure dry cracked skin on your feet, heels and hands.
Cracked feet can be successfully managed with the remedies discussed above. In cases of deep heel cracks or fissures, infection development may complicate to cellulitis. If cellulitis occurs, management should be done by a qualified clinician. It includes debridement to remove dead skin cells and oral antibiotic treatment.
Do not try to remove callus with razors at home.
Pictures of Cracked Heels, Before and After
Sources and References
Myhealthtips.in How to Heal Cracked Feet Quickly
Healthcare-online.org Cracked Feet and Hands
Medicalpedicure.com Cracked Heels