It’s super important to keep your feet healthy and happy, especially during the harsh winter months. Cracked heels, also known as fissures, are a common foot problem and they can be more than just an aesthetic issue. They can cause discomfort and pain and may even bleed or become infected. Let’s explore how cracked heels occur, and look at practical ways to prevent and treat them.

How and Why Do Cracked Heels Occur?

Our skin is the largest organ in the body.  When our skin becomes dry it loses elasticity and can crack as the skin yields to the pressure we put on our feet while walking. Risk factors for cracked heels include:

  • Winter brings colder weather and dryer air which can dry out your skin and lead to cracked heels.
  • Wearing open shoes and open heels
  • Standing for long periods: especially on hard surfaces, increases pressure on the heels, contributing to cracking.
  • Skin Conditions: e.g. eczema and psoriasis can make you more prone to cracked heels.
  • Having athletes foot
  • Carrying excessive weight
  • Heavy heel callus/hard skin

How to Prevent Cracked Heels: Proactive Foot Care

The following steps will help you keep your heels smooth and soft:

  • Moisturise Regularly: Use a good quality foot cream or moisturiser, especially after bathing.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to keep your skin hydrated from the inside.
  • Choose the Right Footwear: Wear shoes that fit well and provide adequate heel support.
  • Use a Humidifier: Combat dry indoor air with a humidifier in your home.

Treating Cracked Heels: Effective Remedies

Here are some soothing solutions for relief from cracked heels:

  • Gentle Exfoliation: Regularly remove hard skin gently with a pumice stone or long handed foot file (not a cheese grater type). The file is most effective if you do this when your feet are dry. We recommend you do this little and often rather than trying to file it all away in one go.
  • Deep Moisturisation: Apply a thick foot cream or ointment before bed and wear cotton socks overnight (see moisturising tips below!)
  • You are what you eat: Omega3 fatty acids and zinc supplements can help to revitalise skin tissue.
  • Professional Help: For severe cases, consult a podiatrist for specialised treatments.
  • Avoid Harsh Soaps: Use gentle, moisturising soaps and avoid hot water, which can strip natural oils from your skins.

Moisturising Tips for Cracked Heels

Not everyone needs to spend money on specialist foot emollients. The best treatment depends on how often you’re prepared (realistically) to cream your feet.

If you’re prepared to cream them daily, then most people can get away with a standard body moisturiser which you apply all over and extend down all over your feet and heels but also in between the toes.

If you’re looking at every few days, consider using a specialist cream made for the feet containing Urea as an ingredient. Such creams range from 10% to 50% Urea content.  Generally, the greater % of Urea the more expensive the cream will be.

And if mobility is an issue, a spray emollient called Restorate with 25% Urea for your heels is ideal.

How Cutting Edge Podiatry Can Help

Once your heels have a thick layer of dead and hard skin, it is difficult for any emollient to penetrate this. It ideally needs to all be removed by your podiatrist so that you can apply cream to healthy skin.

A full range of emollients, sprays, and files are available at our clinic in Cambridge, so speak to your Podiatrist for advice.

While cracked heels can be a common issue during winter, following these simple steps can help prevent and treat them effectively. Remember, at Cutting Edge Podiatry here in Cambridge, we’re always available to help you with personalised advice and professional care for all your foot health needs.

Stay warm and take good care of your feet this winter!