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What Causes Cracked Heels?

A common foot problem that is troublesome for many people is cracked heels, which are sometimes referred to as “heel fissures”. Dry skin is the leading culprit when it comes to a cracked dry foot, and this can be made more complex when the skin that surrounds the heel’s rim is calloused or thick.

For many folks, cracked heels are simply a nuisance that they don’t really pay much attention to until they get ready to wear their favorite heel-revealing sandals, but when the cracks of the heel become deep, the condition can be quite painful, especially when standing. A severely cracked heel can even bleed, and in some instances, become infected.


Some people have a natural affinity towards dry skin that makes them predisposed to cracked heels. If the skin is calloused or thick around the heel, the skin is more likely than healthy skin to become cracked; calloused skin is often due to the way that a person walks, or from ill-fitting shoes. But there are other causes of cracked heels, including:

• Standing for a prolonged period of time on a regular basis, both at home and at work, and especially if standing on hard flooring.

• Being overweight. Extra weight puts an increased pressure on the fat pad beneath the heel, which causes expansion of the pad to the side. If the skin in this area is not supple, flexible, and healthy, it is more likely to crack.

• Wearing open-back shoes. Open-backed shoes give the fat beneath the heel the room to expand to the side, thus increasing the likelihood of the heel cracking.

• Skin conditions. Those people that suffer from skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis are more likely to become afflicted with cracked heels.

• Some medical problems and conditions. People who suffer from medical conditions that exacerbate dry skin often have a higher tendency toward cracked heels. For example, autonomic neuropathy in the diabetic can lead to less sweating and thus, dryer skin. A person with an under active thyroid condition will have a lowered metabolic rate, which also reduces sweating and leads to skin dryness.


When treating dry, cracked heels, it is important to ‘nip it in the bud’ as soon as possible to prevent the condition from worsening. An oil-based moisturizing lotion or cream applied two or more times daily is important. A pumice stone can also be used on thick, calloused skin to smooth away the roughness. There are also special foot creams that can work to alleviate mild to moderately cracked heels. A good one to try is Foot Works Therapeutic Cracked Heel Cream by Avon.

For extreme cases of cracked heels, a visit to a podiatrist may be in order. A podiatrist can evaluate the cracked heels and recommend a course of treatment that may involve sealing the cracks with a medical sealant to prevent further damage during healing, treatment with prescription ointments, and the use of special shoe inserts.
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