Dry, Cracked Skin on the Heels
Dry, cracked skin on the heels of your feet can be uncomfortable and embarrassing. During the summer months, this condition can be especially bothersome because of the desire to go barefoot or wear revealing sandals. Yet even during the winter, cracked heels are still unattractive and an unwanted nuisance. Proper foot care and maintenance are crucial in maintaining healthy, smooth heels.
According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, cracked heels are essentially a form of dry skin, known as Xerosis, found on the feet. The condition is common among children, adults and the elderly. The cracks, called fissures, can leave the skin more susceptible to infections and disease if left untreated. Cracked heels can also be a symptom of more significant conditions, such as diabetes, obesity or autonomic neuropathy.
Many normal, daily activities can lead to dry, cracked heels, such as exercising, standing for long periods of time, or walking barefoot. Other factors such as the weather, climate and the type of shoes that you wear can cause or exacerbate the problem. An article in Quick & Simple magazine attributes cracked heels specifically to poor shoes that "create friction that, combined with the usual dryness of the skin on the bottom of your feet, can cause cracked heels." Neglect and lack of foot care can also aid in the formation of cracks and dry skin on the heels.
Cracked, dry heels can usually be treated fairly easily at home. The trick is to keep your feet well-moisturized to allow the skin to heal. The American College of Foot and Ankle Orthopedics and Medicine recommends applying a lotion containing lanolin or petroleum jelly after showering to seal in moisture. In an article for Quick & Simple Magazine, Dr. Helena Reid, a member of the American Podiatric Medical Association, recommends exfoliating once a day and moisturizing twice a day. Routine pedicures and foot massages can also promote healthy skin on the heels by increasing circulation.
Dry skin on the heels can be prevented by taking good care of your feet on a daily basis. Prevention begins with avoiding harsh environments that can dry out or damage your heels, such as walking barefoot outside or exposing your heels to overly hot water or drying chemicals like chlorine. Exfoliation by scraping with a pumice stone or using a foot scrub is another key to promoting healthy heels, as it allows the skin to regenerate and properly absorb moisture. It is also important to wear quality shoes that reduce impact and stress on the heel, allow proper ventilation and protect your feet from the environment.
Cracked heels, though common, are specifically prevalent in those who are elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions, such as diabetes. The American College of Foot and Ankle Orthopedics and Medicine warns: "If you are elderly, diabetic or have poor circulation, more attention should be paid to your feet. Older skin tends to crack more easily, and sores will heal slower." Thus, these at-risk individuals should pay extra attention to their feet by checking them daily. Also, if cracked or dry heels do not respond to over-the-counter remedies or worsen, you should visit your doctor and ask about getting a prescription.
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