Dry, cracked skin on your feet can scuttle your plans to slip on those beautiful strappy sandals. But cracked feet aren’t just an eye sore. If deep fissures and cracks develop, they can make standing and walking painful and even unbearable for you. Moreover, germs can enter through these breaks in your skin and cause infections. Here’s a look at a few things that could be causing your feet to crack so you can deal with this issue right away.
Causes Of Cracked Heels
1. Dry Skin
Dry skin is a common reason why skin splits and cracked. In fact, you might have noticed that the skin around the edge of your heels tends to become dry and thick before you develop cracks in your heels. Dry skin can also make your skin feel tight, rough, and itchy. It occurs as a result of your skin losing too much oil and water. Dry cold winter air, the use of air conditioners or furnaces, having long baths in hot water, harsh soaps, and aging can all contribute to dry skin. So can skin disorders like psoriasis and eczema as well as systemic conditions like hyperthyroidism or diabetes.1
What to do: Use a moisturizer regularly. And remember, they work better at sealing in moisture when they’re used on damp skin. If you have tough, thick skin on your feet, use a pumice stone in the bath to gently file away the dead skin before applying the moisturizer. Severe cases of cracked skin may need to be looked at by a podiatrist who may strap your cracks to help them heal.2 3
2. Excessive Pressure On Your Feet
Though dryness may be one of the first signs that your feet are in trouble, putting extra pressure on them can take them a step closer to cracking. Extra pressure on the pad of fat under your heels makes it expand toward the sides, resulting in cracking and splitting of the hard, dry skin there. Some factors that can increase pressure on your feet include standing for long periods, being overweight, and shoes which are open at the back and don’t protect the pad of fat under your feet.4
What to do: Give your tootsies a rest! Try to avoid spending long hours on your feet. Heel pads, heel cups, and insoles which provide support and redistribute weight may also be helpful.
3. Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that affects your feet. This fungus flourishes in moist, warm areas and your feet make a perfect home for them. It is very contagious and you can get it through direct contact with infected skin or indirect contact with things like socks, shoes, and shower floors that may be contaminated.
Athlete’s foot can cause symptoms like peeling, flaking, and cracked skin at the side of your foot or between your toes. You may also experience a stinging or burning sensation, blisters, reddened skin and itching if you get this infection. Encasing your feet in closed shoes can up your risk of getting it, especially if you wear shoes made of plastic which doesn’t let your feet breathe. Other risk factors include excessive sweating, minor breaks in your skin or nails through which the fungus can enter, and leaving your feet wet.5
What to do: Antifungal ointments to treat this condition can be bought over the counter. Applying diluted tree oil or garlic to the affected part can also be helpful. But do see a doctor if your symptoms do not resolve in 2 to 4 weeks; if you have a weak immune system, diabetes; or you show signs like pus, inflammation, red streaks, and fever which could point to a bacterial infection.
Psoriasis is a skin disorder characterized by crusty, flaky, reddish patches of skin with scales that appear silvery. Sometimes, these may be sore or itchy too. Psoriasis can develop anywhere on your body, including your knees, elbows, lower back, or scalp. Although it’s not clear what exactly causes this condition, a flawed immune system which mistakenly attacks skin cells that are healthy is thought to be the offender. Certain factors like throat infections, skin injuries, and some medications can trigger symptoms of this disorder. People with psoriasis produce excessive amounts of skin cells. This leads to an accumulation of skin cells and the development of the patches characteristic of this condition.
What to do: Psoriasis doesn’t have a cure. However, your doctor can recommend ointments like topical corticosteroids which can help improve symptoms. In more severe cases, phototherapy or systemic medicines that are injected or taken orally may be advised.6
The term eczema is used to describe skin swelling of various kinds.7 Atopic eczema, is the most prevalent kind and it leads to dry, red, itchy, cracked skin. It can develop in any part of your body including your legs, hands, the backs of your knees, the inside of your elbows, the scalp, or the face. This condition is more commonly found in children. We don’t know exactly what causes it but it often occurs in people who have allergies or conditions like hay fever and asthma. It may also run in families. Factors like stress, soaps, food allergies, and even the weather can act as triggers for the symptoms of atopic eczema.
What to do: There is no cure for atopic eczema. However, the use of emollients and topical corticosteroids can help with symptoms like dryness, swelling, and itching. Adding some colloidal oats to your bath water can help relieve itching and inflammation.8 It’s also a good idea to avoid triggers.9
6. Juvenile Plantar Dermatosis
Juvenile plantar dermatosis is a skin problem that affects the feet of children. This condition is characterized by glazed, shiny skin on the soles. The skin can also become scaly and develop painful cracks on the heel or under the toes. This condition appears to develop due to friction. So factors such as having sweaty feet or wearing open sandals which increase friction may play a part in its development.
What to do: Wear shoes that fit properly and are made of material like leather which allows your feet to breathe. This can help reduce friction. Using moisturizers to keep your skin lubricated may also help.10
You may already know that harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun can damage your skin. Spend too long in the sun and you could end up with red, sore skin which starts to peel after a few days. And though we don’t realize it, feet can suffer from a sunburn too.
What to do: While severe sunburn which is characterized by blistering, swelling skin, a high temperature, dizziness, headache etc. need a doctor’s attention, most cases are mild and only require home care. Wipe down with cold water so that your skin becomes cooler. Also try applying a lotion with aloe vera to moisturize and soothe your skin. And remember to keep sunburnt skin away from sunlight till it heals fully.11
|↑1, ↑4||Cracked heels. DermNet New Zealand.|
|↑2||Don’t Be Embarrassed By Your Feet Urge Podiatrists. College of Podiatry.|
|↑3||Dry skin – self-care. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑5||Athlete’s foot. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑6||Psoriasis. National Health Service.|
|↑7||Eczema. National Health Service.|
|↑8||Fowler Jr, Joseph F. “Colloidal oatmeal formulations and the treatment of atopic dermatitis.” Journal of drugs in dermatology: JDD 13, no. 10 (2014): 1180-3.|
|↑9||Atopic eczema. National Health Service.|
|↑10||Juvenile plantar dermatosis. DermNet New Zealand.|
|↑11||Sunburn. National health service.|