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Cracked Heels: 7 Common Causes To Be Aware Of!

cracked heels

Cracked heels are one of the common foot problems which can affect people of all ages. However, it is seen to affect women more than men. There are numerous causes of cracked heels which can range from lack of moisture and wearing wrong footwear to certain health conditions such as diabetes. In most cases, cracked feet may not signify any serious health problem but may cause discomfort and increase the risk of infections. If you have cracks which are deep into the skin, it may cause extreme pain and may even cause bleeding.

The common symptoms of cracked feet include callused skin (dry, thickened skin), dark and yellowing of the skin in the feet, hard skin growth, flaky patches of the skin on the feet, heel pain, cracked and peeling skin. If you notice any of these symptoms, then knowing about the causes of cracked heels can help you to prevent the condition and treat it effectively at home. Here’s more on the causes of cracked heels.

7 Common Causes Of Cracked Heels

Cracked heels are caused when the skin around the heels split. This could be due to the dryness and pressure exerted on the heels. It causes the skin around the rim of the heel to become dry and thick. It may further worsen the condition if you fail to keep the skin hydrated, ultimately leading the skin to become fragile and crack.

1. Prolonged standing

One of the reasons why you experience cracked heels is standing for too long. Prolonged standing, especially on hard floors can increase the pressure on the heels and also lead to constant friction, which may lead to cracks and open sores. This if left unattended can cause severe heel pain and may also lead to bleeding. If you have a job profile that requires you to stand for long, then you must wear proper-fitting footwear with adequate cushioning to ease the pressure on the heels.

2. Walking barefoot

Most of us might have heard that walking barefoot on grass is a good idea. However, walking barefoot can cause accumulation of dirt in the foot which can increase the risk of a cracked foot. Also, the use of open-back sandals can allow fat under the heel to expand which in turn can increase the possibility of cracked heels. Moreover, wearing ill-fitting shoes can also contribute to cracked heels and heel pain.

Hence, if you like to walk barefoot on grass, make sure you clean up your feet with water and soap properly after the walk. This will remove the dirt and makes skin soft. Applying a moisturizer after cleaning further helps in softening the skin. Also, it is wise to avoid wearing open-heeled and thin-soled shoes too frequently. Always buy shoes with a proper fit to allow the skin to breathe and lower the pressure on the feet.

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3. Dry skin

There are numerous factors that increase your risk of dry skin. The common ones include cold temperature, especially during winter, which rips off moisture from the air. The low humidity levels can make you more prone to dry skin. Moreover, the skin underneath the feet is often dry, rough and chapped. As the skin around the heels has a relatively small number of seta glands, it is at high risk of becoming dry. Hence, during winters and lack of proper hydration can leave the skin drier and increase the risk of cracked heels.

4. Aging skin

As you age, so does the skin. Hence, people who are old tend to have thick and dry skin. This is because, as you become old, the skin loses its elasticity. It causes the skin to become more dry, rough and scaly. Also, the production of oil to prevent moisture is also decreased which further increases the risk of cracks, especially in the feet, causing cracked heels.

5. Poor hygiene

Just like our face, our feet are also exposed to a lot of dust, pollution, and chemicals. So it goes without saying that we have to take care of our feet the same way as we do it for our face. This includes washing the feet with water every time you enter your house to remove dirt and scrubbing the feet quite often than not to remove dead skin cells. Also, applying moisturizer, especially during winters to keep the feet moisturized is also a part of foot care to maintain proper hygiene.

6. Obesity

If you are overweight or obese, then simply standing on your feet can increase the pressure on the fat pad under the heel. This can cause the area to expand sideways which can lead to cracked heels. Moreover, if the skin is not supple and lacks flexibility, there are high chances that any pressure on the heel can lead to cracks. Hence, it is advised to ensure your weight is in control as it not only lowers your risk of cracked feet but also reduces the risk of various health problems such as diabetes.

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7. Medical conditions

There are many health conditions that can cause dry skin and cracked feet. This includes deficiencies of vitamins and minerals such as zinc, and skin problems such as psoriasis, athlete’s foot, and eczema. Also, hormonal problems such as thyroid disease can inactive the sweat glands leading to dry skin, thus making you more susceptible to cracked heels. Moreover, diabetes can cause nerve damage which may prevent you from knowing that your feet are dry, cracked and painful. It can also increase the risk of infections. Hence, if you suffer from any of these health problems it is important to follow proper foot care regimen and check your feet from time to time.

Here are few tips to keep the feet clean and healthy

-Avoid taking hot showers during winters as cracked heels are quite common during this season.

-Limit your shower time to not more than 10 minutes as spending excess time in how showers can make the skin dry.

-Do not use harsh soaps and scented soaps to keep the feet clean as it can strip your skin of natural oils and make you more prone to cracked heels

-Scrub your feet more often than not as it helps to remove the layer of dead skin cells and apply moisturizer to keep the feet clean and soft.

-If at-home treatments are failing to improve cracked heels or if you suffer from severe heel pain, then it is wise to consult a doctor to know the cause of cracked heels and treat it accordingly.

**Consult India’s best doctors here**

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

4 Natural Remedies To Heal Cracked Heels This Winter

Footcare In Diabetes: 9 Tips To Prevent Complications

References:

1. Kumarasinghe P. Cracked skin of feet: an ignored entity on the tropics. Ceylon Med J. 2005 Jun;50(2):93.

2. Hashmi F, Nester C, Wright C, Newton V, Lam S. Characterising the biophysical properties of normal and hyperkeratotic foot skin. J Foot Ankle Res. 2015 Aug 12;8:35.

3. Cracked heels. 2015. Institute of Preventive  Foot Health.

4. Diabetes and foot problems: How can diabetes affect my feet? 2014.

5. Parker J, Scharfbillig R, Jones S. Moisturisers for the treatment of foot xerosis: a systematic review. J Foot Ankle Res. 2017 Feb 7;10:9.

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