The amount of work your feet perform in a lifetime is enormous. According to statistics, an average person living until they are 80 years old has walked about 110,000 miles. That’s a lot of pressure over years, and failing to properly moisturize your feet can cause a cracking of the skin, especially around the heels. These fissures in the skin can make it difficult and painful to walk.
Other causes of heel fissures and cracked skin include: wearing ill-fitting shoes, obesity, diabetes, using harsh soaps that strip oils from the skin, cold weather, prolonged exposure to water, standing for extended periods, dehydration, and walking barefoot, to name a few.
Signs and symptoms of cracked feet include itchiness, red or flaky patches, peeling skin, pain and bleeding from the cracks.
In severe cases, bacteria may enter through the cracks in the skin resulting in infection. Signs of infection include red streaks, swelling and pain upon contact. The 2012 national foot health assessment conducted by the NPD Group for the Institute for Preventive foot health, revealed that 20 percent of US adults ages 21 and older (about 44 million people) have experienced cracked skin on their feet. It is more common among women than men.
Preventing Heel Fissures and Cracked Feet
Although many people find it difficult to treat and deal with cracked feet, preventing this condition is much easier if you know how to take care of your feet. Below are tips on how to prevent the skin on your feet from cracking:
- Keep the skin on your feet soft and hydrated by moisturizing daily. You can apply lotion on your feet after you bathe or shower.
- Wear right-fitting, closed shoes. Open-backed shoes can cause dryness and cracks to appear. Because of the lack of support, sandals may worsen the risk because when you stand, the foot is more likely to spread sideways, stretching the skin of the heel pad past its breaking point.
- Soak your feet in warm water and scrub off the dry skin with pumice stone. Moisturize it afterwards. Exfoliation will help remove built up calluses on your feet, which is where the risk of dry skin is greatest and fissures start to take shape.
- Wear 100% cotton socks. Cotton is a soft and breathable fabric. It’s also recommended that you apply moisturizer to feet (except between toes) immediately before putting on socks, so that feet are kept moist at all times.
- Take vitamin E: Vitamin E promotes good skin health. Take it as a supplement or get pure Vitamin E oil and rub it on your feet.
- Stay hydrated by drinking 8 glasses of water per day. This does wonders for helping maintain moisture in your skin, but it must be a daily habit.
- Practice good, balanced nutrition, including foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (seafood, flaxseed, chia seeds, fish olive, etc.), calcium and iron.
- Avoid standing for an extended time and reduce walking while barefoot.
The sooner you start a foot care regimen, the better – mild dryness is much easier to fix than deep cracks. Remember to be consistent and to work on the inside (proper hydration) and on the outside (moisturizing daily) to achieve best results.
If deep heel fissures have developed over time, and the steps above don’t reverse your condition, visit a Houston podiatrist for proper treatment. Diabetic patients or those with neuropathy sometimes find that their issue is more complicated than they thought, because of the decreased sensation in their feet. Gabriel Maislos, DPM, FACFAS will provide an accurate diagnosis and help you find relief from heel fissures and cracked skin, as well as treating any infections that may be present. Call (713) 541-3199 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Maislos