With Summer around the corner, cracked heels are a common foot problem that involves very dry skin on the heels of the feet that can, at times, look very much like calluses. If not properly cared for the skin might eventually become dry enough to crack, creating fissures. While cracked heels are uncomfortable and unattractive fissures can be downright unhealthy as they can lead to development of infection, particularly since the feet are in almost constant contact with the ground. This condition can become quite painful, especially when standing or moving around, and if the fissures are deep enough they may even begin to bleed.
While some people have diabetes or very dry skin—both of which make skin prone to flaking and cracking—other cases of cracked heels are caused by external factors. There are several factors that increase the odds of developing this condition: walking barefoot or in flip-flops for extended periods of time, cold and dry winter weather, dehydration/insufficient water intake, routinely taking very hot showers or baths, using harsh soaps, and excessive pressure on the heels of the feet, which causes increased friction between the heel and ground surfaces. It’s important to note that being excessively overweight or obese will increase your chances of developing cracked heels or making the condition worse.
Fortunately, this condition can usually be treated at home with a little bit of time, patience, and care. Giving your feet a little extra TLC is best done right before bed so that they have time to absorb the moisturizing elements as much as possible.
Start by soaking your feet in warm water for 10-15 minutes or until the skin has softened, then gently slough the dead, dry skin from your heels with a pumice stone. Take special care around any cracks or fissure. Take your time with this step; you want to remove as much dry skin as possible without causing yourself pain or damaging tissues. Once you have finished both feet gently dry off with a towel and apply a thick moisturizer, and remember, you can use this moisturizer in the morning as well even though you won’t be performing the whole routine. It’s best to buy a very thick, unscented cream with glycerin and/or aloe as a main ingredient. Put on a comfortable pair of socks and go to bed. Be sure to repeat this routing nightly until your condition heals.
If your cracked heels DON’T improve with this treatment however, and you know you are not diabetic or dehydrated, then you will need to make an appointment with The Podiatrist to have the condition treated. Because cracked heels can lead to fissures and infection they need to be addressed as soon as possible. The Podiatrist will like treat the condition the same way you did, but with more potent tools. The Podiatrist will also probably give you very practical types for self-care such as performing regular maintenance on your feet, upgrading your footwear, using heel cups to protect the skin from friction and/or purchasing insoles to cushion your feet as you walk.
While cracked heels should not be considered a medical emergency they should be treated before more serious complications arise.
We have a great range of foot care products which can help keep your feet looking great for the summer.
Complications due to diabetes are the No. 1 cause of lower-leg amputations and account for nearly 86,000 amputations per year. Doctors estimate almost 50 percent of these amputations could have been prevented if the person had taken better care of their feet.
One cannot emphasize enough how important it is for a person with diabetes to pay rigorous attention to their feet. Foot infections are the most common issue for a person with diabetes and are more severe and take longer to heal than in a person without diabetes.
Proper foot care is simple and includes things like using an antifungal daily, not only to heal, but also to prevent fungal infections, and using a moisturizer daily to heal and prevent dry, cracked skin.
Are you being thorough enough in your foot care? Read on to find out:
* Whether indoors on plush rugs or outdoors on white sand, never walk barefoot. The Podiatrist recommends wide, closed-toed shoes with socks that fit very well. Shoes should not require “breaking in.” Why not come and see the Dr Comfort range of shoes designed for those with Diabetes.
* Clean feet daily with warm water and mild soap, but don’t soak them for more than three or four minutes. Skin submerged for too long will become macerated and more vulnerable to bacteria.
* Cracks in dry skin provide ideal openings for bacteria. Look for moisturizing creams which have natural ingredients such as the Gehwol foot care range available from The Podiatrist.
* Under no circumstances should you shave or attempt to remove calluses or corns. Instead, show them to The Podiatrist and ask about specially prescribed shoes. Even before your appointment, buy a cream made especially for people with diabetes that specifies it helps soften calluses, and apply it every day.
* Meticulously inspect feet, toes and toenails for swelling, cuts, blisters, redness, fungal build up or any type of irritation on a daily basis. If you have thickened toenails, have The Podiatrist see to your problematic nails.
People often remember to care for their feet in the summertime, when the practice of wearing sandals makes calluses, dried skin and ingrown toenails easily visible. But when the weather becomes chilly, and wearing socks and winter boots become the norm, it’s easy to forget about your feet.
Winter weather can make feet more susceptible to problems, which is why it’s important to think about footcare during the winter season. To help give you a leg up on proper winter footcare, here are some helpful tips to keep your feet healthy when the temperature drops:
– Give your feet a breather. The foot contains over 250,000 sweat glands. When feet sweat in warm socks and boots, that moisture becomes trapped and causes foot odour. To keep feet sweat-free, buy socks made from a natural or synthetic blend. Put foot powder in your shoes to prevent odour. Once a day, take off your socks and shoes and let your feet breathe.
-Moisturize. Winter air is very dry. To keep skin smooth, moisturize your feet every time you shower. After washing your feet, thoroughly dry your skin before applying a lotion or foot moisturizer. Apply moisturizer over all of the foot except for between toes, and make sure your feet are dry before you put on socks. If your feet are dry and flaky and have painful cracks, apply antibiotic cream and bandages. If trouble continues, see The Podiatrist immediately.
– Keep up your weekly pedicure. Putting away your sandals shouldn’t mean putting away your pumice stone. At least once a week, soak your feet in lukewarm water, then buff away dry skin with a stone or scrub and apply moisturizer. Do not try to cut off calluses.
– Watch out for chilblains. In areas that experience very low temperatures, chilblains become a very real concern. The skin looks red and painful, can become itchy and digits burn when exposed to heat. If you think you have chilblains, do not put your feet in hot water — you can burn your skin. Soak your feet in tepid water. If you see blisters or blackened skin, or have pain, go to an emergency room immediately.
Why not purchase a pair of Dr Comfort slippers to keep your feet through winter?
See The Podiatrist for any concerns