Heel cracks can be painful, frustrating, unsightly, and difficult to deal with. People are often embarrassed by them, and it is definitely not a popular conversation topic, but it is actually an extremely common condition. In fact, a US study showed that approximately 20 percent of adults have experienced heel cracks at some point in their life. In the US alone that is over 51 million people, (or 4 million for us in Australia).
As it is such a common condition, it is unsurprising that there are quite a few ways that heel cracks are caused.
All heel cracks are caused by the build up of hard, tough skin on the edges of your feet called callouses. This hard skin is not elastic or flexible, so when you stand on your feet and walk, the expanding and contracting motion of your skin will cause them to crack over time with repetition.
The root cause of any foot crack is getting callouses in the first place. Your skin develops callouses as a way of protecting itself from friction and pressure, so it is completely natural for them to develop on your feet. This is also why they can often be found on your fingers and hands if you do a lot of manual labour or play musical instruments.
There is nothing wrong with callouses, and they will protect you from blisters, but when not looked after on your feet, the repetitive motion of walking and expanding and contracting will usually cause them to crack. This is when they become a problem.
The best way to stop them from cracking is to stop them from getting too thick and dry by moisturizing and removing the dead skin as it builds up so that the skin on your feet remains elastic enough to move with you. To do this, soak your feet in a warm bath or bucket of water and use a foot scrub or pumice stone to remove the skin and follow up with a good moisturizer.
There’s not a lot you can do about the movement that causes callouses that causes cracked feet. Of course, if you sat still and barely used your feet you would probably never get a callous and therefore not get cracks, but you’d also probably have a number of other physical conditions that are much worse!
The best way to make sure the skin on your feet can cope with your everyday activity and movement are to keep callouses at bay and take proper care with footwear and skin hydration (see points 3 & 4).
Footwear can be a big cause of callouses and feet cracking. Improper fitting shoes can encourage your feet to expand and move in unnatural ways that promote cracking. Walking barefoot and in open back sandals can also do this. Wearing proper fitting, supportive shoes while walking, working, and exercising is a good way to help protect your feet and heels from cracks.
Callouses and cracked feet are encouraged by improper skin hydration. It’s the dry, calloused skin that can’t handle the expanding movement of walking that causes cracks, but if hydrated properly it becomes more elastic and flexible. Some of the reasons why heels do crack from dehydration include:
- Not drinking enough water
- Not moisturizing your feet
- Taking very hot baths or showers that strip your skin of its natural oils and minerals.
- Using harsh soaps and chemicals
- Cold, dry winter air
Protect your feet with a good skin care routine that includes exfoliating and moisturising your feet regularly. If it’s been a while since you’ve had time for self-care and looked after your feet, this could be a good excuse to treat yourself to a foot spa treatment!
- Medical Conditions
There are several medical conditions that cracked heels can be a side effect of. For example, people suffering from diabetes are at a high risk of suffering cracked heels. Diabetics often suffer from dry skin from uncontrolled blood sugars and low circulation issues. Obesity is another condition that can increase your risk of cracked heels because there is additional weight on your heel pad, making it expand further. If you have a medical condition, natural treatments aren’t working, or have quite severe cracks then it is important to seek medical advice from a medical professional.
We know cracked heels can often happen quite easily and can be uncomfortable and painful when they do. One of the best ways to take care of them is evidently to use a healing, moisturizing foot balm made of natural ingredients that are safe for your entire body. Our natural foot cream is made to heal painful cracks and rejuvenate flaky dry skin within a matter of days. Click here to find out more.