Colder weather this time of year brings along with it specific foot concerns. Dry, cracked skin on the heels of the feet can develop into painful fissures if not treated properly. These cracks on the heels can arise anywhere in the body, but most commonly occur on the rim of the heel and web spaces. Dry skin, or xerosis, in combination with callused skin around the heels can lead to fissuring.
Heel fissures are actually cut wounds that extend through the epidermis and into the dermis. When the fissures reach the lower layers of skin, bleeding can occur, which means so can an infection. Special consideration must be taken with patients who also suffer from athlete's foot (tinea pedis), psoriasis, thyroid disease, eczema, or diabetes. The good news is this painful problem is easily avoidable with proper foot care.
Excessive pressure or weight on the fat pad of the heel causes it to expand sideways, making this area especially susceptible. Excessive exposure of the feet to water can decrease the skin of its natural oils. Also, as we age, the skin decreases its production of sebum (the beneficial oils normally released by the skin). This, along with the loss of the skin’s ability to stretch, means elderly people are more likely to suffer from dry, cracked heels.
The podiatrists at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle have the following suggestions.
- To avoid painful cracks this winter, one should be sure to apply a lotion to the heels multiple times per day, and always wear socks with supportive shoe gear. Someone interested in home remedies, and the cracks are not deep or open, may try applying this paste daily to their feet: mix in a blender ½ avocado, ½ banana and ½ coconut — these ingredients are rich in several essential oils and fat soluble vitamins to keep skin soft and moisturized.
- A more conventional solution would be to pick up a jar of a moisturizer cream like Eucerin, shea butter or petroleum jelly. There are also professional grade moisturizers and prescription medications available that may be used for heel fissures.
- If creams alone are not enough to heal the cracks, one may try wrapping their feet in clear plastic wrap after applying cream, then put on socks to hold in the extra moisture over night. Just be sure to do this only before bed, as it will be slippery to walk around! Heel fissures can be a recurrent problem and often affect both feet, making this painful condition even more important to deal with right away.
A podiatrist can help determine the correct action to take for recurring problems.