The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Cracked Heels & Dry Feet: How Minor Inconveniences Can Lead to Serious Problems

Posted by on Friday, November 28th, 2014

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Cracked heels — or “heel fissures,” as we industry types call them — are usually a harmless cosmetic problem. However, dry, flaky skin on the outermost edge of the heel can take a turn for the worse if they grow so deep there is pain and bleeding. Worse yet, cracked heels can be deadly in some cases, which is why New York podiatrists always advise patients on how to treat this common condition. There are many ways to take care of heel fissures, whether done at home, at a spa, or in our Manhattan and Westchester offices.

Cracked heels
Dry feet and cracked heels are more than just uncomfortable- they can be dangerous. Image from Flickr CC user Ivana Vasilj

What Causes Cracked Heels?

Heel fissures can happen to anyone, but risk factors include:

– Living in a dry climate

– Cold winter weather

– Excessively hot baths or showers

– Dehydration

– Obesity

– Using harsh, drying soaps

– Barefoot walking

– Wearing sandals and open-backed shoes

– Inactive sweat glands

– Having diabetes, hypothyroidism, edema, or a compromised immune system

To prevent your heels from cracking, we advise people to moisturize the feet in the morning and at night. Wearing soft socks while sleeping and using a pumice stone to shed dead layers of skin can also help maintain smooth feet. Make sure your footwear provides enough cushioning to support the feet and replace old, worn socks with new high performance ones to reduce friction.

When Are Heel Fissures Dangerous?

The UK Mail reported a story of a 62-year-old charity fundraising manager whose calf turned a bright scarlet one evening, despite feeling generally well. The doctor told him he was suffering from a serious bacterial infection called cellulitis, which had invaded his body through seemingly benign cracks in his heels. If left untreated, the bacteria could have spread throughout his body, causing fatal blood poisoning or a killer infection in one of his major organs.

“It was strange because I wasn’t in any discomfort at all,” the patient recalled. He spent a week in the hospital, receiving IV antibiotics and having an athlete’s foot fungus infection treated. He visited his doctor for 10 days after his release to have his foot and leg dressings professionally changed. To this day, he has lasting discoloration on his leg, and needs to be diligent about cleansing and treating his skin. He’s also predisposed to future cellulitis infections, so he and his wife will need to be on the lookout for early signs of trouble.

Products For DIY Heel Crack Repair

A nightly foot soak is a good at-home treatment for cracked heels. You’ll need a plastic foot basin filled with warm water and a cup of apple cider vinegar for the task. Let your feet relax in the warm water for about 30 minutes while you watch your favorite television program or read a book. Once your foot is soaked, you can gently rub the edges with a pumice stone. To aid in healing, put a nice foot balm along the heels and cover with warm, fuzzy spa socks for bedtime. You should notice a marked improvement.

Here are a few podiatrist-recommended foot scrubs, balms, creams, and moisturizers:

 – The Body Shop Peppermint Smoothing Pumice Foot Scrub

Amlactin Foot Cream Therapy

Flexitol Heel Balm

Luxuriant Cracked Heel & Hand Kit

Natralia Heel Balm

Kerasal Exfoliating Moisture Therapy

Freeman Bare Foot Repair Overnight 

Pedigenix Daily Foot Moisturizer

HealthiFeet Warming Foot Cream

Help for Cracked Heels in NYC

A NYC podiatrist can diagnose complications associated with cracked heels; prescribe medications to treat infection; remove callused, dead skin; and show you how to properly care for your feet. Contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in Manhattan or Westchester should you desire advanced, next-level care for painful heel fissures.

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If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.