Cracked heels, also known as heel fissures, are a common problem affecting men and women all over the globe. Cracks on the soles can develop on one, or both feet. This affliction is more common in those who are elderly. You may also suffer from cracked heels if you exert an excessive amount of pressure on the soles of your feet, over a prolonged period of time. This problem may worsen during the winter months, or if you live in dry climates.
People often regard cracked heels as a sign of inadequate foot care and hygiene. However, there are several different factors that could lead to the development of fissures or lesions on the heels. At times, heel cracks may also be an indication of certain nutritional deficiencies.
For many, the appearance of cracks on the heels is nothing more than an embarrassment or an inconvenience. However, at times these fissures could cause you to experience an immense amount of pain. This could make it difficult for you to stand, walk or wear certain kinds of footwear. Left unchecked, cracked heels can also start bleeding or get infected. Therefore, it is important to try and control this problem as early as possible. Fortunately, most cases of cracked heels can be easily treated with the help of simple remedies and self-care measures. Alternately, you could also consult a dermatologist or a podiatrist for medical treatment options.
Symptoms of Cracked Heels
It could take several days or even weeks for cracks on the heels to develop completely. In fact, by recognizing the early signs of fissures on the heels you may be able to prevent or at least control them to some extent. You will know that you are about to develop heel cracks if you notice symptoms like:
- Dryness & Itching: The appearance of flaky and peeling skin is one of the first signs of cracks on the heels. Excessive dryness causes the skin to turn white and then perhaps red in color. The dryness and flakiness may be worse in certain parts of your heel. You may also experience severe itching around the rim of your heel.
- Development of Vertical Lesions: In case the skin continues to remain dry, you may notice the appearance small cracks around the edge of the heel.
- Pain and Tenderness: While walking, the pressure you place on your feet can cause the lesions to split further, because of which your heels may feel sore, tender and painful.
- Hardening of the Skin: As your skin continues to lose moisture, the skin tends to become tough and hard, especially around the edges of the fissures. This causes a delay in the healing process as the skin does not easily knit together.
Do consult your doctor in case you experience any of the signs and symptoms mentioned above. As the cracks on the heels continue to develop, you may also notice bleeding, white discharge or signs of an infection.
Causes of Cracked Heels
You are probably aware of the fact that the skin on your heel is thicker than the rest of your foot. Therefore, you need to moisturize it often and thoroughly, in order to keep it healthy and supple. For any reason, if the skin covering the heel becomes excessively dry, the lack of moisture in the area will cause the upper layer of the skin to lose flexibility. As a result, the skin on the heel starts to split and crack.
What Causes Cracked Heels?
There are several different factors that can cause you to develop cracks on your heels. Some of the most common causes of this problem include:
- Advancing age
- Being obese or severely overweight
- Lack of proper hygiene or skincare (around the heel)
- Medical conditions, such as diabetes or athletes foot
- Poor circulation to the feet
- Putting an immense amount of pressure on the feet (standing or walking for many hours)
- Skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema
- Use of footwear that is too tight or loose around the heel and chafes the skin
- Wearing shoes in which the heels are exposed on a regular basis
Though it is not very common, some people may also develop cracks on the heels because of nutritional deficiencies. You may notice heel fissures as reaction to the lack of Iron, Calcium, Vitamin E, Omega 3 fatty acids and Zinc.
Most people do not try to identify the causes of cracks on the heels. However, some causes of cracked heels are more serious than the others and need to be addressed by a doctor. Therefore, do consult your family doctor or a dermatologist about this problem, before you try to resolve it on your own.
Remedies for Cracked Heels
Fortunately, most cases of cracked heels can be reversed completely, with the help of simple home remedies and lifestyle changes.
How to Heal Cracked Heels?
The first step in treating cracked heels is getting rid of the excessive dryness in the skin. In order to do this, you need to apply an oil-based cream or moisturizer on your dry cracked heels at least twice a day. For best results, you should
- Soak your feet in some warm water for about 15 to 20 minutes, to soften the skin.
- Get rid of the dead skin, with the help of a file or a pumice stone
- Pat your feet dry gently, before applying the moisturizer
- Let the affected feet absorb the moisturizer for about 15 minutes
- Wear a pair of thick socks and leave it on for a couple of hours or preferably, overnight
You should notice a significant improvement in the cracks after following this exercise twice a day for a week. However, it is best to continue this routine regularly even after the cracks disappear.
Given below are a few remedies and self-care measures that will help you care for cracked heels at home
- Take a ripe banana and mash it thoroughly, till you have a thick paste. Apply this paste on your dry cracked feet, covering all the lesions completely. Leave the banana pulp on your skin for about 10 to 15 minutes, before rinsing your feet with warm water. This exercise should be followed every week.
- Squeeze the juice of a lemon in a basin and add some warm water, a little shampoo and a teaspoon of petroleum jelly. Let your feet soak in this soapy solution for about 15 to 20 minutes, before rinsing and drying your feet.
- Melt a teaspoon of paraffin wax in a bowl and mix in an equal amount of mustard oil. Apply the mixture on to the fissures and leave it on overnight. Rinse your feet with warm water in the morning, before patting them dry, before patting them dry. This exercise should be followed daily, for about 2 weeks.
These home cures for cracked heels are quite safe; however, it is best to check with a doctor before trying any of them. Do check with a doctor in case you do not see any improvement in your dry cracked heels even after using these remedies for a week.
Diet for Cracked Heels
There is no specific diet that you need to follow while treating cracked heels. However, since certain nutritional deficiencies can lead to the formation of cracks on the heels, it is best that you follow a diet that is high in:
- Vitamins E: Sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, pine nuts, peanuts, dried basil, oregano, parsley, apricots (dried), papaya, green olives, avocado, Swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, kale, turnip greens, broccoli and taro
- Iron: Leafy greens (collard, kale, spinach, chard), broccoli, sundried tomatoes, raisins, prunes, apricots (dried), sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, squash seeds, chickpeas, beans, lentils, soybean, liver, artichoke, clams, oysters, scallops, mussels, caviar, chicken, red meat and egg yolks
- Calcium: Dried savory, celery seed, thyme, milk, yogurt, cheese, tofu, sesame seeds, flax seeds, almonds, Brazil nuts, herring, collards, mustard greens, kale, dandelion greens and turnip greens.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Pasture-raised meat, enriched dairy products, enriched eggs, edamame, wild rice, walnuts, canola oil, flax, beans, tuna, mackerel, halibut, lake trout, sardines, herring and salmon
- Zinc: Garlic, mushrooms, oysters, lobster, salmon, crabs, shrimp, veal liver, low fat roast beef, lamb, egg yolks, turkey, pork, toasted wheat germ, chickpeas, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, watermelon seeds, squash seeds, peanuts and chocolate (dark)
Never make any changes to your diet without first checking with your health care provider. It is also essential to follow a diet that provides your body with the right balance of all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients.
Suggestion for Cracked Heels
Preventing dry and cracked heels is much easier than trying to cure them. Given below are a few suggestions that could keep your heels from developing cracks:
- Soak your feet in warm water a couple of times a week
- Get rid of the dead skin on your heels, through gentle exfoliation
- Moisturize your skin at least once or twice a day
- Exercise regularly to improve circulation throughout the body, including the feet
- Avoid wearing shoes that are too tight or do not provide enough padding to your heels
- Keep your feet clean at all times
While these tips are quite safe if followed correctly, do check with your doctor, before trying any of them.
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