Cracked heel; a painful foot problem
Table of Contents
- What are fissures?
- How do cracked heels arise?
- What's causing your cracked heels?
- What can you do against cracked heels?
- 5 tips to prevent cracked heels
- 5 tips on how to treat cracked heels
What are fissures?
Cracks in the heel or cracked heels are tears or cracks in the skin around your heels. This is caused by the combination of (very) dry skin and excessive calluses. When walking and standing there is increased pressure on the sole of the foot, which can cause the callus to burst. Several small fissures and vertical cracks can appear in the heels and sometimes with deeper fissures the skin is even slightly open. This can lead to unsightly, painful and even bleeding cracked heels. Walking and standing become painful, because under the influence of pressure on the heel, the fissures keep opening. If there are additional symptoms such as redness, warmth and swelling, there may be an infection.
How do cracked heels arise?
The main factors for the development of cracked heels are excessive calluses, dry skin and pressure.
- Excessive calluses: Our skin renews itself and continuously produces new skin cells from the inside. The skin grows from the inside out. Callus formation is a natural process of the accumulation of dead skin cells. The outer skin layer (the horny layer) consists of dead skin cells that also wear off. Calluses are caused by friction and pressure and this also partly wears off. A callus layer protects the skin against external influences, such as great pressure. But if there is too much local callus on the feet, because more skin is built up than is worn off, this can also cause extra pressure and discomfort. Think of bunions that make shoes uncomfortable, calluses (corns) and sometimes cracked heels that arise in the callus.
- Dry and inelastic skin is one of the main causes of cracked heels. If the moisture balance of the skin has decreased to such an extent, the heel will develop a thick and hard skin as a form of protection. As a result, the skin is insufficiently able to heal properly.
- Press the heels. Together with the forefoot, our heels bear our entire weight and are subjected to a lot of stress every day. The amount of pressure and friction depends on the weight placed on the heels, the surface on which the heel rests and the amount of standing and movement. Excessive body weight puts more pressure on joints and feet. Well-fitting shoes with a molded footbed provide better pressure distribution than a flat sole. Frequent walking or running can also promote the production of calluses. Both with and without shoes (barefoot), the walking movement causes pressure and friction on the feet. Walking and running barefoot also causes faster wear of the calluses.
What causes your cracked heels?
Why does one person suffer from this so often and another has never heard of the problem? It is not always possible to say exactly. Sometimes it has to do with a piece of hereditary predisposition, but the following factors are known to influence the development of cracked heels;
- sweaty feet
- wearing open shoes such as slippers and sandals and walking barefoot (dehydration)
- ill-fitting footwear without a supportive footbed
- standing for long periods (especially on a hard surface)
- a deviation of the feet
- a reduced fat pad under the foot (as we age)
- predisposition to psoriasis and eczema
- hormonal changes
- medication use (reduced blood flow)
- low humidity (cold winters and hot summers)
- a deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals
What can you do against cracked heels?
If you suffer from chapping, you would like to know what to do about it. Do you get started to remove or reduce your fissures yourself or do you prefer to seek professional help. Read our tips below on how to prevent fissures and if you do suffer from them, how to treat themand.
5 tips to prevent cracked heels;
- Remove excess calluses in time. Have this done by a pedicurist if you visit them regularly. Would you rather remove calluses yourself? This can be done easily after a bath or shower with a pumice stone, file or rasp. If it's not too much, drying it off with a rough towel is often enough.
- Treat your feet daily with a moisturizing cream. It seems exaggerated, but many people do put a cream on their face every day. Your feet often have to endure more! The foot cream ensures that the skin is more resistant to drying out. Smooth, elastic skin does not easily build up calluses.
- Wear well-fitting shoes with a footbed that supports the heel.
- Avoid walking barefoot or in flip flops. If you do this anyway, feel free to lubricate your heels once a day.
- Change shoes regularly if possible. Shoes with different heel heights put pressure on the heel at different points.
Have a look at our Degros heel fissures treatment action package. This gives you everything you need to reduce your heel cracks yourself and prevent the build-up of new cracks.
5 tips to treat cracked heels
- Remove the excess callus on the edge of the heel. This is absolutely necessary. As long as this hardened and thickened skin is not removed, the fissures cannot heal. You should preferably have this done by a (medical) pedicurist, who knows how much callus needs to be cut or milled away. If you are going to get started yourself, make sure you proceed very gradually, so that you do not remove too much. You can carefully remove the edges of the cracks with a scalpel blade and file or grate the rest until the skin feels supple again.
- Apply the heels with a special fissure cream or fissure ointment such as Laufwunder Schrundena Gorges Ointment or Gehwol med Gorges Ointment. These creams are quite greasy and are best covered with a plaster or stocking because they have to absorb for a while. These greasy creams often contain urea or lactate as a natural moisturizing ingredient.
- Go to the doctor in case of an infection. The doctor will assess whether an antibiotic should be prescribed.
- In case of recurring problems, visit a podiatrist for fitting therapy soles or therapy socks with a soothing gel.
- Apply honey ointment to the fissures. Honey works as a natural remedy for chapping due to its antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Research has shown that honey can help cleanse and heal wounds. It also has a moisturizing effect. There are various honey ointments available such as the Mesitran soft honey gel from Klinion.