Dry, cracked feet aren’t just unsightly; they can affect your general health. Left untreated, the heels can develop painful fissures. They can become particularly troublesome for athletes or people who enjoy running and other sports—plus, they make it impossible to wear sandals and slippers without feeling self-conscious.
There are many causes for dry, cracked feet. Some people are genetically pre-disposed to the condition; others develop it as a side-effect to medical problems like underactive thyroid, which lower your sweat production and make you vulnerable to dry skin. Obesity and walking problems like pronation can cause the skin to break down and crack.
1. Avoid wearing open shoes
Sandals and open-back shoes are comfortable. However, if you have cracked heels, avoid wearing them until you’ve resolved the problem. Dirt, grit pebbles can get into the shoes and abrade the heel. Microorganisms can also get into small breaks in the skin, causing infection. The exposure to the elements can also worsen any skin conditions that could be causing the problem.
2. Change positions frequently.
Standing for long periods can worsen dry, cracked skin. That’s why people whose jobs require them to stay on their feet—waitresses, bank tellers, factory workers— often encounter this problem. The constant pressure can wear down the heels and worsen any discomfort or skin irritation. Left untreated, the skin can become so inflamed that it actually affects mobility.
To deal with this, change positions frequently, and try to take short but regular ‘sitting breaks.’ Wear comfortable shoes made of breathable fabric and are non-contorting. One study made by the University of Iowa discovered that canvas and soft leather shoes are most effective for alleviating the discomfort and minimizing cracked, dry skin.
3. Remove callouses.
Callouses are hardened, very thick patches of skin. These are so tough that moisturizers won’t be able to penetrate and heal the skin. It’s important to remove these callouses.
First, soak the feet in lukewarm water for several minutes. This will help relax the feet and will also soften the skin. You may also get special foot salts that contain ingredients that help slough off dead skin.Then, gently rub off the callouses with a pumice stone. It may take several days or even weeks to remove them completely.
If the home remedy doesn’t work, even after several months, visit a doctor who can cut away the skin. Or, go to a spa that have special foot pampering and softening treatments.
4. Avoid harsh baths.
Long, hot baths can worsen dry, cracked skin. Instead, take lukewarm showers, and wash the feet with a gentle soap. Then, dry the feet carefully—don’t forget the skin between the toes!
Pamper the skin with moisturizers or emollients. There are many special moisturizers for the feet, which are oil-based and are more effective in penetrating the harder skin of the soles and heels. Reapply moisturizer as frequently as possible. Do not use petroleum jelly, which is too harsh and tends to feel too warm and uncomfortable.
5. Keep the feet dry
Sweat in the feet can cause fungal infections like athlete’s foot. Symptoms include burning and itching sensation, and thickening of the toenails. To avoid this condition, wear socks that are made of breathable fabric, or materials that are designed to draw sweat away from the skin and keep it dry. You can also apply anti-fungal foot powder to prevent excessive sweating.
These home remedies can help alleviate most cases of dry, cracked feet. However, if the problem persists, talk to your doctor. Dry, cracked feet may be a symptom of health problems like thyroid disorder or diabetes (especially if the wounds don’t heal after several weeks of treatment). Even if it proves to be harmless, the doctor can help alleviate the discomfort (such as itchiness) with topical medicines, and will also be able to recommend ways of minimizing risk for infection. He may also ‘strap’ the feet with liquid bandages to bind the skin together and encourage healing. The doctor may also check if the skin irritation is caused by eczema (which is developed by 1 in every 10 people).