Causes of Cracked Heels - How To Deal With Heel Fissures
So What Are Cracked Heels?
Do you suffer from cracked heels? So the summer is here and you excitedly go to the back of your wardrobe and haul out all your flip-flops and pretty sandals. You paint your toe nails the latest shade of red, slide your feet into that dainty piece of footwear, look at your beautiful summer feet in the mirror and ...... urgh what is all that dry, ugly and cracked skin on my heels!
Cracked heels on feet, also known as heel fissures, are a remarkably common foot condition. Luckily, for the majority of people it is just unsightly and can be remedied fairly easily.
You can experience cracked heels on only one of your feet or on both of them, but it is more common for the cracks to be present on both. You know if you have cracked heels if the skin looks dry and scaly, there is a thick callus that looks like yellow or dark brown areas of discoloured skin around the edges of your heels, and there are regular, fine cracks on the surface of the skin. If the condition is neglected, the cracks can deepen and can become very painful. They can even start bleeding or become infected. Apart from the appearance of your feet, you can tell if your foot pain is coming from your cracked heels as the pain will be there when you are weight bearing on the heel, but is not present when you take the weight off the heel.
People who suffer from diabetes or who have a deficient immune system for any reason, need to take extra care of their feet, as they will be far more prone to forming cracked heels and then for them to get infected.
What Causes Cracked Heels?
One of the main causes of cracked heels is lack of attention to foot care. The statistics say that the average person walks 6500 kilometres in their lifetime. With each step that you take you are hitting your heel onto the ground with great force. The heel has to bear the impact and also provide enough support for the weight of your body. So it makes sense to look after those feet and in an ideal world, you would always take care to keep your feet clean and dry. You would exercise your feet often, avoid walking barefoot, and always wear sensible, well fitting footwear. Backless, open or thin soled shoes are a major culprit when it comes to cracked heels, as is standing for long periods on hard floors.
Unfortunately, some people are just more predisposed to having dry skin, and the thickened, dry skin around their heels is more prone to cracking. Elderly people are also more likely to form cracks in their heels, as skin loses its elasticity as it gets older. There can also be mechanical factors involved, and the way that you walk can influence whether or not you are likely to suffer from cracked heels. Being overweight can also be an indicator, as the extra weight increases the pressure on the pad of fat under the heel. This causes the heel to expand sideways and can cause the heel to crack unless the skin is very supple.
However, in the world of feet there is one reason to celebrate if your feet sweat a lot! You are less likely to have cracked heels than someone whose sweat glands are not particularly active for some reason. Heel fissures can also be exacerbated by other foot conditions such as athlete’s foot, eczema and psoriasis. Having flat feet or feet with high arches also can lead to cracking heels.
How Can You Remedy Cracked Heels?
So what can you do to remedy this unsightly and potentially painful foot condition? If you have deeply cracked, painful, bleeding or infected heels, you should consult your medical practitioner, chiropodist or podiatrist for professional advice. Similarly, if you are elderly or are in ill-health you would be wise to consult a professional. Cracked heels can potentially lead to far more serious conditions. Bacteria can enter into the body through the cracks in your heels and cause cellulitus, which is a very serious bacterial skin infection. If left untreated, the bacteria can spread and lead to blood poisoning or infect the bones, muscles or heart valves.
If you are generally fit and healthy and the problem is more of a cosmetic issue there are plenty of things that you can try at home to improve the condition of cracked heels. One of the most basic remedial and preventive measures to take is to apply an oil-based moisturiser on clean, dry feet twice a day. These days there are plenty of specialist foot products and foot creams on the market which can be bought in any chemist or supermarket. Also, take the time to exfoliate your feet with a foot scrub regularly, or use a pumice stone to get rid of the dry skin and to stop it building up. Do not however try to cut the dry skin away with a razor blade or small knife, as you could well cut too much skin off or develop an infection.
It would also be useful to look at your diet and to ensure that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals. To help prevent dry skin, you need to eat a diet rich in zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, iron and Vitamin E. You can find zinc in oysters, crab, red meat, chicken, pulses and fortified breakfast cereal. Omega-3 fatty acids are obtained from fish oils, hemp, flax and pumpkin seeds, walnuts, leafy green vegetables and foods that have had omega-3 added to them. Milk, cream, butter, yoghurt tinned fish, cereals and broccoli are all a good source of calcium. Iron is contained in red meat, pork, blackstrap molasses, kidney beans, spinach, prunes and raisins and Vitamin E comes from oils that are made from wheat germ, corn, cottonseed, soybean and safflower, nuts and fruit.
Natural Remedies for Cracked Heels
There are also some natural remedies that you can employ. At the end of the day soak your feet in warm soapy water, rinse them and dry them thoroughly. Mix together one teaspoon of Vaseline with the juice of one lemon and smooth in the lotion on the affected parts of your heels until it has been absorbed. Repeat this daily until the skin on the heel is smooth and supple again. There are several variations of this technique: one is crush six to eight strawberries together and mix in with two tablespoons of olive or almond oil and one teaspoon of sea salt. Massage the paste into your feet vigorously to stimulate blood circulation, and then leave for ten to fifteen minutes before finally rinsing with warm water and then cold water. Rosewater and glycerine are also very soothing to apply to cracked heels.
For an overnight application, apply a thick application of margarine or hydrogenated vegetable oil to clean, dry feet, pop on a pair of thick socks and leave until morning. When you rise and shine rinse thoroughly and pat dry. As a variation, you could try mixing one hundred grams of coconut oil with three teaspoons of camphor and three tablespoons of melted paraffin wax and applying it at bedtime.
If you like the idea of applying your food to your body instead of putting it into your mouth, smear the pulp of one ripe banana over your cracked heels. Leave the banana pulp on for ten minutes, and then rinse off. You could also bathe your feet in lemon juice for ten minutes once a week. Walking along a sandy beach in shallow, salty water is also good for keeping dry skin in check and has the added benefit of helping puffy feet and ankles.
With any home remedies take care to avoid any ingredients that you are allergic to and do take any necessary precautions; they are your feet and your responsibility. As was said earlier, if you have any concerns consult your medical practitioner, chiropodist or podiatrist.
And if you have the time and money, go and have a professional pedicure on a regular basis at a beauty salon or spa!
Disclaimer: Please be aware that any information given in this article should in no way be used to replace advice given to you by your medical practitioner. Anybody suffering from a medical condition or who is at all concerned should always consult their podiatrist or doctor before treating cracked heels at home. Anyone who is elderly, suffering from diabetes or circulatory problems should always have their feet cared for by a podiatrist or medical practitioner.
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