Matt Wettstein, DPM
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Experienced podiatrist specializing in all foot care including wound care and sports medicine in Twin Falls.

woman spreading lotion on the bottom of her footUnsightly dry or scaly feet can be a problem for patients of all ages. Thickened or cracking skin on the heels and bottoms of your feet may be embarrassing, but it could also have long-lasting health implications for some people. Fortunately, a regular cleansing and moisturizing regimen can restore your skin to health and guard against future problems.

Dry, Cracked Feet Can Be Deadly for Patients With Diabetes

Patients with diabetes are not only more prone to dry skin on their feet, but they're also at higher risk of suffering wounds due to an inability to feel their feet. Diabetic neuropathy can prevent feet from sweating, which keeps the skin soft and moist. As the skin dries out, it can crack and open the body up to infection.

Diabetes may also cause circulation problems, preventing a patient's feet from getting the blood and nutrients they need to heal. As an open wound can have life-threatening consequences, it's vital for patients to moisturize their feet regularly—and see a podiatrist immediately if they have a sore that won't heal.

What's the Best Foot Cream for Dry and Cracked Feet?

While any lotion is an improvement, some moisturizers are better than others at restoring softness and flexibility to the skin. Thinner lotions for the face and hands may temporarily relieve foot dryness, but thicker lotions like body creams or butters generally last longer.

By checking the ingredients, you can generally tell which foot cream will be the most beneficial for hardened skin. Look at the label before you buy to see if the lotion contains:

  • Parabens. Some lotions contain preservatives called parabens to prevent them from spoiling. Parabens can dry out the skin more quickly, causing skin irritation or even topical rashes. Always do a "patch test" when trying out a new lotion, only applying a small amount and waiting a few hours to see if you have a reaction.
  • Moisturizing agents. Emollients (such as petroleum jelly, mineral oils, and shea butter) trap water under the skin by creating an oily layer on the surface. Humectants (such as glycerin, lecithin, and propylene glycol) moisturize by drawing water into the outer layer of the skin.
  • Scents and or alcohols. Lotions should be free of any overpowering scents, alcohols, or chemicals that can irritate or dry out the skin.
  • Active ingredients. Some lotions contain stimulating agents that can relieve the pain in neuropathic feet, such as arnica, mint, eucalyptus, or capsaicin (hot pepper oil).
  • Exfoliants. Ingredients such as urea, lanolin, and alpha hydroxy acids help the dead skin cells on the surface to fall off and reveal the healthier tissue below.

How Often Should I Moisturize My Feet?

It's best to apply lotion twice a day after washing your feet in warm water with mild soap—one that has similar ingredients to the lotion to avoid drying. Once your feet are completely dry between the toes, you should:

  • Apply a small amount of lotion to the tops, bottoms, and sides of your feet, allowing each layer to soak in completely.
  • Massage moisturizer into your feet using a circular motion to increase blood circulation.
  • Prevent lotion from building up between the toes, as this can promote the growth of yeast, fungus, or bacteria.
  • Put on a pair of clean cotton socks after moisturizing to prevent feet from drying out too quickly.
  • Wear hard-soled, well-fitted shoes both inside and outside the house.