Dry and cracked skin on the feet, particularly the heels, is a frustrating experience shared by up to 1 in 5 American adults. At minimum, the condition is uncomfortable and embarrassing. However, if deeper cracks form in heels—enough to cause bleeding—dry skin can lead to an infection. For those with diabetes, this is an especially dangerous scenario.
What Causes Dry Skin and Cracked Heels?
Lifestyle Factors that Contribute to Dry Skin and Cracked Heels
Some people are more prone to dry skin than others due to genetic inheritance. Lifestyle factors that can contribute further include:
- Age. As we get older, our skin produces fewer moisturizing natural oils and loses its elasticity. This means that skin gets drier and rougher, and it can’t stretch as far before breaking and cracking.
- Environment. Skin tends to dry out in winter. This is because indoor heating generally produces extremely arid, low-humidity air.
- Diet. Many vitamins are crucial to maintaining healthy, moisturized skin—especially antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium. Healthy fatty acids (omega-3 especially) are also needed to replenish natural oils. Remember also to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration of the skin.
- Hygiene. It’s not just that you clean, but also how you clean. Long, hot showers actually draw moisture out of your skin, so opt for a shorter shower at a more moderate water temperature. Stick to mild soaps, too.
- Obesity and/or prolonged standing. Excess weight won’t necessarily dry your skin out further. However, the heavier the load you place on the fatty pads on your heels, the more likely they are to painfully split and crack under pressure. Poorly-fitting shoes make the problem even worse.
Medical Causes of Dry Skin and Cracked Heels
A number of medical diagnoses can cause dry and cracked skin directly or indirectly. Some of the most common include:
- Athlete’s foot
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Thyroid disease
- Kidney disease
What Can I Do About My Dry Skin?
If you are a healthy individual and your dry skin is a minor and isolated problem, you can usually remedy it at home. A pumice stone can be used to very gently reduce the thickness of calluses and dead skin. Keep your feet clean, apply an oil-based moisturizer once or twice per day, and wear clean, comfortable, and breathable closed-toed shoes and socks.
More serious cases should be referred to a podiatrist like Dr. Wettstein for additional care. Consult us if any of the following conditions are true:
- Your dry skin is painful
- The problem is chronic or frequently recurring
- Cracks are especially deep
- Any bleeding or signs of infection are observed
- You have diabetes, poor circulation, or any other high-risk conditions
Schedule your appointment in either Twin Falls or Burley, ID by calling (208) 731-6321.