What Causes Cracked Heels

Cracked heels, also known as foot fissures, are a common problem for many people. Sometimes the cracks will be shallow and merely a cosmetic problem, and other times they cracks can be deep and painful.

Here we will discuss the most common causes of cracked heels. The four most common causes of cracked heels are thick callus build up, dry skin, excess pressure to your feet, and fungal infections. Often times a combination of these factors will result in cracking heels.

What Causes Cracked HeelsCallus Build Up

The biggest factor that can cause cracked heels is the forming of thick calluses on your feet. Over time, from everyday activities calluses will build up, especially on heels. This thick layer of dead skin is helpful in protecting our feet. If the callus grows to be to too thick though, you can run into problems. Thick layers of dead skin will no longer be elastic like healthy skin. So, instead of heels expanding under pressure, they will crack open.

To prevent this from happening you can exfoliate away the dead skin on your feet. It can be helpful to either use a pumice stone for physical exfoliating, or salicylic acid pads for chemical exfoliating.

curad salicylic acid cracked heels treatment

pumice stone cracked heels treatment

Dry Skin

Once your feet become dried out, you are at risk of developing cracked heels. There are many things that can cause the skin on your feet to dry out. The winter months are notorious for drying out people’s skin, especially in desert locations. Getting a humidifier can help to keep your skin soft and moist during the winter months. Lack of proper hydration is another cause of cracked heels. Make sure you are always drinking the recommended amount of water each day. Excessive hot baths or showers will remove natural oils from skin that retain moisture. Finally, not taking proper care of your feet by moisturizing them often enough can lead to dryness.

moisturizer for treating causes of cracked heels

visco sleeves for treating causes of cracked heels

humidifier for treating causes of cracked heels

Excess Pressure

After you have thick calluses and they are faced with harsh dry conditions, a crack is almost inevitable. Eventually, you will put extra pressure or weight on your feet and it will trigger a crack to form. This can be simply from walking, running, lifting something, or standing for too long. These circumstances cause your heel to expand and flatten. Normally, the skin is moist, and elastic enough to handle this pressure.  However, when the skin is dry it is not elastic at all, and instead of expanding your heels will crack open. Maintaining a healthy weight and using shoe inserts can help to reduce the pressure on your feet. Heel cups in your shoes can also prevent heels from expanding and cracking.
heel cups to treat causes of cracked heels

Fungal Infections

Sometimes dry and cracking heels is caused by a foot fungus. Normally these cracks are not deep, but instead are thin white cracks on the surface. Flaking is also common. This is caused by the athelete’s foot fungus. Most people think that althete’s foot only occurs between the toes, this is incorrect. The infection can spread to almost any other part of your body, including heels.

Fungal growth speeds up in dark and moist conditions. So adding moisturizer will not help your cracked heels in this case. In face, it will make things worse. Instead you should be using an anti-fungal cream.



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  2. Cracked Heels Fungus
  3. How to Prevent Cracked Heels
  4. Heel Cups, Pads & Inserts
  5. Cracked Heels and Diabetes