You’ve probably seen pictures of dried, cracked earth in the desert. The ground can develop dramatic splits from the lack of moisture. You can almost imagine the dryness just from looking at a picture. Your skin can actually develop similar cracks if it becomes dry enough, especially on your feet—leading to painful problems like heel fissures.
Heel fissures are deep splits or cracks in dried, thickened skin around your heel. Like anywhere else on your body, the skin on your feet needs to have a certain degree of flexibility and elasticity to be able to stretch and move with you. Dried out skin is not flexible; it’s stiff and rough, without much “give” to it. Rather than stretching when it’s under pressure, it tends to split.
Your feet are naturally drier than elsewhere on your body, making them more vulnerable to issues like fissures. Instead of oil glands to keep them moist, your feet have thousands of sweat glands. However, sweat isn’t always a stable moisturizer. Outside factors, like age and pre-existing conditions, can also limit your lower limbs’ moisture.
Because your feet are subject to a significant amount of pressure, they are prone to calluses, which also dry out the skin. These built-up, hardened layers do not stretch very well. When too much force squishes the soft, fatty padding in your heel against the calluses around the back of the foot, the skin isn’t able to flex to accommodate the pressure. Instead, it cracks.
Cracked heels can be quite uncomfortable. Your feet may appear rough, flaky, and peeling. Sometimes, the area around the splits will be reddened and inflamed. If the fissures go deep enough, they may bleed, providing an opening for potential infections. This is a particular risk for anyone with diabetes or other conditions that impair the immune system. Fortunately, investing in the skin on your feet can help you restore your heels and prevent future splits.
Re-Hydrating the Feet
Heel fissures are easy to diagnose, but they should be inspected to check for infections or outside factors that may have influenced their development. Dr. Sanjay Patel will evaluate your lower limbs and determine if any outside conditions may have caused or worsened your dry skin. Issues like psoriasis, athlete’s foot, and diabetes will need to be treated as well to be able to restore your heels.
If your fissures are deep, our staff will bandage them so that they are protected as they recover. Then you’ll need to eliminate your calluses and moisturize your heels every day to relieve your discomfort. Filing calluses with a pumice stone helps break them down, but you may need help from our staff to do this without causing additional damage. Once your calluses are taken care of, apply a thick moisturizer to your heels. Creams, ointments, oils, and even petroleum jelly work well for this. Massage it into your heels, then put on clean socks to lock in the moisture.
Most likely, you’ll need to work on addressing the pressure on your feet as well. Invest in shoes with sturdy backs, cushioned heels, and sufficient arch support to help relieve the strain directed into your heels. You may need to lose weight or change your health habits to improve your skin overall as well.
If you’re struggling with dried out feet and cracking heels, know that you don’t have to live with the discomfort or the embarrassment. There are ways to restore your feet and protect your body from infections. Instead of suffering with heel fissures, request an appointment with Family Foot Care & Surgery, L.L.C. You can call our two offices or use our online request form to reach us: for our Milford office, call 203-876-7736; or for our Hamden location, call 203-288-4055.