Are your heels indistinguishable from a Google image search of Nevada’s Death Valley? Have scientists at NASA referenced pictures of your feet in a study of the topography of Mars? If you looked closely enough, could you almost make out a tiny Moses leading the Hebrews to the Promised Land?
If so, your heels are dry and cracked. The soles of healthy feet are typically thick, supple, and strong to protect you from the stresses of walking around on them all day, stepping on surfaces of uneven textures and temperatures. But when you’ve been less-than-diligent about keeping them healthy, your feet – particularly your heels – can dry out, looking ashy and cracked.
Cracked heels can hurt to walk on, and the skin can break and bleed more easily than healthy heels. Open wounds on your feet can lead to infection. Let’s face it – it’s not like your grubby, sweaty sneakers are doing your skin any favors.
What causes dry heels?
Cracked heels are the result of years of neglect and wear on the bottoms of your feet. The pressure and friction of your everyday activities causes dry skin to build up calluses on the feet, which eventually split, causing deep, visible cracks.
The older you get, the more likely you will suffer from dry, cracking heels. Dry heels are also likely to worsen in the summer time, so now is the perfect time to start paying closer attention to the condition of your feet.
Avoiding these things will help keep your heels healthy:
- Harsh soaps. Choose a gel or moisturizing soap instead.
- Hot, excessively long showers. Hot water is notorious for drying out your skin. Your feet often get the worst of it since they soak in the steaming, soapy water before it goes down the drain.
- It’s alright to wear sandals once in a while – heck, it’s better than no shoes at all! But wearing them too frequently exposes your feet to the elements, causing them to dry out.
How to heal your heels
Much like caring for your car or your home, a little routine maintenance goes a long way. Moisturize your feet daily, especially after showering and before putting on your socks and shoes. Try applying petroleum jelly to your feet before going to bed. Put a sock on to lock in the moisture while you’re sleeping.
Wear clean socks and shoes that fit every day. Ditch the fancy wool or synthetic materials. Cotton socks do the best job at absorbing moisture and allowing your skin to breathe.
You may gently exfoliate the skin with a pumice stone, but avoid scrubbing the area rigorously. You’re not sandpapering the kitchen cabinets, Ty Pennington. This can cause further damage to your dried heels.
Keeping your heels healthy and moisturized will help you keep comfortable and stay active. Absent of foot pain, your healthy heels can navigate a better walking pattern and can better sustain any foot treatments that you may need. Your feet and your podiatrist will thank you!
Dr. Tanaka specializes in a therapeutic technique for Plantar Fasciitis and other conditions known as manual scraping. Manual scraping has helped Dr. Tanaka effectively treat painful conditions in half as many sessions as traditional therapeutic techniques.
A self-described workaholic, Dr. Tanaka also works weekends at So. Cal. Hospital in Culver City doing acute physical therapy. He currently lives in West Hollywood with his fiancée, their dog, and two cats.