Dry and cracked feet are a very common condition among healthy men and women. Lifestyle, climate or dehydration are some of the most common causes. Signs that indicate a problem include dry or flaky skin, fine lines or cracks on the bottom of the feet, swelling, itching and flaking of the skin.
So, before the cracks in the heels, the area where hardness tends to form, cause bleeding and difficulty walking, we can follow a few simple guidelines for prevention and treatment at home, before going to a professional.
Dry feet may have no known cause. Some people have naturally dry skin and feet, but if you expose them to extremely cold or hot weather or always walk on outdoor surfaces, you risk them starting to dry out. In addition to this, the most common causes are:
- Inadequate cleansing such as washing the skin too often or with shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, etc. which strips the skin of the foot of natural lipids.
- Low humidity, varying according to region and season
- Open shoes, which cause the fat pads in the heel to expand sideways and increase pressure on the skin, causing it to crack.
- Fungi that penetrate the skin barrier of the foot and cause conditions such as athlete’s foot
- Bacteria such as erythrasma
Eczema: This is one of the most common causes. If the skin is itchy, dry and when scratched becomes scaly or starts to peel, it could be eczema. Eczema is a common skin condition that can affect anyone at any age, so if you have eczema, it is best to see a specialist so that a stronger cream can be prescribed.
- Athlete’s foot: Dry feet can also be a symptom of athlete’s foot, which can occur if your feet are damp or you wear sweaty socks for long periods of time. Athlete’s foot is a fungus that can spread among friends and family members who share towels and damp areas such as bathrooms.
- Cracked heels also occur due to keeping wet socks on for too long. In extreme cases, heels that are always irritated from the pressure of walking and shoes that are too tight can start to bleed, which can lead to more serious infections if not treated in time.
These foot infections, apart from the above, are often contracted by walking barefoot, unhealthy pedicures, or showering in unhygienic gyms etc…. Other times, there are medical reasons such as xerosis, caused by two main factors: a deficiency in the lipids of the skin barrier or a deficiency of natural moisturising factors or other internal influences such as age, dehydration, diet (in particular one that does not include important vitamins for the skin) or some diseases that influence the health of the skin or the general immune system, such as diabetes or hyperhidrosis.
In fact, in principle, you can tackle the mild symptoms of cracked heels yourself at home before going to a specialist. Here are some guidelines to prevent infection or worsening symptoms and keep your feet clean from the comfort of your own home.
1. Prepare an oatmeal bath
You can buy the oats yourself and use both coarse and fine flakes, but you can also use colloidal oats and use only the part you need.
Grind the flakes in a food mill until you get as fine a powder as possible. Then fill a basin with lukewarm water, and avoid very hot water, especially if you have very inflamed or irritated skin. Put your feet in and keep them in for 15 to 20 minutes, enjoy and relax!
Finally, remove the feet and dry them with a clean towel. You can retain the moisture by adding a little olive oil. Your feet will be silky smooth.
2. Soak your feet in Epsom salt.
You can also try soothing your feet and heels with an Epsom salt bath. You can buy this type of salt in any pharmacy and you only have to follow the instructions on the packet to find out how much salt to use. An Epsom salt bath is very relaxing and completely natural.
Remember to always wear clean, dry socks at the end to help retain extra moisture. This works best at night.
3. Paraffin wax treatment.
Actually, this method is best done by a professional, but you can also do it at home if you have experience. The idea is to smear warm, melted wax on your heels after you have thoroughly cleaned your feet. Once the wax has cooled a little, you remove it, and the result is soft, smooth and moisturised skin. Depending on the dryness of your feet and the cracks in your heels, you may get more or less relief for a while.
How to prevent dry feet and keep skin smooth and soft
There are traditional ways to control the symptoms of cracked heels and dry feet, such as moisturising creams and lotions with shea butter or aloe vera. In addition to these products, other ingredients included in lotions are salicylic acid, alpha-hydroxy acid, saccharide isomerate and urea, which can alleviate the symptoms of dry feet. These products vary in price and have an indeterminate shelf life.
Experts from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommend some simple tips to prevent and care for feet that are prone to cracking or over-drying.
- Limit baths and showers to 5-10 minutes. Prolonged bathing can dry out the skin and make dry, cracked heels worse. When drying your skin with a towel, always do so gently.
- If you can, always use mild, fragrance-free soaps and creams. This will help your feet retain their natural oils.
- Always moisturise your feet within 5 minutes after bathing. Look for a moisturiser that contains 10-25% urea, alpha hydroxy acid or salicylic acid, and apply it to your heels immediately after bathing while your skin is still damp, just before your heels dry out to lock in moisture.
- Before going to bed, apply simple petroleum jelly, i.e. pure or odourless, and wear socks at night to absorb it well and avoid getting grease on your bedding.
- Protect your heels. During the day, you can wear a liquid bandage if you have heel cracks to create a protective barrier, which can help reduce pain, speed healing and prevent germs from entering the skin.
- Wear the right shoes. If you have dry, cracked heels, avoid shoes with open heels, such as flip-flops or heeled shoes, shoes that are worn out, too tight or don’t fit properly.