Cracked Heels and Dry Skin on Feet: Know the Facts
Have you ever treated yourself to a pedicure? The skin on the bottom of your feet may be completely beautiful and as silky soft as a baby’s bottom, only for it to feel rougher than sandpaper a day later. Do you feel as though the skin on the bottom of your feet is the roughest skin on your body, or that your heels are always cracked? If so, you’re not alone. There are many ways to soothe your rough skin and cracked heels.
Do you have dry, cracked skin on your feet? If so, you are not alone, as this is a common foot problem.
Sometimes dry skin happens in multiple areas of the body, secondary to an underlying health issue. But other times only the feet are affected, resulting in cracked skin or calluses on the heels or soles of the feet. Dry skin, also known as xerosis, can simply be a cosmetic problem or it may lead to symptoms such as itchiness, a skin rash, or even pain and secondary infection.
Skin illnesses that result in dry, thickened skin on the foot include athlete’s foot (tinea pedis), leg vein problems (called venous stasis), psoriasis, and skin rashes caused by allergy or irritants. A common cause of dry, scaly skin and accentuated skin lines on a child’s feet is the situation atopic dermatitis.
Common Causes Aging: Hormonal and metabolic changes over time decrease skin cell turnover, resulting in a thickening of the skin’s outermost layer, known as the stratum corneum.
Also, as we age, the protective fat pad on the sole of the foot gets thinner. Loss of this cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot can raise skin stress, leading to cracked, callused skin.
Cold Weather: Dry skin often worsens in the winter months, mostly due to indoor heating and low humidity.
Physical Stress: The environment inside a shoe can get very hot—sometimes well over 120 F. Heat and humidity changes result in water loss from the skin and ultimately result in thickening of the top layer of skin.
Skin Cleansers: Certain soaps can strip protective oils from the skin or leave irritating residues that contribute to dry skin.
If your feet have calluses, cracked skin, wounds, rashes, or dry skin that does not improve with creams or lotions, an evaluation by a podiatrist is a good place to start—most importantly to identify and treat secondary causes of dry skin, such as athlete’s foot or eczema addition, corns and calluses can be safely removed by your podiatrist, which is a great way to improve the appearance of your feet and prevent future problems, such as pain and skin wounds. Also, severely dry skin may require prescription-strength creams.