One of the perks of summer is sandals, but unsightly dry and painful heel cracks, or heel fissures, cause many women to hide their feet even in balmy weather. Especially as we age, just applying body lotion to the heels and scrubbing with a pumice stone now and then may not be enough to prevent dry and cracked heels.
What Causes Heel Cracks
There are many theories about what causes heel cracks, from dehydration and polyester socks, to omega-3 oil deficiencies, poor circulation and ill-fitting shoes. Obesity may place excess stress on the skin of the heels, and low thyroid may contribute to dry skin. Foot fungus may hide in pumice stones and chemicals in body lotions may damage the skin.
How to Heal the Heels
Whatever the cause of dry, cracked heels, the goal is to remove dead and callused skin, restore moisture to the feet and heal the cracks.
Drink Enough Water: As we age and as skin damage accumulates over time, the skin is less able to retain moisture, so part of the goal of heel restoration is to help the skin stay moist and flexible. Staying hydrated is certainly important, but often not enough to combat the effects of aging on skin.
Thyroid deficiency, which seems to be epidemic among baby boomers, certainly contributes to dry skin. Supplementing with thyroid can be a low risk and effective way to improve the skin, as well as increase energy and perk up the brain.
Body lotions that contain petroleum jelly (e.g. Vaseline®) or a lot of glycerin can make matters worse if they are applied to dry skin, because they will pull moisture from the skin. The best time to apply salves, butters and lotions to the skin is when the skin is moist, such as after swimming or a shower. There’s no one best lotion, potion or plant that will magically erase heel cracks. If you suspect a foot fungus or bacteria is involved in your cracked heels, find a lotion that contains tea tree oil.
Remove dead, callused and thickened skin. For most people a pumice stone works fine to maintain smooth heels, but those with heel cracks may want to try products such as the PedEgg, which looks like a metal grater and gently but effectively scrapes off layers of thick and callused skin. These products are used on dry skin. Don’t try to scrape off all the dry skin at once and for goodness sakes don’t try this with your cheese grater!