How To Heal Cracked Heels In 4 Steps, According To Doctors

by | Jun 17, 2024 | Skincare

Chilly winter temps and dry indoor air aren’t just bad news for your skin (causing itchy, irritated dry patches) or nails (hello, brittleness), it’s also open season for heel cracking—and you shouldn’t wait until your spring or summer pedicure to roll around to do something about it. And if you want to take those dry, cracked feet into your own hands, it’s probably about time to learn how to care for them yourself. (It’s really not that hard.)

Meet our expertsHeather Woolery-Lloyd, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist in Miami, Florida. Miguel Cunha, is a MD, board-certified surgical podiatrist in New York City and founder of Gotham Footcare.

It’s good to do a bit of investigative work into what exactly is causing your dry, cracked heels—here, top docs break it down.

What causes cracked heels?

Because there are a handful of different causes, it might take some time to figure out exactly what is leading your the condition of your feet. Your dry, cracked feet can be caused by the skin condition eczema, which is typically genetic and is most common on hands and feet, says Heather Woolery-Lloyd, board-certified dermatologist. She also says that age can play into it because “as people get older the skin tends to get drier and produces less natural oils.”

Other causes of dry, cracked heels include “diabetes, eczema, hypothyroidism, Sjögren’s syndrome, juvenile plantar dermatosis, infections such as athlete’s foot, biomechanical factors such as flat feet, heel spurs, or standing for long periods of time, particularly on hard flooring and open-healed or poorly fitting shoes, as well as dry, cold weather,” says Dr. Miguel Cunha.

READ MORE: Skin Feeling Extra Dry And Sensitive Right Now? These Products Might Help

How to heal cracked heels

To combat your cracked heels, follow these four easy steps to put a fresh spring in your step (wink wink).

Step 1: Soak + Exfoliate

Once a week, set aside a little time after you shower to treat your feet. The key is to soften your calloused, dry feet in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re feeling fancy, put in a few drops of your favourite essential oil. You can also use a pre-packaged foot soak like Dr. Teal’s Pure Epsom Salt that has peppermint essential oil, baking soda, aloe and coconut oil in it to repair and refresh. Soaking your feet will hydrate your calloused skin and make it easier for a pumice stone or foot file to do its job.

Afterwards, physically exfoliate and slough off dead skin with a pumice stone or a foot file.

Step 2: Moisturise On The Reg

For hardened heels, it’s crucial to use a moisturiser daily. “Look for one with urea or lactic acid on the ingredient label as these will exfoliate as well as hydrate,” explains Emily Splichal, DPM, a functional podiatrist and human movement specialist.

ISDIN Ureadin Ultra 40 Gel Oil

Dr. Cunha recommends softening the feet with Bare 40 Moisturizing Urea Gel. This product is not available in South Africa, but we’ve found an alternative.

“I inform my patients to apply this gel evenly throughout both feet at night, wrap their feet with saran wrap and wear socks to bed.” Dr. Cunha

You can also look to your pantry for a DIY solution. “You can put any oils — olive oil or coconut oil — on the heel but wait to do this until after you soak as oils acts as a sealant to moisture,” Dr. Splichal furthers. She also suggests sealing it into the skin with saran wrap to lock in moisture (or you can always opt for moisturising socks like these with 100% cotton).

The Body Shop Paw Print Hydra Intensive Socks

Made from 100% organic cotton, these cosy socks are designed to be worn after applying your favourite hydrating foot cream. Slip them on and let the magic happen. These socks boost the cream’s effectiveness, leaving your feet feeling irresistibly silky smooth.

Eucerin Original Creme Tub

Dr. Cunha suggests using Eucerin cream to seal in moisture.

Step 3: Choose The Right Footwear

If you’re constantly dealing with cracked skin, it may be time to reevaluate your shoe collection as certain pairs can aggravate heels—“especially tighter ones that are restrictive of movement like boots or pairs that have a stiff heel counter (the little plastic insert that’s used to reinforce the heel cup and increase support),” notes Dr. Splichal.

Step 4: Make Foot Care Part Of Your Routine

Just like your skincare routine, it’s equally important to continue to give your feet some TLC—even after you’ve healed them. “The best treatment for cracked heels is avoiding it in the first place which means daily moisturising and weekly exfoliating—this is important in both cold and warm weather,” advises Dr. Splichal, which in all honesty, is pretty easy advice for anyone looking to put their best foot forward.

READ MORE: Dry Skin? Try These 3 Hydrating, Nourishing and Brightening Face Masks You Can Make In Your Kitchen

Other products to try at home to ensure your feet stay soft all season:

Hero Mighty Pimple Patch Original

This product went viral for how effective it is at getting alllll of that dead skin off your feet. You may have seen a TikTok or Insta video about it. Get ready to watch your feet shed like a snake!

Sudocrem Baby Care Cream

Dry feet? Cancel your pedicure and simply work a thick layer of Sudocrem into your heels before bed.

Overnight, the zinc oxide will go to work while your skin cells are in their regenerative mode. You’ll wake up with smoother, softer feet.

This article written by Josey Murray and Maddy Zollo Rusbosin first appeared on Women’s Health US—additional reporting and products added by the Women’s Health SA team.

Women’s Health participates in various affiliate marketing programmes, which means we may get commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This