Dry, Cracking Heels

Dry, cracked heels are a common complaint during the winter months. Dry skin is often a common problem during the winter months, because the air is very dry, which is reflected in low humidity levels.  Not only are the heels affected by the dryness of winter, but also so is the rest of the skin.

Symptoms of dry skin are:

  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • White flakes due to dead skin
  • Skin discoloration or a red hue due to scratching
  • Roughness or callus formation

Wearing shoes that have an open heel, various soaps that dry out the skin, and walking barefoot can exacerbate the problem of dry heels.  

There are numerous home remedies, which can be tried to treat dry, cracked heels, some of these include:

  • Pumice Stone: A pumice stone can be bought in a pharmacy. You use this stone on the heels by rubbing the stone back and forth in areas of dryness; the stone takes off the dead skin, which will leave the heels being smoother. It is best to use the pumice stone after getting out of the shower. Try using the stone once or twice per week, to avoid scraping the healthy skin.
  • Moisturizer lotions with petroleum jelly: Use moisturizer before going to bed and then apply petroleum jelly.  Sleep with socks on to help the moisturizer and petroleum jelly to soak into the skin more.
  • Coconut oil: Before going to bed, wash your feet with luke warm water and soap; after, apply coconut oil and then put socks on to sleep (realize the coconut oil may stain the socks).  Remove the socks in the morning and rinse your feet in the shower. The coconut oil will act like a moisturizer.
  • Apply over-the counter urea cream: This cream can be bought at a pharmacy and similarly to the other lotion treatments, apply it to the heels and sleep with socks on.
  • Vic’s Vaporub works extremely well and is a simple home remedy.


Be careful if you are moisturizing your feet, to not apply too much lotion, especially in between the toes, because skin that becomes too soft will break down allowing infection to enter the broken down skin. Always completely rub the moisturizer in before putting the socks on. Lastly, when selecting a moisturizer it is best to try to avoid scented moisturizers since this type is more likely to lead to skin irritation than non-scented.  It is important to treat dry skin, especially the heels, because dry heels can lead to what is called fissuring. A fissure is a crack in the skin that extends through the top layer of skin, called the epidermis, and into the deep part of the skin, called the dermis. Fissures are extremely painful and often times may bleed. Fissuring of the heels may also lead to an infection, since bacteria can easily get into the cracks in the skin. If dry, cracked heels are a problem that you are experiencing despite trying home remedies, you must see a podiatrist for further treatment. At the Platte Valley Foot and Ankle Clinic you can be prescribed a stronger strength moisturizer that will be more effective at helping heal the cracks, before fissures result. Fissuring is similar to a wound, so it requires a more intensive treatment to help the skin to heal. If you did not seek treatment for dry, cracking heels and there is a fissure, seek treatment immediately.

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