Dry, Cracked Heels. Is There a Solution?

After a nice warm summer filled with going bare foot and wearing sandals (both which are not recommended by podiatrists!) you have noticed thick callus build up around the back of your heel. The callus area is starting to become painful and you are noticing cracks in the skin. Why is this happening and what is the treatment?
First, let’s address why the callus builds up. Any callus anywhere on the foot forms due to excess pressure. The excess pressure could be due to an unsupportive shoe or most commonly due to biomechanical reasons, meaning due to the underlying bone structure. However, the most common reason for developing a callus around the rim of the heel is wearing a shoe without a back. Backless shoes (examples: sandals, clogs, etc.) allow the heel fat pad to spread out allowing for extra pressure all the way around the heel.  Once that skin thickens up and a callus forms it becomes more prone to cracking.

During the winter, the air becomes very dry due to running heaters. With the dry air the skin everywhere becomes drier. You may notice having to apply hand lotion or lip balm more frequently in the winter than summer, so you must also not neglect your feet. Apply lotion to your feet twice a day sparing in between the toes (applying lotion in between the toes is not recommended as it causes a build of moisture and can lead to a fungal infection). Excellent brands of foot cream are not limited to, but include:

  • Kerasal Foot Cream
  • CeraVe Renewing Foot Cream
  • Gold Bond Therapeutic Foot Cream
  • Eucerin Diabetics Dry Skin Relief
  • Amlactin Foot Cream

The creams will help to prevent cracking of the skin, which is known as a fissure. Fissures are painful and can be dangerous; especially, for the diabetic patient as it allows entry for infection. Diabetics should check their feet daily as a fissure or callus is a warning sign of being at risk for developing a wound. Vic’s Vaporub is VERY effective in treating these cracks.

The best way to have a callus removed is to see a podiatrist who can trim and smooth the callus with a sterile surgical scalpel. Never try to trim a callus yourself as you may accidentally cut yourself if using your own razor blade. In addition do not use the ped-egg if you are diabetic or have numbness in your feet as you may inadvertently cut yourself and have an open wound.

Once the callus is trimmed by a podiatrist, be diligent with applying lotion and wear supportive shoes. Doing these three things, will provide temporary relief and the callus will ultimately return, but not as quickly. Visit the Boulder County Foot and Ankle Clinic for further evaluation.

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