What are cracked or fissured heels?
Cracked Heels are a common foot problem also referred to as ‘heel fissures’. Cracked heels are commonly caused by dry skin (anhidrosis). The symptoms are worse when the skin around the rim of the heel is thickened into callus.
Callus is a build up of skin that forms in response to irritation, pressure or friction, for example where a shoe repeatedly rubs against one part of the foot. Callus can be thick or thin and forms in many shapes and patterns.
Cracks or fissures that occur within the callus can be more serious and if left untreated may become deep, painful and infected . Heel fissures are found at the junction of two types of skin; the thick skin of the bottom of the foot and the skin of the side of the foot. Heel fissures can be limited to just one side of the heel or wrap around the entire heel.
In some cases a person may have naturally dry skin that increases the risk of cracked heels. Callus that forms around the heel is prone to cracking due to mechanical factors that increase pressures in that area e.g the way a person walks.
Other factors that can be involved in the cause of Cracked Heels include:
- Prolonged standing at work or home, especially on hard floors.
- Being overweight – this increases the pressure on the normal fat pad under the heel, causing it to expand sideways. If the skin is not supple and flexible, the pressures may cause the skin thicken and then crack.
- Open-back on shoes. This allows the fat under the heel to expand sideways and the pressure may cause the skin to dry out and crack.
- Certain medical conditions cause the skin to become dry and cracked eg diabetes or an under-active thyroid.
- Skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
- Sensitive skin.
As with all conditions your Podiatrist should be consulted to diagnose and treat this condition.
Treatment may include:
- Investigation of the cause of the problem, so this can be addressed.
- Painless removal of the hard thick skin to promote healing. We may prescribe special creams that will help to treat the callus and deeply moisturize the area.
- If cracked heels are very painful, a dressing may be applied to ‘hold’ the cracks together and retain moisture during the healing process.
- Advice about footwear and prevention of the problem