Cracked heels may not be the worst medical condition in the world, but they can be a nuisance. From itchy feet to pain walking even the shortest trips, there really is no upside to cracked heels. Fortunately, most cases of cracked heels are easily preventable and treatable.
Our heels generally crack when the skin covering them is too dry and irritated. Some reasons, like not moisturising your feet, or walking on rough terrain, are fairly obvious. Others, not so much. For example, you may think that baths, showers, or even foot baths should be helping your cracked feet, when in reality they could be to blame. While warm water can be good for our feet, extended periods of time in excessively hot water will actually cause the skin to dry out, not soak.
The wrong types of soaps, shampoos, and body washes could also play a role. Your feet could be having a reaction to chemicals in the shampoo as it washes down the drain, for example. Even if this is not the direct cause of the cracks, the soap you use may not be helping matters. Switching to a natural soap could help speed up the healing process, even if the root of the problem lies elsewhere.
Proper footwear is also crucial in preventing cracked heels. The worst offenders are high-heels. This is not because of their shape, but rather the fact that they are worn without socks, which creates friction. Furthermore, many women wear high-heels that do not fit them properly, which creates even more friction. Apart from high heels, shoes with thin lining offer very little protection from rough terrain and harsh weather, all of which can result in cracked heels.
Obviously, the first thing you should do is make sure you’re not committing any of the sins mentioned above. But if your cracked heels are proving too persistent to fix with a simple shoe change, they are easily treated at home at very little cost.
One option is to wash your feet, in warm (not hot!) water. You can also add some lemon juice, salt, and/or rose water, if you have any lying around the house. After giving your feet a thorough, gentle clean, dry them off completely, before covering them in vegetable oil. Olive, sesame, rapeseed, and coconut oil will also work. Do this before going to bed, put on a pair of socks, and clean your feet in the morning. Repeat this until the cracks have heeled completely.
If the cracks are very severe or painful, paraffin wax can provide a more intense treatment. For this method, you will need to melt a block of paraffin wax. To do this safely, place the wax in one pot, over a separate pot of boiling water. Add two tablespoons of coconut oil to the wax mix. Allow it to cool until it develops a soup-like skin along the top and, after double checking it’s not too hot, dip your feet in for a few seconds. Remove them, allowing the wax to dry before redipping until a solid layer has encased your feet. Cover in plastic, such as cling film, for 30 minutes before removing. Repeat this twice weekly until the cracks have healed.
While there are many potential causes of cracked heels, improper footwear is one of the primary offenders. To learn what type of shoes you should be wearing, see our blog on finding the right shoe for your foot type.