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What causes cracked heels?

Published: 25 February 2021

Cracked heels are a common foot ailment often referred to as heel fissures. They are more commonly caused by excess dry skin (xerosis) and can be worsened by builds up of callus due to pressure.

The condition can be complicated by diabetes, poor circulation, and poor diet. The weather can also play a part by causing excess sweat or alternatively, drying out the feet.

Cracks are predisposed to bleed and become quite painful when not managed correctly. There is also a risk of infection or ulceration in patients with underlying conditions i.e. Diabetes.

Factors that can cause/affect cracked heels

  • Prolonged standing - worse on hard surfaces
  • Being overweight - increased pressure on heel
  • Open heeled footwear - thongs and sandals- allows a spread of pressure and lack of support
  • Skin conditions - Eczema, psoariasis etc
  • Medical conditions - diabetes, under active thyroid etc

What you can do to relieve cracked feet?

If you are suffering from cracked heels you should be aiming to apply an emollient to the area twice a day, morning and night. The more the emollient soaks in to the skin and creates a barrier at the heel the better; heel balms and high percentage Urea creams have proven to be quite effective.

After soaking your feet try and file the hard skin down using a pumice stone and then apply your emollient. Some people find it useful applying the cream then covering it with a cotton sock during the night to allow maximum hydration of the area.

Review your footwear:

  • Are they supportive enough - particular at the heel area?
  • Are they absorbing enough of the shock/pressure - a thick bottom to the shoe may help.
  • Laces and straps to hold your foot in position thus reducing friction.

What can your podiatrist do?

Your podiatrist can safely remove the hard skin on your feet and give the correct advice so you can manage the problem at home.

If symptoms persist after intervention, invasive care such as strapping, orthotic intervention to reduce pressure, heel cups, dressing management, and alternative therapies are all evidence-backed solutions that your podiatrist can utilise to manage your condition.


Carl Bedard - AHPRA registered Podiatrist at Back In Motion Bribie Island

Carl was born and raised in Canada and had extensive experience in private practice in the UK before relocating to Queensland to join the team at Bribie Island. Whether it is for foot health advice, a persistent ingrown toenail or you're just struggling to reach your feet and need general footcare, Carl is available to do a thorough treatment.