When to See a Podiatrist for Cracked Heels

Woman holding hands on feet, close up of feet,, close-up
Dry, cracked heels can usually be treated at home, but sometimes only a podiatrist can help. (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Smooth, healthy feet look and feel good. Cracked, dry skin on your feet, especially along your heels, is unattractive and can also be painful or itchy. Your feet can get so flaky and callused that wearing sandals is out of the question, keeping you uncomfortable in the summertime. Though it’s usually simple to treat dry or cracked heels at home, if the condition becomes severe enough, it warrants a visit to a podiatrist.

About Cracked Heels

Your feet can develop skin cracks anywhere, but the heels and edges of the toes crack most frequently. These small splits in the skin can be painful enough to make walking difficult. Cracks usually develop in very dry skin, or where calluses have formed a thick, hard crust. The normal motion and pressure of walking can be enough to split the toughened, inflexible skin along the callus.

Causes

Calluses build up on areas of the foot that are irritated or rubbed by your shoes. You can also develop calluses by frequently walking barefoot on rough surfaces. Once you have callused heels, you're at risk for cracks. Long periods of standing, wearing open shoes and being overweight also contribute to heel cracks. Medical conditions such as diabetes, thyroid problems, eczema and psoriasis also increase the risk of painfully cracked heels. If you have a medical condition that affects your feet, you should consult a podiatrist or your regular doctor.

Home Treatment

Most cases of dry, cracked heels or toes respond quickly to home treatment. Before going to bed each night, slather a thick coating of foot cream over the entire surface of each foot. Pay special attention to your heels and the edges of your toes. Slip a pair of cotton socks over the lotion so it won't soak into your sheets instead of your skin. In the morning, while in the shower or bath, gently remove dead skin with a pumice stone or callus file. You should see improvement within a few days. If your cracks don't heal, or your feet get worse, it's time to visit the podiatrist.

When to See the Podiatrist

You can usually treat your cracked heels at home, but some situations call for a podiatrist's care. Elderly people who develop severe cracks should seek medical attention to prevent ulcers or bedsores from forming. See your podiatrist or doctor if your heels crack and you are diabetic, have impaired circulation or an autoimmune disorder, or suffer from skin conditions. If you are in good health but home treatment does not heal the cracks or your feet bleed, make an appointment with a foot specialist.

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