Cracked heels (also sometimes called ‘heel fissures’) are a common condition where cracks form in the skin around the rim of the heel. The cracks are usually easy to see on inspection of the heel. The condition is more serious if the skin (callus) is thick and the cracks are deep. Complications can include bleeding and infection.
What do cracked heels feel like?
Depending on how severe the cracks are, you may experience pain when you weight bear (ie, standing, walking). Symptoms may also be worse when wearing open or thin soled shoes.
What causes cracked heels?
People with cracked heels often have dry skin which may predispose them to this condition. Other factors that can contribute to cracked heels include:
- Mechanical pressures in the heel area (eg, from prolonged standing (particularly on hard floors), or being overweight)
- Open-back shoes (this can allow sideways expansion of the heel, which puts increased pressure on any cracks in the skin)
- Skin conditions (such as psoriasis and eczema)
- Exposure to chemicals or metal poisoning
How are cracked heels treated?
The key strategies for self-treating cracked heels are to:
- Apply moisturiser at least daily
- After moisturising try to trap the moisture in by wearing a sock
- Reduce the thickness of hard skin around the rim of the heel (eg, by using a pumice stone)
If cracked heels are not able to relieved quickly and easily through self-treatment, a podiatry assessment is recommended. A podiatrist will be able to:
- Clinically assess the condition and provide advice to remove the cause of the problem – orthotics or alternative footwear may be recommended to reduce mechanical pressures in the heel area
- Debride the hard thick skin, which will help with quicker healing of the area
- Provide advice on the most appropriate moisturizer/ products to treat your condition