Dealing with cracked heels

Dry skin due to loss of moisture, excessive prolonged pressure to the heel and medical conditions such as diabetes can lead to cracked heels.

CRACKED heels, also called “heel fissures”, are the regular, fine-cut wounds found on heels of feet. It is a fairly common foot issue for many people, especially women. They are not only a nuisance, but are unsightly and embarrassing, too.

And if the cracks are deep, they can be painful when you’re on your feet. Cracked heels may also bleed.

Cracked heels are generally caused by dry skin and are more difficult to treat if the skin around the outer part of the heel is thickened or callused.

In severe cases, the cracks or fissures can become infected.

According to the 2012 National Foot Health Assessment conducted for the Institute for Preventive Foot Health, 20% of US adults ages 21 and older (about 44 million people) have experienced cracked skin on their feet. The problem is more severe among women, who report the condition at a rate more than 50% higher than males.

Nearer to home, thousands of Malaysian women also suffer from rough and cracked heels. The most common symptoms of rough and cracked heels include red or flaky patches, peeling and cracked skin, itchy skin and bleeding from the cracks.

Heel fissures and cracks are generally caused by insufficient moisture to the skin. The dry skin on the heel of the feet can become inflexible and split when pressure from the bodyweight is put onto it.

As the skin cracks, it may begin to bleed. These deep heel fissures can allow bacteria and viruses to enter the body, leading to infection and illness.

Three conditions are attributed to cracked heels – dried out skin due to loss of moisture, excessive prolonged pressure to the heel, and medical conditions such as diabetes.

Common causes of natural moisture loss from our feet include:

·Not moisturising your feet regularly.

·Dehydration, or not drinking enough water.

·Using harsh, drying soaps on your feet.

·Taking very hot baths or showers.

·Soaking feet in hot bath for too long or too frequently.

Excessive prolonged pressure to the heels arise from:

·Prolonged walking or standing, especially on hard floors.

·Obesity or pregnancy, which increases the pressure on the normal fat pad under the heel, causing it to expand sideways. If your skin is not supple and flexible, the pressure can cause cracking or fissures.

·Lack of support around the heels from open-backed footwear, which allows the fat pads in the heel to expand sideways and increase pressure on the skin, causing it to crack.

There are many cracked heel products in the market, which makes selecting the right product even more confusing. What do we choose? What are we supposed to be looking for on the label? What kind of active ingredients should be in the product, and most importantly, does it work?

A good cracked heel product should firstly give you fast relief – one that helps eliminate calluses and provides fast relief for dry, cracked and rough, thickened skin on the heel, with visible results seen within five days of application. Ensure that it has been dermatologist tested.

This product should be able to tackle cracked heels with a three-throng approach – exfoliates, softens and hydrates by forming a protective layer to substantially reduce the symptoms of dry, roughened, thickened and cracked skin.

Look for a heal balm with lactic and malic acids, which help exfoliate dead surface cells for increased product penetration. This ensures that it delivers maximum hydration to nourish, heal and soften the skin. It shields the skin with a non-greasy, protective layer to prevent the loss of the skins’ natural sebum and oils.

The balm should be enriched with vitamin E, dimethicone and super-moisturising sodium PCA (50% more effective than glycerine), combined with lemon myrtle and wheat germ oil for fast and visible effects.

Most importantly, it should contain at least 25% urea, an ingredient that is fundamental to the maintenance and integrity of the outer layer of the skin. A naturally occurring humectant (a substance which promotes retention of moisture), urea has low toxicity and a low allergy factor.

Try to look for a balm that is free from lanolin, paraben, petroleum and artificial fragrances, and hence, would be suitable for even the most sensitive skin type

Last but not least, look for a product that is easy to use. This increases compliance, and ultimately yields faster results.

  • For further information, please email or log on to The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The Star does not give any warranty on accuracy, completeness, functionality, usefulness or other assurances as to the content appearing in this column. The Star disclaims all responsibility for any losses, damage to property or personal injury suffered directly or indirectly from reliance on such information.

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Dealing with cracked heels


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