With warm weather approaching comes beach walks and backyard barbeques. The poolside sandals are broken out for summer attire and the innocent barefoot wandering begins. With this, comes cracked heels and callused feet. Cracks on your feet hinder your skin from acting as its natural shielding barrier; in turn, resulting in bleeding feet, infections, sores and/or ulcers.
An average human takes around 8000 steps per day; 2-3 times the body weight goes through every step. A supportive shoe with a good heel counter will absorb some of that pressure - thereby sparing the skin of the heel. However, when shoes are absent, cracks tend to form.
Nevertheless, it is not solely the summer months that this condition arises; it is possible year-round. In fact, constantly wearing socks or tights strips your skin of its natural oils. Irregular moisturizing and/or medical implications (such as diabetes) may additionally contribute to cracked heels.
Firstly, it is best to wear supportive shoes. Even in the summer I recommend orthopedic sandals for outwear use. Take extra action in the drier months by moisturizing your feet; this can help prevent cracked heels before it develops into larger cracks and/or bleeding. Be mindful of excess time spent in the shower, bath, pool and sun. Make sure to frequently change and wash your socks to avoid infection. Lastly, be sure to stay hydrated and wear sunscreen when going outside. Lather your toes and feet with SPF 50 - sunburnt feet are no fun!
If cracks are already present, treat with the steps above in conjunction with a Band-Aid and antibiotic ointment on the heel. Creams or lotions with 42% urea will also help reduce skin thickening. It is usually simple to treat cracked heels, but if the condition is severe enough and walking becomes painful, visit your podiatrist to diagnose your condition, determine the root cause and treat the ailment.
It is vital that elderly people seek medical attention to prevent ulcers or bedsores from forming. Those with diabetes and/or those that suffer from skin conditions should also make an appointment with a podiatrist. Even if you are in good health but your condition worsens, talk to your podiatrist about next steps.
You should be comfortable year-round; cracked heels are never justifiable. If you are proactive now, your feet will thank you in the months and years to come.
Dr. Jeffrey S. Hurless
DPM, FACFAS Board Certified Foot & Ankle Surgeon/Podiatrist
Medical Director, HealthyFeetStore.com