On occasion, particularly during dry weather or times when you’re wearing
sandals a great deal, you may notice that your heels have taken on the
texture of a rough concrete wall. They’ve gotten thick, coarse, and may
have even adopted foul language just to shock you. Eventually, you may find
that your heels have begun to crack in spots. Now, those cracks might be
minor ones, or they may be deep enough that they bleed and make it quite
painful to walk. In some rare cases, they may even become infected.
You see, heels are under a lot of pressure pretty much any time you stand
up. If you weigh a bit more than average, or if you’re on your feet a great
deal (either at work or at home) the pressure is even greater. Under that
pressure, the fatty pad under your heel (which usually serves as a kind of
cushion for the weight coming down your leg and into your foot) tries to
expand outward. If your skin is dry, or if you’re wearing open-heeled shoes
that offer no support to shore up that expansion, the skin around your heel
may begin to crack. Which can be pretty unpleasant, actually, since skin is
generally nicest when it stays in one piece.
Sometimes dry or cracked heels may be a symptom of an underlying condition,
such as diabetes or hypothyroidism, which can reduce sweating and therefore
make your feet a bit more dry. Some skin conditions can also be at the root
of the problem, such as eczema or psoriasis. If you’re concerned about
these conditions, you’ll want to check with your podiatrist during your
visit for advice about treatment.
Cracks in your heel are a pretty easy symptom to spot. However, you’re also
likely to have associated symptoms, such as dry or thickened skin,
sometimes appearing with a yellowish or brownish callus along the heel. If
your cracks are deep, they may bleed, and if infected, they may become
inflamed (red, warm to the touch, swollen and painful). The pain will
likely occur while you’re standing, rather than when you’re just lying
around on the couch watching your favorite sitcom.
Your podiatrist can usually make the diagnosis by performing a visual
examination, although he or she will probably ask you if there’s any pain
while you stand, and will likely check to be sure there are no signs of
infection. If an underlying condition such as diabetes or thyroid problems
is suspected, your podiatrist may suggest further testing.
In general, treatment involves moisturizing the skin of the heel and
providing support for it. You can remove some of the dry skin on your heel
by gently rubbing a pumice stone over your heel when you shower or bathe
(or if you don’t do either, you can probably just soak your feet in warm
water for awhile and then use the pumice stone). Then, when your feet are
all nicely dried off afterward, you can smear on some moisturizing cream
(ones with oil bases tend to work best) to keep your skin supple and less
susceptible to cracking. By the way, DON’T go after your dry skin with a
pair of scissors or a razor. Cutting off calluses yourself can lead to bad
complications like cutting too deep and getting infections. Think of
children trying to cut their own hair: it really doesn’t ever work the way
it’s supposed to.
Avoid wearing open-heeled shoes (things like flip flops or other sandals)
for awhile, or at least alternate their use with shoes that do have heels.
You can also purchase a heel cup to provide further support, keeping your
heel from that outward spreading that leads to cracking. If the cracks are
pretty severe or persistent, your podiatrist may be able to tape your heel
up in order to provide additional support, or he or she may use a special
kind of glue (designed for use with the skin-this isn’t the stuff you used
to adhere dry macaroni noodles to construction paper when you were a kid)
to pull the cracks in your heel together and allow them to heal.
Infected cracks may need additional help, such as antibiotic medications,
but your doctor can give you excellent advice about that.
Call 719-543-2476 today to schedule your appointment!