Summertime is finally here and those sandals and open back shoes you have been dying to wear are making their exodus from the back of your closet. However, for some, wearing these shoes can mean the return of painful cracked heels that never seem to heel. For others, cracked heels are a reality no matter what their shoegear choices.

Cracking heels can occur in individuals who have just naturally dry skin, are overweight, wear open back shoes, frequently walk barefoot, have a neurological disorder that reduces natural moisturizing of skin, or due to job or other activities that create a lot of stress and friction to the back of heels.

Most people who suffer from this condition have tried numerous different options to reduce calluses before painful cracks occur. This may include over the counter lotions or creams, reducing calluses with pumice stone, razor blades (ouch), files or that egg shaped cheese grater thing they sell on TV.

When these treatments fail and cracks occur they can be extremely debilitating. Besides pain cracks can increase our risk for infection, especially in diabetics who often get dry skin.

What are your options?

  1. Treatment several times daily with cream or lotion emollient (moisturizing)
    1. Lotions absorb rapidly but don’t last as long.
    2. Creams contain more oil and tend to have better staying power.
  2. Mechanical removal
    1. Removal of calluses at home can be done with a pumice stone or file designed for skin.
      1. Best when used after bathing when skin is soft.
    2. Razor blades and cheese grater like devices can often be too aggressive and cause injury or infection.
  3. Padding
    1. Gel heel cups can help cushion heels and help hold moisture in skin.
    2. Socks with gel cushion heel can be worn at night to help moisturize heel as you sleep.

What if I have tried these options and they have failed?

  1. If you have failed home treatment, your physician can offer several options.
    1. A podiatrist can trim thick skin before it begins to crack
    2. When over the counters fail your doctor can dispense/prescribe creams that help remove thickened skin.
      1. Urea based products like Gormel Cream and Kera 42
    3. In severe cases a custom insert can be made to better cup the heel to prevent the fat pad at the heel from expanding too much, which can worsen or cause cracks, and reduce heel pressure with more supportive arches.

Remember, you don’t have to suffer forever. Cracked heels can make you want to feel like you could just die, but your podiatrist can get you on the road to recovery!

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