Winter is here, with its cosy weather and low temperatures. But, has that common winter problem started bothering you? Cracked heels are a condition that seems to worsen with winters.
Not only do cracked heels make your feet look dull, they also increase discomfort. If you too are looking at ways to get rid of cracked heels, this article will help with information and treatment options.
What Causes Dry Feet & Cracked Heels?
Dry feet and cracked heels may be caused by various reasons. Extremely common among adults, this foot condition is also known as heel fissures. It causes pain and discomfort and usually occurs during winters.
It starts from a normal-dry skin, which thickens with time and cracks. The edge of your heel becomes flaky and painful and the skin may turn brown or yellow. Dry skin is the key reason behind cracked heels but that’s not the only thing responsible for it. Other reasons that trigger cracked heels include: 
1. Constant standing on hard surfaces
2. Wearing footwear with open backs
3. Extreme weather conditions
5. Obesity (It puts body pressure on your heels)
6. Athlete’s foot
7. Atopic dermatitis
8. Fungal infection
9. Psoriasis or eczema
10. Vitamin deficiency
12. Palmoplantar keratoderma
What Are The Symptoms Of Cracked Heels?
The symptoms associated with cracked heels usually include:
- Flaky skin
- Severe pain
If your cracked heels are caused by a medical condition such as psoriasis or athlete’s foot, it can have more complications than usual. You may face conditions such as
- Diabetic foot ulcer
- Loss of sense on your foot
5 Ways To Treat Cracked Heels
1. Foot Balms or Creams
The first treatment for cracked heels is a topical foot balm or cream. These are easily available in the market. Usually foot balms or creams contain moisturizing ingredients to soften the thickened skin of your heels. These ingredients include :
1. Urea, which retains the moisture in your heels.
2. Salicylic acid , which works as a skin exfoliant and removes the dead skin cells from your heels.
3. Alpha-hydroxy acids, that smoothen the uneven rough skin.
4. Saccharide isomerate, which deeply moisturizes your skin.
Few heel balms or creams may mildly irritate your skin after application. It is normal if the irritation is tolerable. If the irritation or stinging is not bearable, then wash it off immediately.
2. Soaking & Exfoliation
The skin on your heels is usually thicker than the rest of your body. This makes it more prone to dryness. Dry heels crack when you put the whole body weight on your feet while walking. Soaking your foot in lukewarm water and exfoliating from time to time will give you relief from cracked heels.
How To Exfoliate Your Foot?
1. Take lukewarm water in a bucket and mix liquid soap into it.
2. Soak your feet in the lukewarm water for at least 20 minutes.
3. Use a foot scrubber, pumice stone or loofah to exfoliate the dead skin cells.
4. Once you are done, pat your feet dry with a soft towel.
5. Apply a balm or cream on your heels.
6. Wear socks to protect your feet from dust.
Never scrub dry feet as it may increase the damage.
3. Liquid Bandage
Another great option to treat cracked heels is a liquid bandage. Available in most medical stores, this needs to be applied around the cracked heel. You need to keep the liquid bandage for a while so that it gets enough time to seal the cracks on your heels.
Liquid bandages not only seal the present cracks but also protect your heels from infectious diseases. It reduces the risk of future cracking as well. Liquid bandage is technically a spray and you don’t need to bother about a real bandage staying in place.
It is a great option especially if your cracked heels are bleeding. Before applying the liquid bandage, make sure you clean your feet and dry them off completely.
A case study  conducted in 1999 suggests super glue to be successful in treating cracked heels. In the study, ten people were given 2-3 drops of super glue for each crack. They were asked to hold the crack together for at least 60 seconds. After 5 to 7 days they reported that their cracked heels had healed and the pain had gone too.
A. Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a natural skin moisturizer  that locks the moisture inside your skin and softens the thickened skin of your heels. Skin experts suggest using coconut oil for dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis-like skin conditions.
When you soak your feet in warm water, finish the procedure by applying coconut oil. Its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties will help you treat the infection and bleeding of cracked heels.
Honey is known for its natural antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. Part of many home remedies for skin, this can treat cracked heels as well. A 2012 study  on medicinal and cosmetic usage of honey confirms its healing power.
Honey can treat and cleanse wounds. It is also good for skin moisturizing, and is used in many foot care creams. Use honey to scrub your feet after soaking them in warm water. You can use it as an overnight foot mask as well.
Vinegar can be useful if you mix it with warm water when you soak your feet. Many people have experienced relief after using vinegar to soak their feet.
You can add an antiseptic mouthwash when you soak your feet in warm water. Mouthwash usually contains denatured alcohol, eucalyptol, menthol, thymol which are extremely helpful to kill germs.
5. Professional Treatment
In severe cases of cracked heels, you will need to see a doctor, who may offer professional treatments such as:
A. Strapping :
Wrapping your heels with a bandage so that the skin does not move, giving it time to heal.
B. Insoles :
The heel pad or cups provided, help to distribute your body weight evenly on your feet.
C. Debridement :
Peeling off the hard skin from your heels using professional tools.
D. Medicines :
Doctors might prescribe stronger medicine that contains urea or salicylic acid.
How To Prevent Cracked Heels?
Following a simple routine everyday can go a long way in preventing dry feet and cracked heels. Create a basic daily routine for yourself that includes cleaning and moisturizing your feet. Also, check your feet regularly for any problems.
If you notice any abnormal changes, address them immediately. You can consult your doctor, if you have issues with flexibility, or movement. Do not ignore symptoms of pain, irritation or any infection. Following the below-mentioned dos and don’ts can help.
Wear fully covered shoes and socks to avoid dust.
Do not wear flip-flops, sandals, or open-back shoes as they allow the dust and dirt to get attached to your feet and makes them dry.
Apply foot cream every night and cover your feet with socks.
Do not stand in one position or sit with your legs crossed for too long.
Wear custom-made cushions for your heels to adjust the pressure of your body weight.
Avoid wearing tight shoes.
Drink a lot of water and check your feet regularly.
Do not ignore your foot-care routine just because you don’t have cracked heels or your cracked heels are treated. Cleaning your feet and applying foot cream needs to be done regularly.
When To Consult A Podiatrist About Cracked Heels?
Severe cases of cracked heels may need attention from a podiatrist. If your cracked heels have an infection and are bleeding, or not recovering even after trying the remedies for one week, you need to consult a podiatrist.
Cracked heels are not really a matter of worry. Regular foot care habits like soaking, exfoliating and moisturizing are enough to provide you soft and smooth feet. Over the counter foot creams and scrubs are useful too. Getting a proper pedicure at a salon can also help once in a while.
In case, the cracked heels still don’t heal or symptoms seem to worsen with bleeding and pain, get your feet checked by a doctor. There can be an underlying condition like diabetes that needs treatment. Also, keep your feet covered and warm to avoid them from drying this winter.
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