There are many potential causes of cracked heels. Dry skin (xerosis) is common and can get worse with wearing open-back shoes, increased weight or increased friction from the back of shoes. Dry, cracked skin can also be a subtle sign of more significant problems, such as diabetes or loss of nerve function (autonomic neuropathy).
Diagnosis of Cracked Heels/Fissures
Diagnosis can be made by your foot and ankle specialist with a clinical exam. They may look at lab work and medical history to find the source of dry skin.
Nonsurgical Treatment for Cracked Heels/Fissures
At home treatments are the first line for thick calluses heels causes cracks/fissures.
- Moisturize feet twice a day to the heels. Look for moisturizers with ingredients including alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), salicylic acids, or urea (10-25 percent). As the callused area thins you may switch to creams with ceramides, petroleum or natural oils to keep the skin soft.
- Soak feet in warm (not hot) water for 10 minutes a day.
- Use manual exfoliation (scrub brush or pumice stone) with light pressure to remove excess dead skin.
If these modalities are not working, you may need to see your foot and ankle specialist for evaluation to rule out fungal or bacteria involvement. They made debride callused tissue and prescribe prescription creams.
When Is Surgery Needed?
Surgical intervention is rarely needed for heel fissures if treated early. If they crack/fissure progresses to an open wound it is then at risk for infection. Surgical debridement may be necessary at that point.
Why choose a foot and ankle surgeon?
Foot and ankle surgeons are the leading experts in foot and ankle care today. As doctors of podiatric medicine – also known as podiatrists, DPMs or occasionally “foot and ankle doctors” – they are the board-certified surgical specialists of the podiatric profession. Foot and ankle surgeons have more education and training specific to the foot and ankle than any other healthcare provider.
Foot and ankle surgeons treat all conditions affecting the foot and ankle, from the simple to the complex, in patients of all ages including cracked heels and fissures. Their intensive education and training qualify foot and ankle surgeons to perform a wide range of surgeries, including any surgery that may be indicated for cracked heels or fissures.