Denverites love the sunny, dry summers and mild winters in the mile high city, but with the less humid weather comes the increased risk of dry skin. This can be a problem all over your body, but especially on your feet, where dryness, added to pressure on your soles, results in calluses and heel fissures.
How You Get Cracked Heels
Dry air, long hot showers, spending long hours on your feet, and being overweight all contribute to this problem. It’s even worse if you usually wear sandals or open back shoes that expose your skin to the air.
Your feet don’t have oil glands like the rest of your body to keep the skin moist. Instead, that is done through sweat glands. In the open air, evaporating sweat helps keep you cool, but it also sucks moisture out of your skin.
When skin is too dry, it loses its elasticity. Hard patches of dead skin (calluses) appear at areas of pressure—one of which is your heel. As you keep walking on this hard skin, it doesn’t give. Instead, it develops little cracks called fissures. Without treatment, they can continue to widen until they affect the deeper layers of skin. This can be painful, and when it reaches the capillaries, can also cause bleeding.
How to Prevent Heel Fissures
To keep this from happening to you, follow this regimen:
Wash your feet each morning with mild or moisturizing soap and warm water
Use a pumice stone to gently abrade callused areas
Follow with a good moisturizing lotion
Avoid going barefoot all day, or in open-back shoes, sandals, or those with thin, flat soles. You want a sturdy shoe with good shock absorption to cushion your feet. Wear socks that wick away moisture for double protection.
At the end of the day, wash, dry, and moisturize your feet again, and wear socks overtop to hold in the moisture while you sleep. Remember not to put lotions or creams between your toes, to decrease the risk of fungal or viral infections thriving on warm, moist skin.
Treating Cracked Heels
The same regimen used to keep your skin moist and prevent heel fissures can be used to treat them. You may want to use a thicker or oilier cream or lotion if calluses and cracks have already formed.
There are additional things to keep in mind as well. One is aging. As you get older, your skin is more prone to dryness. You need to pay attention to the ways you can protect yourself and keep your skin in good condition as you age.
Staying hydrated is one. Your body needs water for many reasons, and internal functions win out over needs of the skin. Making sure you get enough water ensures that you can function on the inside and keep your skin moist on the outside of you, too.
You can also be checked to see if you have any other symptoms of conditions such as psoriasis, diabetes, kidney or thyroid disease, or a vitamin deficiency. These are known to dry out your skin.
If you are overweight, your skin is stretched thinner and dries easily. The extra pounds also put more pressure on your heels. Therefore, losing weight can actually be a helpful treatment for dry skin. There are many good plans and groups around that can help you with this.
Finally, you may not know this, but smoking affects your skin health, too. It will be less elastic and have a grayish tint, and may have a flaky texture. The effects can be even worse than sun exposure. So, stop smoking, and use sunscreen on exposed skin when outdoors.
Find Healing Help in the West Denver Area
If you have painful, cracked heels, let us help. You may need a prescription strength moisturizer, or treatment for split and bleeding skin. The expert foot doctors at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center stand ready to help. Simply call us at (303) 423-2520 and schedule an appointment at our Wheat Ridge, Golden, Granby or Evergreen, CO locations.