Corns and Cracked heels

Corns, Callus and Cracked Heels

Dry thickened skin (corns and calluses) around the rim of the heel is the very first step towards cracking. Increased pressure on the fat pad under the heel causes it to expand sideways, leading to splitting or cracking of the callus. 

Our feet are responsible for holding up our body and therefore they withstand a tremendous amount of pressure. When weight and pressure are applied to the heels of our feet, the skin expands outwards. If our skin is dry, it becomes less elastic and rigid and therefore more prone to fissures and cracking.

The most common causes of dry, cracked heels includes the following medical conditions:

o   Obesity

o   Diabetes

o   Eczema

o   Hypothyroidism

o   Sjögren's syndrome

o   juvenile plantar dermatosis

o   Infections such as athlete's foot,

o   Biomechanical factors such as flat feet, heel spurs, or standing for long periods of time, particularly on hard flooring

o   Open-heeled or poorly fitting shoes,

o   Dry or cold weather


What are the signs and symptoms of cracked heel?

The first sign of getting cracked heel is the development of dry, hard, thickened skin around the rim of the heel. This is called a callus and may be a yellow or dark brown discoloured area of skin. Initially, small cracks over the callus are visible. If left untreated and as more pressure is placed on the heel, these cracks become deeper and eventually walking and standing will be painful. The cracks may be so deep that they begin to bleed.

In severe cases, cracked heels can become infected, and lead to cellulitis. This must be treated with the elevation of the area, debridement of dead tissue, and antibiotics.

Cracked heels are of particular concern for diabetic patients, who may suffer neuropathic damage (loss of feeling, particularly of the feet), as the fissures may lead to diabetic foot ulcers.


Treatment of Corns, Callus and Cracked Heels

It is important to treat and target the cause of the dry skin, corns and cracked heels.

The best form of treatment for cracked heel is to prevent cracks from occurring in the first place. This can be achieved by simply rubbing the heels with a moisturising cream on a regular basis to keep the skin supple and hydrated. Special heel balms are available that contain descaling (keratolytic) or water-retaining (humectant) agents. These creams can be found on our online shop and can be purchased at the clinic.

Feet should be inspected daily and on the first sign of any cracking, a moisturising routine 2–3 times a day may be all that is needed to heal the heel. A pumice stone or foot file can be rubbed gently against the callus to take away some of the thick hard skin before applying moisturiser.

For severely cracked heels or if no improvement is seen after a week of self-treatment a visit to a ChilternWellbeing Podiatrist may be required. Treatments may involve the following:

o   Debridement – cutting away hard thick skin (this should not be attempted at home using scissors or razor blade as there is a risk of removing too much skin and infection occurring)

o   Strapping – bandage/dressings around the heel to reduce skin movement

o   Insoles, heel pad or heel cups to redistribute the weight of the heel and provide better support (prevent the fat pad from expanding sideways)


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