Heel fissures, also known as cracked heels, can develop when the skin on the heel of your foot becomes excessively dry and loses its elasticity. This leads to the formation of hard, dead skin patches, known as calluses, particularly in high-pressure areas such as the heels. As the hard skin continues to bear the brunt of walking, it remains rigid, and tiny cracks, or fissures, start to form. Left untreated, these fissures can gradually expand to deeper skin layers, leading to discomfort—and even pain and bleeding.
Understanding Heel Fissures
For most people, heel fissures are an annoyance and an unsightly nuisance. But in some cases, if the cracks deepen, an infection can develop. Many factors can contribute to heel fissures, including dry, cold weather, which can strip away the skin’s natural moisture, leading to dryness and heel cracks. Additionally, certain skin disorders, such as dermatitis and eczema, can make the skin prone to dryness and cracking, which may lead to heel fissures.
Other Causes of Heel Fissures
- Biomechanical factors. Conditions such as flat feet or heel spurs can affect the distribution of pressure on your feet. This can cause undue strain on certain areas of the foot, particularly the heels, making them more prone to developing fissures.
- Hormonal disorders. Conditions such as diabetes and hypothyroidism can affect the body's ability to retain moisture in the skin, resulting in dryness and possible heel fissures.
- Immune disorders. Immune disorders such as Sjögren's syndrome, primarily affecting the body's moisture-producing glands, can lead to persistent skin dryness, increasing the risk of heel fissures.
- Obesity. Extra body weight puts additional pressure on the heel's fat pad, causing it to expand sideways. If the skin is not flexible enough, this can lead to the development of heel fissures.
- Poorly fitting and open-back shoes. Shoes that do not fit properly or expose the heel can increase the risk of heel fissures. They can cause friction against the heel or expose it to air, leading to drying and cracking.
- Prolonged standing. Standing for extended periods, particularly on hard floors, can increase heel pressure, potentially leading to heel fissures. Regular breaks and cushioned footwear can help mitigate this risk.
- Skin infections. Skin infections such as athlete's foot or plantar warts can damage the skin on the foot, increasing the risk of developing heel fissures. Effective treatment and prevention of these infections can help maintain healthy feet.
Self-Care Options Available for Cracked Heels
- Hydrating lotions and ointments. Regular use of foot creams and ointments can help keep the skin on the heels moisturized—aiding in healing heel fissures.
- Regular foot exfoliation. Routinely removing dead skin cells can alleviate the dryness of the heel and promote the healing process.
- Supportive footwear and specialized insoles. Wearing well-cushioned shoes can alleviate the stress on your heels, thereby reducing the risk of heel fissures.
- Nutrition. Consuming a diet rich in essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, and zinc can boost skin health and aid in preventing heel fissures.
- Adequate hydration. Staying well-hydrated can help maintain overall skin health and prevent dryness which can lead to heel fissures.
How a NY Podiatrist Helps Treat Heel Fissures
If your condition hasn't improved despite all your best efforts, it’s time to contact a skilled and experienced podiatrist. Deep cracks in your heels not only look unpleasant, but they can also bleed or lead to an infection—especially if you have a medical condition such as diabetes.
The Debriding Process
One common way a New York podiatrist can treat these cracks is through debriding. During this procedure, the doctor uses a small knife-like tool to scrape and cut away the dry and damaged skin. They might also use a tool that works a bit like a sander to help smooth down the cracks even more.
These procedures may sound scary, but they don’t hurt. The skin around the cracks is tough and dead, which means it has no pain-sensing parts or nerve endings.
In severe cases, doctors may prescribe certain medications and moisturizers with ingredients such as urea or salicylic acid, which work to break down hard skin.
Contact a Long Island Heel Pain Podiatrist
Heel pain and heel fissures are common foot problems we treat at Massapequa Podiatry Associates. Whether you require urgent care or want to schedule a routine checkup, don’t hesitate to contact us today at 516-541-9000 or through our online form on our website.
With experienced Long Island podiatrists on staff, we are able to offer a wide range of podiatric services. We also specialize in heel pain, foot and ankle injuries, bunions, skin, and toenail problems. We offer advanced treatment options, including laser therapy, PRP, Shockwave therapy, and Tenex.