Dry feet or cracked heels can be a problem for anyone. However, people who have athlete’s foot or diabetes or those who are up in years may tend to have even more trouble with dry, cracked skin on the feet. In fact, foot dryness is very often a symptom of more complex conditions.
In this article, we will discuss the causes of dry skin on the feet and suggest a number of remedies you can try at home.
You will also learn:
- What causes dry cracked heels?
- Can coconut oil heal cracked heels?
- What is a cracked heel?
Read on to learn more.
What are the symptoms of dry skin on the feet?
The skin on the soles of your feet naturally tends to be dry. The reason for this is that there are no oil glands located on the soles of your feet. There are, however, many sweat glands there. This is why it is so important to keep your feet well moisturised. When your feet stay wet with sweat, it can actually have a drying affect on the tough skin of your soles. Adding a good foot cream helps hold moisture in place and prevents drying and cracking of the skin.
Problematic dry skin on the feet is characterized by the following symptoms:
- Itching and/or rash
- Fissures (cracks)
- Skin peeling
These problems may worsen during the cold, dry winter months.
You can reduce or eliminate these symptoms by taking the following precautions:
- Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of pure filtered water. Avoid caffeinated beverages, alcoholic beverages and soft drinks which contain huge amounts of chemicals and sugar.
- Wear shoes made of natural materials such as leather, canvas and other breathable materials. It is important to have good air circulation around your feet and to avoid having excess moisture from sweat build up.
- Don’t go into steam baths and saunas, and avoid taking excessively hot baths or showers.
- Adjust your personal care routine to suit your age. Understand that as you age, your skin will likely need more intensive moisturising treatments.
- Use a humidifier to keep the rooms in your home and/or workplace at comfortable and healthy humidity levels during the winter.
- Get proper treatment and diagnosis for medical conditions such as thyroid disease and diabetes as well as for skin conditions such as psoriasis and eczema.
- Take proper precautions to protect your skin against cold, dry air.
- Avoid spending long periods of time in the sun.
- Avoid using drying soaps, skin products and laundry products.
Who can help with dry feet and cracked heels?
If you are having real problems with dry, itching, cracked skin on your feet your first stop may be your general practitioner. He or she may be able to provide you with the treatments that you need. If not, you can get an appropriate referral to either a dermatologist or podiatrist. In all likelihood, a podiatrist will be your best bet. They are trained to deal with all manner of foot problems including skin conditions that are specific to the feet. Among these are warts on the soles of the feet, athlete’s foot and dry skin.
What will happen at the doctor’s office?
To diagnose your dry skin problem your doctor or podiatrist will probably perform a physical exam and ask you a number of questions regarding your symptoms, your medical history and your family history. Your doctor may also take some skin samples and some blood samples to test for conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
Why is it important to address dry feet?
If you don’t take care of your dry foot problem right away, it could lead to some very serious problems. It’s easy to overlook dry skin on your feet since your feet are usually out of sight and out of mind. Ignoring your symptoms could be a big mistake. If you let dry skin go unchecked, it can cause foot pain. As the dry skin builds up into calluses, it can become cracked and even lead to bleeding and infection.
When you have thick, dry calluses on your feet, you may have trouble walking and standing. Your feet may burn and itch, and the problem may even progress into a skin condition such as dermatitis or psoriasis. The longer you wait to treat these problems, the more expensive and involved treatment will become.
What are some treatments for dry feet?
At-home treatments for dry feet include such simple measures as keeping your feet clean. Here are a few easy steps you can take:
- Soak: Soaking your feet several times a week in warm water and lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be very helpful. The mild acidic quality of the lemon juice or ACV will help break down dry dead skin. This makes it easier to remove with a foot brush or loofah sponge.
- Moisturise: Keeping your feet properly hydrated and moisturised with therapeutic creams, oils and/or ointments is very important. Be sure to use natural products on your feet that do not include alcohol or chemical ingredients. Two very good natural choices are coconut oil and olive oil.
- Use essential oils: The addition of healing, medicinal essential oils to your moisturising oil can address a number of foot conditions. Six drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil (i.e. coconut or olive oil) is a good ratio. Essential oils such as tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil, oil of lavender and/or oil of peppermint can be very helpful. All of these essential oils have natural antibacterial and antifungal properties that work to heal and soothe cracked, dry skin on the feet. The addition of cooling essential oils to your hydrating coconut or olive oil can help cool your skin and minimise itching.
- Protect: It’s a good idea to apply moisturiser after every bath or shower and put on a pair of cotton or wool socks to help the moisturiser soak in. Although some articles will tell you to put plastic bags over your feet while you sleep in order to facilitate the soaking in of moisturising products, this is really not a good idea. Covering your feet with plastic bags is a good way to get athlete’s foot. Plain cotton or wool socks are far more effective.
- Soften: For a very intensive treatment, try combining the juice of a whole lemon and a teaspoon of coconut oil. Apply this mixture to your feet at bedtime, put on a pair of natural cotton or wool socks and allow the mixture to work overnight. The acidity of the lemon juice combined with the softening and hydrating powers of the oil will help break down hard, dead skin. This will make it much easier to remove.
- Go natural: Note that you may see the recipe above and others for foot softening home remedies that include petroleum jelly. It is not a good idea to use petroleum products on your body, and it is especially unwise use them on your feet. Like plastic bags, petroleum products can encourage the growth of fungus. Coconut oil is a smart, natural alternative to petroleum oils. Coconut oil nourishes your skin and has natural antifungal properties.
- Be gentle: Don’t bathe or shower too frequently, and don’t use chemical laden bath washes, bubble baths and soaps. Be sure to choose mild, natural, chemical free personal care products for all of your daily care needs. For example, use only mild, natural soap when you bathe or shower. Likewise, choose only natural laundry products to avoid having detergent residue exacerbate your problem.
- Remove calluses: If you have very thick calluses and dry skin on your feet, talk with your podiatrist about using pumice stones and other removal equipment. Be careful if you are diabetic because use of this type of equipment can severely injure your feet. People with diabetes usually have a difficult time recovering from foot injuries because of poor circulation. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. He or she may recommend professional removal rather than at-home removal.
Prevention is the best cure
Even if you do not currently suffer from thick, dry, cracked skin on your feet it’s smart to follow the advice presented here. When you take care to be aware of the condition of your feet and take steps to prevent thick skin and calluses, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and discomfort. Refer to the information presented here to remove dry skin and calluses from your feet and keep your heels and soles soft, smooth and comfortable.