The outer most layer of the skin is a dead layer known as the stratum corneum. It is normal- and in fact essential- to develop a mild thickening of this skin around the rim of the heel as this area experiences a lot of pressure. If the skin was fragile like that on your face, it would be ripped to shreds when you walked on a bitumen road for example. Sometimes this skin layer becomes excessively thick and in doing so, it loses its flexibility. It is a bit like the difference between trying to bend a piece of bread or bend a piece of toast. This lack of pliability can cause the heel skin to split through to the living skin below, which will then bleed and be very painful. Split heels can also be unsightly as dirt gets imbedded in the craggy grooves of the dry skin and can’t be easily washed out. Another down side to rough heels is that spouses often complain that either the bed sheets get torn or that their own shins get brutalised during the night!
Several things can cause this heel splits and heel cracks to occur. Most often it is a simple matter of your natural skin type and this often runs in families. Abnormal pressure distribution, thyroid imbalance, going through menopause, medications or neurological conditions can contribute. Whatever other factors are involved, it is certain that walking barefoot or in backless shoes / thongs makes things worse as it lets the skin dry out more. Not wearing shoes regularly encourages the build up as the skin’s protective mechanism. There are several ways to treat dry, cracked feet which we will come too in the next articles.
For more information, please browse to our Cracked Heels Info Sheet.