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Why don’t my Cracked Heels go away by themselves?

Split heels:  Cracked Heels:

Heel cracks & Heel splits.

cracked heels
Classic cracked heels

The top layer of the skin is called the stratum corneum.  It is fairly thin in delicate areas like your face but can become very thick on the soles of the feet, especially around the outside of the heels. While the lower levels of the skin are alive, this top most layer is dead and therefore has no potential to heal any cuts or splits etc.  Once it is damaged it cannot repair itself back together.

There is quite a thick pad of fibrous/fatty tissue in our heels that acts as a shock absorber to protect the bone against walking pressures.  It sits under the heel bone when you are not standing on it and when you bear weight, this tissue compresses in the middle and bulges out to the sides.  As you walk, this leads to any cracks that are present on the heel repetitively opening and closing as the heel pad changes shape with each step.  Where the skin has cracks or a split, this acts like a little fault line and a lot of the motion happens through this defect.  The good skin below it is put under a lot of stress and can split through and bleed which is very painful. When the flesh under the split heals, the pain goes but the crack in the dead skin persists as a ‘fault line’ and the cycle repeats itself.  Fortunately, this dead skin can be painlessly trimmed away by a podiatrist – although it is a bit tricky to do for yourself. See the next FAQ for advice on how to interrupt the cycle of heel cracks.

For more information, please browse to our Cracked Heels Info Sheet. Alternatively, click the following link to return to the Podiatry FAQs Blog.

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