Dear Dr. Burk:

The heels of my feet get so dry that they crack. The skin on the underside of my feet is really rough and my heels feel like sandpaper. My feet don’t hurt badly, but walking is uncomfortable, and my heels look terrible. I’ve tried applying lotion, but it doesn’t seem to work. What else can I do to fix this problem?

Rachel D., Meridian, ID

Dear Rachel,

This is a common problem since the skin around your heels is often thicker and drier than the rest of your foot. Sometimes having dry heels for an extended period of time can lead to cracking and over-the-counter lotions don’t help much. Fortunately, this isn’t usually a serious problem and can be remedied with some simple treatments that you can do at home.

  • Soak and exfoliate your feet once per day. Just submerge your feet in a bucket of lukewarm water with a cup of white vinegar for 20 minutes. Vinegar has great antifungal properties that are beneficial for rough and cracked feet. After removing your feet from the footbath, pat them dry with a towel, and gently exfoliate them. Use a loofah or pumice stone and massage each foot in circular motions for about a minute. Just apply light pressure which will help remove some of the dead skin cells. It is best to only exfoliate your feet after soaking them.
  • Apply a heel balm that is a medically proven treatment to moisturize and soften dry, cracked skin. I recommend getting either Flexitol Heel Balm for Dry and Cracked Feet, or AmLactin Foot Repair Cream. Either of these products is readily available on Amazon or through your local drug store. You can apply the heel balm at night and wear 100 percent cotton socks when you go to bed. This will help keep the moisture in but still allow the skin to breathe.

If these two at home treatments don’t improve your dry, cracked heels after about a month, then I would suggest making an appointment with a podiatrist near you. He or she can manually remove dead skin, apply a medical glue to seal cracks in your feet, and prescribe stronger skin softening and exfoliating agents. If you would like, give us a call or schedule an appointment online.