Causes of Cracked Heels
Cracked heels are usually caused by a combination of factors. For example even the salt crystals contained in sea water can favor skin dehydration, by amplifying the effect of the sun’s rays as if they were tiny mirrors. Even though the main triggers are continuous rubbing and friction due to unsuitable footwear, and dryness of the skin, but there are also many other possible causes and contributing factors including:
1. Frequently walking barefoot or with clogs or flip-flops – These habits help dry out the skin of the feet and promote more irritation, favoring not only cracking, but also calluses and infections.
2. Skin disorders – Some skin diseases are among the most frequent causes of cracked heels; the classic example is psoriasis, an inflammatory skin disease, generally chronic and relapsing, which affects about 1-2% of the world population; it manifests as red erythematous patches covered with dry and whitish scales that can cause itching and burning.
3. Diabetes – Diabetes is a metabolic disease that favours not only the onset of cracks, but also that of annoying sores and fissures in the feet. These problems are essentially linked to the fact that diabetes causes alterations in skin sensitivity (neuropathy) and circulatory problems in the lower extremities (arteriopathies), exposing the person what can sometimes become very dangerous foot injuries.
4. Calluses – The presence of these skin thickenings under the feet can cause a loss in the elasticity of the heel skin, which may become less resistant and therefore at a higher risk of developing lesions such as cracks and cuts.
5. Anomalies of the foot – These anomalies (for example an alterated alignment of the metatarsal bones, flat feet or bunions) represent a risk factor for the onset of cracked heels, mostly because they can change the normal support of the foot.
6. Obesity and pregnancy – These are conditions that predispose to cracked heels because of the considerable increase in the pressure that is exerted on the foot and because of the changes in blood circulation in the feet.
7. Infections affecting the foot – Infections weaken the skin, thus exposing the heels to cuts and cracks; an example is represented by ringworm, a fungal infection better known as “athlete’s foot” and which mainly affects those who practice sports.
8. Use of unsuitable footwear and habit of not wearing socks – These are behaviours that not only increase the risk of dry and cracked heels, but also the onset of corns, calluses and infections affecting the feet.