Cracked Heels: Causes, Treatment & Protection



A long winter may have had you stuck inside in the dry air and may have made the skin on your feet, especially your heels, super dry — dry enough to crack like a fault line. Cracked heels, also referred to as heel fissures, are common foot conditions, which can cause discomfort and pain. They usually result from extremely dry skin and are accompanied by thickened patches of skin called calluses.

Cracking or splitting in the skin is most often seen around the heels of the feet. Often, the only problem with cracked heels is their appearance. However, in some cases, cracked heels can become callused and cause discomfort on the heels. In severe cases, the cracks become infected.

The Stages Of Cracked Heels

The first sign of a cracked heel is the development of dry, hard, thickened skin around the rim of the heel. This is called a callus and it may have a yellow or dark brown color.

Initially, small cracks over the callus are visible. If left untreated and if more pressure is placed on the heel, these cracks become deeper, and eventually walking and standing will be painful. The cracks may be so deep that they begin to bleed.

In severe cases, cracked heels can become infected, and lead to cellulitis. This must be treated with the elevation of the area, professional removal of dead tissue, and antibiotics.


What Causes Cracked Heels?

When the skin around the heel becomes extremely dry, it loses its “suppleness” and elasticity and often begins to split. This condition is commonly associated with heel calluses. Heel calluses are simply a build-up of dead skin that become hardened and usually uncomfortable. The cracks in the heel can become quite painful depending on their severity and may bleed and even become infected.

Other Potential Causes For Cracked Heels Include:

-Standing for long periods, particularly on hard flooring

-Being overweight

-Poorly fitting shoes

-Friction at the back of shoes

-Dry, and/or cold weather

Those At Greater Risk For Developing Cracked Heels

Some underlying conditions make people more likely to have dry skin and therefore are at a greater risk of developing cracked heels. These underlying conditions include:

Overweight, Diabetes, Psoriasis, Eczema, Flat Feet, Athlete’s Foot, Fungal Infections, and Heel Spurs

Expert Advice

Those who are more prone to dry skin should aim for a slightly different routine to promote skin radiance. Our specialists recommend that people with dry skin avoid hot water, use warm water instead, limit time in a bath or shower to 5-10 minutes to avoid more moisture loss, use a fragrance-free, mild cleanser, gently blot skin with a towel to dry, and apply a moisturizer immediately after drying your body.

Signs And Symptoms Associated With Cracked Heels

As well as the physical appearance of dry and cracked skin on your heels, you may also experience the following symptoms:

-Pain and discomfort, especially while standing

-Itchiness in the area

-Bleeding from the cracks

-Flaky skin

-Warmth, redness & swelling may be present if there is an infection

Signs And Symptoms That Cracked Heels Have Progressed

A thick, rough area of skin has formed where you were experiencing dry skin. A callus that forms will usually be a hardened, raised bump. Tenderness or pain under the skin is also commonly associated. If you have any questions or concerns about your cracked heels, contact a medical professional.

How To Promote Healing

Promoting the healing of cracked heels in a dry environment and preventing future calluses from forming can be difficult, but it is not impossible. You must first determine the source of your friction before treating cracked heels and calluses. Don’t ignore dry, cracked heels.

In the first stages of developing cracked heels and/ or calluses, they frequently disappear on their own when the friction that is causing them subsides. If you can, temporarily stop the activities that caused you to develop cracked and/or callused heels.

Please note: If you are a diabetic the use of a pumice stone or other type of exfoliating tool is not recommended unless you are under the supervision and directions of your podiatrist. Please check with your foot health care provider before beginning any treatment.


At-home practices that promote the healing of cracked or calloused heels include:

Petroleum Jelly

Benefits: Petroleum jelly helps restore moisture to dry and cracked heels. It reduces water loss from the outer skin. This keeps your skin hydrated and soft.

You Will Need:

-1 teaspoon of Vaseline

-Moisturizer of choice

-Pumice stone

-Lukewarm water

What You Have To Do: Soak your feet in warm water for about 15-20 minutes. Use the pumice stone to scrub any hard or dry skin. Pat your feet dry. Apply moisturizer to the affected area. Apply Vaseline over it to lock in moisture. Put on a pair of woolen socks. Keep them on overnight and wash your feet in the morning.

Do this regularly before going to bed.


Coconut Oil

Benefits: Coconut oil moisturizes dry skin and also helps get rid of dead skin cells. It can penetrate the deeper layers of the skin and nourish them.

You Will Need: -2 tablespoons of coconut oil, -A pair of socks

What You Have To Do: Apply coconut oil liberally on your feet. Slip on the socks and go to bed. Shower as usual in the morning.

Repeat this for a few days.


Epsom Salt

Benefits: Epsom salt softens the skin and also soothes tired feet. It also improves skin barrier function, reduces inflammation, and hydrates your skin.

You Will Need: -1/2 cup of Epsom salt,  -A foot basin or bathtub filled with warm water

What You Have To Do: Fill the foot basin with water and mix Epsom salt in. Soak your cracked feet in this for 15 minutes. Scrub to remove dead skin.

Repeat 2 to 3 times a week.


Pumice Stone

Benefits: The rough surface of the pumice stone can easily scrape off the dead skin to reveal healthy and soft skin.

You Will Need: -Pumice stone, -A foot basin or bathtub filled with warm water

What You Have To Do: Soak your feet in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes. Scrub your feet gently with the pumice stone to remove the dead skin cells. Rinse with water and pat dry. Do not forget to moisturize your feet afterward.

Do this once daily.


Salt, Glycerin, And Rose Water Foot Mask

Benefits: Rose water contains antioxidants that prevent cell damage. It also has anti-inflammatory properties that may help relieve dry and irritated skin. Glycerin is an effective humectant that helps your skin retain its natural moisture levels. These properties can help moisturize cracked heels.

You Will Need:

-1 tablespoon of salt

-2 tablespoons of glycerin

-2 teaspoons of rosewater

-A foot basin or bathtub filled with warm water

-Pumice stone/foot scrubber

What You Have To Do: Add raw salt, one tablespoon of glycerin, and one teaspoon of rosewater to a basin filled with warm water. Soak your feet in this mixture for about 15-20 minutes. Scrub your heels and the sides of the feet with a pumice stone or a foot scrubber. (Or) Mix one teaspoon of glycerin, and one teaspoon of rosewater and apply it on your cracked heels. Since this will be a sticky mixture, you can wear a pair of socks and leave them on overnight. Wash off with lukewarm water in the morning.

Repeat this for a few days.


In reality, it may be difficult for the majority of us to completely stop our daily activities to relieve the friction from cracked heels when they occur.

If simply moisturizing your feet daily is not fixing your cracked heels, then a podiatrist can help by removing the hard, thick skin through mechanical debridement of the area. They will then be able to assess the problem and provide a personalized treatment plan to fix it, while also advising of preventative measures that will help to reduce your chances of recurrence.


Other practices that promote the healing of cracked or calloused heels include:

Wear 100 Percent Cotton Socks To Bed

Wearing 100 percent cotton socks to bed after applying petroleum jelly to the heel may help to keep the moisture in, allow the heel skin to breathe, and prevent the bed sheets from becoming stained. The skin on the heels should soften after this routine is repeated for a few days.

Use A Liquid Bandage On Calluses

Liquid, gel, or spray bandages can be used to cover the cracked skin. These may provide a protective layer over the cracks, help reduce pain, stop dirt and germs from entering the wounds, and aid faster healing.

Make Changes In Your Diet

Eating healthy with a well-balanced diet will give the skin a fresh and radiant look. Your body responds to the kinds of food you ingest. Omega-3 fatty acids and zinc supplements can also revitalize skin tissue.


PediFix® Cracks & Calluses Foot Repair Cream

PediFix Cracks & Calluses Foot Repair Cream is an exclusive formula with Salicylic and Lactic acids in an aloe base that speeds your skin’s natural renewal process through gentle exfoliation and deep moisturization. Proven effective in clinical use for quickly relieving rough, dry, callused, cracked, and fissured feet and heels. Visible results after one application.

If you have questions about how our products can support you, please call 1-800- PEDIFIX (733-4349) to learn more. Our product specialists are ready to support your needs! You can also visit our website for more expert guidance and top products that will support numerous foot and ankle conditions.