That of cracked heels is a rather common skin disorder. The cracks that form in the feet are real cracks, annoying little cuts (cracks) that form preferentially on the skin of the heel due to the perpetuation of local physical insults. If, in addition to excessive pressure and rubbing of the feet against the shoe, a particularly dry, callous skin is added, it is easy to understand how the heels tend to crack very easily.
Often the cracked heels are not caused by a single cause. In fact, in most cases, the skin of the heel splits in response to a tangle of factors that progressively damage the skin; therefore, the excessive dryness of the skin (skin xerosis), continuous rubbing and friction against the footwear are not the only triggering elements.
Without doubt, the main cause of cracked heels is due to the excessive dryness of the foot. The lack of use of moisturizing, emollient and nourishing creams (therefore the scarce care of the feet), as well as the prolonged contact between foot and dust or irritating substances (eg swimming pool water, sea water, sand, etc.), can dry out excessively the skin of the foot. Being dehydrated, therefore, the skin of the heel hardens to the point of favoring the appearance of cracks that become progressively deeper.
However, in addition to the poor care and excessive dryness of the soles of the feet, the possible causes and risk factors that lead to the appearance of cracking in the heels are many and varied in origin and nature.
These causes and factors will be briefly described below.
Causes and Risk Factors of behavioral origin
It is not uncommon for the problem of cracked heels to manifest itself later and to behave wrongly. Sometimes, in fact, this disorder can be caused by attitudes considered normal, but which, in reality, in the long run can damage the skin of the soles of the feet and heels in particular. Among these, we recall:
- Walking barefoot, wearing flip flops or clogs : these habits, however pleasant for some people, can be dangerous risk factors for foot health. The contact with the ground, therefore with dust and dirt, can dry up and irritate the sole of the foot, therefore predispose the subject to dryness of the skin, infections, calluses and of course heel cracking.
- The use of aggressive cosmetic products also on the foot - such as irritating creams, excessively degreasing detergents and poor quality soaps - can favor the formation of cuts and sores on the plant and on the heel. These cosmetics, in fact, impoverish the natural protective hydro-lipid film on the surface of the skin (made up of NMF, a hydrophilic component, and a liposoluble fraction, mainly given by sebum), thus predisposing to the onset of cracks on the heel.
- Use of unsuitable shoes (eg shoes with heels) and habit of not wearing socks: these behaviors can be considered among the worst enemies of the feet, as they increase the risk not only of cracks, but also of calluses, calluses, foot injuries and local infections.
Causes and Risk Factors of pathological origin
Sometimes, however, cracked heels can represent the consequence of some basic pathological conditions, such as:
- Skin diseases : some skin diseases, such as psoriasis, can predispose the subject to the formation of cracks on the heels.
- Metabolic diseases : diabetes undoubtedly represents a risk factor for the formation of sores, fissures and cracks on the feet. In fact, due to an altered sensitivity to the foot (neuropathy) and to an unsatisfactory circulation at the level of the lower extremities (arteriopathy), the diabetic patient is dangerously exposed to skin lesions of various kinds and to the feet. For more information, read "diabetic foot".
- Obesity : this is a predisposing element that cannot be underestimated, given that they can considerably increase the pressure exerted under the foot. Consequently the foot, forced to bear abnormal and exaggerated loads of work, splits and easily cracks because it impacts heavily against the shoe.
- Athlete's foot , eczema , foot infections : even if indirectly, these disorders can weaken and weaken the foot area considerably, exposing the heel to the risk of cuts, sores and cracks.
Other Causes and Risk Factors
- Presence of calluses and corns under the feet : similar skin thickenings make the heel skin inflexible, which becomes more and more fragile, sensitive and exposed to the risk of cuts and cracks.
- Foot anomalies (eg flat foot, anomalies in the alignment of the metatarsal bones).
- Pregnancy : analogous to obesity, pregnancy is also an important risk factor for the appearance of cracked heels. In fact, even in this case the foot is forced to bear greater loads than usual.
- Practice of some types of sport : even some types of sports can represent a risk factor for the appearance of this disorder, especially when practiced constantly or at competitive levels. In these cases, the heels can crack either because of the continuous friction with the shoes (as can happen, for example, in certain types of dance), or because of the continuous friction of the foot with the ground or due to continuous contact with details irritating substances or agents (such as in sports to be practiced with bare feet, such as swimming or martial arts).
Signs and Symptoms
To learn more: Cracked Heels - Causes and Symptoms »
How to recognize a cracked heel? Typical signs and symptoms are fairly simple to detect, and medical examination by the physician alone is usually sufficient to make the diagnosis.
The symptoms related to cracking in the heels is essentially related to the depth of the damage.
When the heels are slightly cracked, the patient feels no pain because the damage is minimal. However, in similar circumstances, the slightly chapped heels appear however rather unsightly because precisely the skin is dry, graying and irregular. For this purpose, it will therefore be necessary to soften the cracks with generous doses of moisturizing and nourishing creams for the recovery of foot health.
Otherwise, gravely cracked heels cause pain and discomfort that is punctually accentuated when the foot is placed on the ground. In the presence of open sores, cracked heels tend to bleed and the pain can be so intense that normal walking is difficult.
When the cracked heels do not receive the due care and attention through the constant application of moisturizing and nourishing creams, the cracks tend to tear, until they degenerate and giving rise to cracks that can also bleed.
Besides creating a series of symptoms such as pain and difficulty in resting the foot and walking,
open and bleeding cracks can be an easy way to access viruses, bacteria and fungi that - taking advantage of the scarce local immune defenses - penetrate easily infecting the foot and, in the worst case, the entire body.