How to Heal Heel Fissures

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What Are Heel Fissures?

Heel fissures are cracks or divides in the skin over your heels.

Sometimes these are an uncomfortable nuisance because they cause thick layers of dead skin cells to build up.

Other times they can be potential triggers for painful, dangerous infections and skin damage.

If you have heel fissures, there are treatments you can try as well as preventive methods to keep your skin soft. Keep reading to find out how you can accomplish both and when you may need a doctor’s help.

Heel fissures are generally due to dehydrated skin. These massive, painful cracks usually form on the heel’s base, occasionally making it painful to walk.  They are frequently secondary to callus formation, which occurs with repetitive friction like walking barefoot or by a strap onto the back of your shoe, rubbing you incorrectly.

Open-backed shoes may also be a contributing element. If left untreated, fissures can bleed and be so profound that they contribute to severe health problems, particularly diabetes. After the skin has been cracked, it may open the doorway to bacterial infections leading to significant complications.

What Are the Symptoms of Heel Fissures?

How to Heal Heel Fissures

Heel fissure symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Examples of mild symptoms include:

  • brown or yellow discoloration of the skin, which indicates the presence of callus
  • thickening of the skin around the crack or cracks
  • visible cracking or splitting of the skin on the heels

If left untreated, milder symptoms can become more severe ones, including:

  • bleeding from the cracks in the heels
  • open wound or wounds on the heels
  • pain when putting pressure on the heels or walking

Heel fissures can also lead to deep ulcers (open sores) that can get infected and result in cellulitis (a painful skin infection). That is why treating and preventing heel fissures whenever possible is indeed essential.

How Does it Happen?

This condition first starts too dry, scaly skin around the base of the toes, particularly in the heels. This is a common problem, which can easily be treated with a moisturizer. However, sometimes the epidermis (outer layer of the skin) begins to crack and the moisture barrier is broken, which leads to deep fissures being formed.

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This can occur in people who have dry skin or live in a dry climate, or it can occur in association with a medical condition such as diabetes, venous stasis, cancer, or multiple other medical issues.

What are the Causes of Heel Fissures?

How to Heal Heel Fissures

Heel fissures commonly occur in those with diabetes.

This is because the one of the effects of diabetes on the body is damaged nerves, especially those in the feet. The damaged nerves may not sense that they need to sweat. This typically helps provide moisture to the feet.

Heel fissures may be also especially harmful when you have diabetes because they may lead to nonhealing foot ulcers. Dry skin due to several reasons is the usual cause of heel fissures. But there are many possible reasons you may have dry skin that leads to heel fissures, including:

  • eczema
  • tinea pedis, a fungal infection commonly known as athlete’s foot
  • living in cold, dry environments
  • hypothyroidism
  • psoriasis
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • scleroderma

Any condition which leads to tissue thickening or affects the body’s ability to sweat may boost your chance of heel fissures.

What Can I Do?

How to Heal Heel Fissures

But many times, patients do not recognize the problem before it is too late. Not to worry, however. The specialist team in Podiatry Care Specialists, PC, can help you care for your feet back to wellness. You might have to apply antifungal medicine to help keep infections at bay. A gentle exfoliator and pumice stone will help eliminate the undesirable callus that encircles fissured skin, along with a moisturizer that ought to be applied twice each day.

Until you have nursed skin back to health, consider covering your heels from oil jelly at nighttime, then slipping some cotton socks to lock moisture while you sleep. Additionally, it may help invest in a humidifier and decrease the time you require showering and bathing.

After the fissures have cured, it’s still essential to maintain your cleansing routine using lotion or cream to the base of your toes and heels after daily.

Are There Home Treatments for Heel Fissures?

How to Heal Heel Fissures

At-home treatments can help to soften your heels if you have mild symptoms.

You may benefit from a two-application approach — this involves applying thick moisturizers twice a day. Use preparations made with ceramides, petrolatum, or natural oils like almond, coconut, or sunflower oil.

You may also want to alternate these moisturizers with those that contain ingredients to remove dead skin cells, such as:

  • alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs)
  • salicylic acids
  • urea

A post on heel fissures printed in Dermatological Nursing recommends using an emollient cream containing 10 to 25 percent urea.

Applications can result in a mild tingling sensation on the skin. When the heel skin begins to soften, you can reduce the urea concentration.

Spend about 10 minutes each night, softening your skin. Here’s a routine you can try:

  1. Soak your feet in warm (not hot) water for 10 minutes in a small foot tub you can get at any drugstore. Add a creamy or milk-like hydrating cleanser to your foot bath if you’d like. (Be sure to wash the tub with soap and water and dry it thoroughly after each use.)
  2. Gently pat your feet dry.
  3. Use manual exfoliation to remove excess dead skin from your feet. Try a loofah, foot scrub brush, or pumice stone. Gentle friction is all that’s needed — don’t scrub too hard, or you risk injuring the skin.
  4. Apply a thick layer of ointment with petrolatum or petroleum jelly.
  5. Put on thin, clean cotton socks over your moisturized feet. If you don’t like to sleep in socks, try hydrocolloid dressings that fit over the heel itself.

Applying creams and emollients to your feet can make them slippery. Consider sporting nonskid socks to prevent any falls while you treat heel fissures.

What Are Some Possible Medical Treatments for Heel Fissures?

How to Heal Heel Fissures

Home treatments not working? Listed below are some possible medical treatment choices.

See a podiatrist

If you have diabetes (or other conditions that affect your foot circulation), you might choose to find a podiatrist if you have thick, dry skin around the bottom of your toes. A podiatrist uses specific tools to remove dead skin using a method called debridement to prevent heel dividing. 

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Try out prescription drugs for infections

Your Physician can also help cure illnesses with prescription antifungal and antibacterial drugs if over-the-counter remedies don’t work.  Prescription medications can help treat the infectious organisms, which raise your chance of heel fissures and, ideally, help you soften your heel skin. 

See your Physician immediately for sores

If your heel fissures have developed into sores, see your Physician as rapidly as possible.

Your doctor can begin prescribing wound care treatments that aim to treat the area and ideally restore healthy skin. These often take regular application and careful wound care measures at home to see results.

Catch the Cracks Early

It’s essential to check your feet each day, especially if you have diabetes, dry skin, or heel fissures. Start looking for signs of dryness, calluses on the heel’s bottom, and cracks starting to form. If you discover any of these symptoms, it is essential to keep the broken area of your heels clean because the outer layer of skin (epidermis) is damaged, and bacteria can enter and cause an infection. If this happens, you’ll need antibiotics to treat the area. If left untreated, an ulcer or cellulitis may result. For these reasons, you must contact Podiatry Care Specialists, PC, as soon as you spot any signs of trouble.

How Can I Prevent Heel Fissures?

How to Heal Heel Fissures
Feet before treatment pedicure. The pedicure concept.

In addition to underlying medical causes for heel fissures, specific lifestyle changes can help prevent heel fissures. Here are some tips for doing just that:

  • Don’t wear open-heeled shoes. Exposing your heels by wearing slingbacks or sandals can dry the heels’ skin out.
  • Don’t walk barefoot on rough surfaces often. Walking outside on the sidewalk or uneven rock floor in your home may result in heel dryness and damage. Try to wear shoes when you’re outside and nonskid socks or house slippers with a back when you’re indoors.
  • Don’t be too hard on your feet. Using harsh soaps, soaking your feet in boiling water, or scrubbing excessively at your feet can further dry and crack.
  • Moisturize your feet regularly. Moisturizing incredibly in the mornings and evenings will help keep your feet soft and smooth.
  • Wear protective heel cups in your shoes. Heel cups can help reduce strain in your heels that can lead to heel fissures. You can buy them at most drugstores or sports shops.
  • Exfoliate regularly. Use a gentle foot scrub, loofah, or pumice stone to prevent the construction of excess dead skin cells. This has a protective effect on your heels and contains fissures.

Are There Possible Complications from Heel Fissures?

How to Heal Heel Fissures
foot girl with a dry and rough skin and calluses on the heel moistened with water from the jar.

Deep heel fissures can be very painful, and the pain can affect your quality of life. In case you have diabetes, then a heel fissure may also increase your stress and stress that the Region will worsen.

According to an article in Dermatological Nursing, foot ulcers from heel fissures can also lead to amputations in diabetes people. This is a critical reason why it’s so essential to treat heel fissures as early as possible.


Heel fissures result from a lack of moisture. If not treated, this condition can snowball into more severe symptoms.

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Keep your feet moisturized and examine them regularly for cracks and fissures to help address the symptoms in the earliest possible stages.

If you don’t see results from your treatment and prevention, talk to your doctor.

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