"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

A heel problem that compromises your mobility.

Cracked heels may cause pain, infection, and more.

As we become older, our feet can develop patches of thick, dead skin called calluses. Calluses are especially common on the heels, because they take quite a lot of pressure after we walk. This pressure, combined with aging skin that is commonly thin and dry, predisposes us to a standard and potentially debilitating condition called cracked heels.

Why can we get calluses?

When the blackened skin is just too dry, it cracks. “If you picture a dry, crumbly piece of bread, you can imagine that it will crack if you step on it,” says Rose Sauld.

Risks of a cracked heel

Painful cracked calluses on the heels make walking difficult and increase the chance of infection, because the cracks open the door for bacteria to enter the body.

If infected, cracked heels can turn into foot ulcers, which might be difficult to heal. This is very true in individuals with diabetes or peripheral artery disease (PAD) who've poor circulation of their legs and feet.


Cracked heels can often be treated at home in the event that they aren't infected, and should you consider the affected areas are calluses and never plantar warts or psoriasis, which can require different treatments.

For cracked heels, Rose-Sauld recommends that you simply

  • Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment to the cracks to forestall infection.
  • Cover the world with a bandage that you simply change day by day.
  • Wear socks and cushioned shoes.
  • Adjust activities to alleviate pressure in your heels and promote healing.

Follow this routine until the cracks heal and the pain subsides.


Contact your doctor or podiatrist if there may be any pain, redness, pus, or swelling. This could indicate an infection – an urgent health issue for anyone, especially if you will have diabetes or PAD. To treat the infection, your doctor will prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic. Then you will have to come back back two weeks later, to ensure that you're healing properly and the pain goes away.

A physician also can remove calluses with special tools designed for feet, comparable to scalpels and power sanders.

Next, you have to try to forestall cracked heels from forming again. (See “Preventing Cracked Heels.”)

Preventing cracked heels

Winter is a standard time for cracked heels to develop. This problem can put you liable to infection. Take steps now to guard your heels and mobility.

  • Keep your feet covered. Wear socks and cushioned shoes while you rise up.
  • Moisturize feet commonly. Use a thick moisturizer with emollients — a combination of water and oil, the type so thick you will have to scoop it out of the jar. “Avoid petroleum jelly, which is drying,” notes Sarah Rose Sauld, a podiatric surgeon with Harvard-affiliated Mass General Brigham Integrated Health.
  • Cover your feet after moisturizing, so that you don't slip and fall.
  • Treat calluses immediately. “Use a cream that contains the ingredient urea, and only on the callus,” Rose Sauld explains.
  • Use a pumice stone. “If urea cream isn't helping, soak your feet and then rub the black heels with a pumice stone to sand out the calluses,” advises Rose Sauld.
  • Check feet commonly for calluses. You're at higher risk if you will have diabetes (which may damage the nerves that keep you from feeling pain) or peripheral artery disease (which may impair circulation in your legs).

Foot Care

Calluses are difficult to completely prevent, but you'll be able to prevent them from growing and causing problems by getting regular pedicures.

If you will have diabetes or PAD, confer with your doctor about whether this may be an excellent idea.

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