There are numerous reasons why you may experience cracked heels. Your feet are responsible for supporting your bodyweight and therefore, they withstand a tremendous amount of pressure. When you stand, weight and pressure cause the skin of your heel to expand outwards. If your skin is dry, it becomes less elastic and rigid making it more prone to fissuring and cracking. The most common causes of dry, cracked heels include the following conditions:
At Gotham Footcare, your doctor will send a small sample of dry skin from your heel to a laboratory for microscopic analysis by a dermatopathologist who will determine the cause of dryness. Biopsy results usually take three to seven business days.
Most people that suffer from cracked heels don’t have the risk factors or medical conditions noted above. Typically the most common reason for cracked heels is a fungal infection of the skin commonly known as Athlete’s Foot, that develops on the heels and soles of the feet and in between the toes. Athlete's Foot usually produces itchy, dry, scaling skin and in more severe cases, inflammation, cracks, and the formation of blisters. Athletes commonly experience sweaty feet and use facilities where fungus grows and spreads, hence the term "athlete's foot."
Athlete’s Foot is caused by a group of mold-like fungal organisms called dermatophytes that feed on dead skin and nails. Athlete’s foot is closely related to other fungal infections, including jock itch and ringworm. Fungi live and spread in dark, warm, and moist environments. Sweaty socks and damp shoes provide a welcoming environment for the growth of fungal organisms causing an Athlete’s Foot infection, which if left untreated could cause dry cracked heels.
In its early stages, cases of Athlete’s Foot can be treated with over-the-counter medicated powders, sprays, lotions, and creams, that are specifically formulated to fight Athlete’s Foot. At Gotham Footcare, your doctor may prescribe a topical medication in mild cases and oral antifungal medication in more severe cases.
Most people will have cracked heels in the winter because they are more likely to develop an Athlete’s Foot Infection from wearing thicker shoes and boots that air out less and are more exposed to moisture from rain or snow. These infections are still common during the warmer months as people go to pools and gyms where they can pick up Athlete’s Foot from walking barefoot.