Cracked heels can range from an unattractive nuisance to an extremely painful condition. Cracks or fissures can become so deep that standing, walking or applying any pressure becomes painful, and serious cracks may also begin to bleed.
Cracked heels may simply start with dry skin, or they may be the result of other conditions, including psoriasis, diabetes, hypothyroidism and atopic dermatitis. In addition, corns and calluses can lead to cracked heels, particularly if a person is overweight, stands for a long time on hard floors or wears open-back shoes or sandals [source: New Zealand Dermatological Society].
If you take care of your heels properly, you will most likely prevent cracked heels. Proper care is simple -- use a moisturizing cream on a regular basis. If cracked heels are already a problem, use the moisturizer two to three times a day. Before using moisturizer, you can rub callused areas with a pumice stone to reduce their thickness. Look for foot moisturizers that contain urea, salicylic acid, alpha-hydroxy acids or saccharide isomerate because these water-retaining agents will help keep the foot moisturized [source:New Zealand Dermatological Society].
If your home treatment of cracked heels doesn't work after a week, see a podiatrist. Treatments include debridement, which involves cutting away the thick skin, and strapping, a method used to hold cracks together as they heal. Consider using prescription creams and special insoles or other products to redistribute the weight on the heel and provide better support.
Good moisturizing doesn't just help prevent or cure cracked heels; it can also help keep away corns and calluses. Find out how to treat unsightly or sometimes painful corns and calluses on the next page.