If you have ever suffered from dry and cracked heels or heel fissures, you would know that they are no joke. People often complain about cracked heels in the summer, says Pretoria podiatrist*, Dr Joe Aumüller.
It is a nuisance caused by the buildup of dead skin cells. If left unattended, it can potentially even trigger painful, dangerous infections and skin damage.
Just ask Shelley Olivier from North Riding in Johannesburg, who is no stranger to fissures. While some women will flaunt their feet in sandals, she must keep hers tucked away. “My heels crack open and dry out and become very painful. I wear closed shoes, and this prevents my heels from drying out.”
Lindiwe Baloyi from Johannesburg also opened up to Health For Mzansi about her cracked heels. In her case, it is so severe that it lasts for months and often bleed.
Why your feet crack
If you’ve ever suffered from cracked heels, you’ll know that they are no joke. “They’re painful.They catch on everything. You’ll bump your heels 12 times a day, and in severe cases, they can be so bad that they bleed,” Aumüller says.
The most common causes of dry, cracked heels include medical conditions like obesity, diabetes, eczema and hypothyroidism**. “It [cracked heels] are most often linked to obesity and the associated walking around barefoot or the wearing of shoes without a proper heel counter.
“Various circulatory conditions can have an influence. Poor circulation can cause swelling. If the skin does not get enough blood it can also have a drastic effect on the health of the skin,” he adds.
How to take care of the cracks
Baloyi uses wax to aid her painful heel fissures. This treatment is helpful where there are wide fissures in your heels that are painful. “I used to use candles as a remedy. What I’ll do, is apply the candle wax on the cracked heels and put on a plastic to keep the heels moist. I also apply cream regularly.”
According to Fixed cracked heels, melted paraffin wax is a drug-free relief that aids sore muscles, joints, inflammation and skin conditions. Paraffin wax helps cracked heels by warming the skin and opening the pores. Just be sure to use a white candle, as coloured candles may intensify.
Another Health For Mzansi reader from Jozi, who wishes to remain anonymous, tells us that suffering from cracked heels became a thing of the past after she started moisturising religiously.
“Once you’ve restored your heels, moisturise daily and use the pumice stone to remove rough, dead skin. I also seldom walk barefoot, especially on rough surfaces.”
Pumice stones have also saved Olivier a world of hurt.
Good buffing goes a long way, says Melissa McGinn. She is a beautician specialising in cracked heels.
“I offer a boot buff where I use a machine to smooth down all the cracks and dear skin. Usually clients need about three or four sessions to have a completely healed, ‘un-cracked’ foot,” McGinn explains.
The answer to your cracked prayers
Aumüller says that it is important for one to try and establish the cause of their fissures and to treat them accordingly.
“It’s an underlying systemic pathology and the patient must be referred to the necessary medical specialist for treatment.”
The wearing of proper corrective footwear plays a very important role. That’s why we see much less of this condition in the winter months because we all wear closed shoes when it’s cold. In severe cases, a malleable heel cup worn inside the shoe can also help. Also in severe cases, the overlying dead skin can be removed by a podiatrist.
Health For Mzansi words of the day
*Podiatrist: Never heard of a podiatrist before? It is a medical professional who treats disorders of the foot, ankle and related structures of the leg. When should you see one? Usually when you feel sharp or hot pain from the heel when you stand up after rest. Also, if you have difficulty or pain when you put your foot down. Discolouration of the skin of one or both feet is also enough reason to see a podiatrist.
**Hypothyroidism: You’ll never believe it, but your thyroid (situated at the back of your neck) has a direct impact on your feet. Basically, hypothyroidism is a fancy term for an underactive thyroid. This is when your thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone.