If you suffer from repeated episodes of severe cracked heels, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor. You may have a thyroid problem. If a thyroid issue is ruled out, you can perform some regular at-home maintenance to keep heels smooth and healthy.
Identify the problem
Many heel issues arise from mechanical or environmental factors. In the summer, shoes that don’t properly support your heels—like flip-flops or backless shoes—can create friction, which causes feet to build up protective calluses. In the winter, dryness robs your skin of moisture and can also lead to callus buildup. As calluses get thicker, they can cause skin fissures, which look like cracks in the heels. If your calluses are very thick, yellowish or infected, you may need to see a podiatrist for treatment options. Otherwise, you can heal mild calluses and protect against cracked heels with regular heel and foot care.
Step up your efforts
The first step is to moisturize regularly with a plant-based alternative to Vaseline such as Alba’s Un-petroleum Multipurpose Jelly ($6 for 3 1∕2 ounces, unpetroleum.com). A rich moisturizer like this does a better job of penetrating deep below the heel’s skin surface than light creams or gels. Before bedtime, massage a liberal amount into and around your heels. Then lightly wrap your feet in plastic wrap, or wear loose cotton socks to hold in the moisture. In the morning, run a pumice stone over your heels to scrape off the calluses. If you are dealing with particularly tough buildup, do this after your shower—the warm water will help soften the tough skin.
Keep feet front and center
Moisturizing your heels and feet on a daily, or even weekly, basis can prevent this condition. Look for foot creams containing urea, which helps a moisturizer fully penetrate the skin. — Marlene Reid, D.P.M., spokeswoman for the American Podiatric Medical Association and past president of the American Association for Women Podiatrists