Cracked heels leave your feet painful and unsightly. Learn what causes your heels to crack and how to treat them to restore your skin’s softness.

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Cracked Heels: Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment

05/15/20238 min read

When you have cracked heels, walking, standing, and exercising can be uncomfortable. Plus, since this condition is a bit unsightly, you may feel self-conscious and want to keep your feet hidden from the world.

The good news is you don’t have to suffer any longer. With proper management, most cases of cracked heels can be treated at home.

To help you get your heel cracks under control, let's look at the common symptoms and causes of this condition. Then, we'll dive into treatment options so you can feel comfortable with your feet again.

Table Of Contents

Symptoms Of Cracked Heels

Woman with cracked heels

The most obvious symptom of cracked heels is a deep fissure or split in the skin on the heel. Depending on the severity, this may be painful and bleed when touched.

Other signs include:

  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Flaky skin
  • Hardened or thick skin
  • Itching and burning sensation around the heel area
  • Pain that intensifies when standing

Signs Of An Infected Crack

Cracked skin can sometimes become infected. This is particularly true if the crack is deep or it comes into contact with dirt or other debris.

Signs of an infected heel crack include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Swelling, redness, tenderness, or warmth around the affected area
  • Thick yellow-green pus oozing from the area

If you notice any of these symptoms, speak with your doctor right away. They may prescribe antibiotics or other treatments to clear up the infection and help your heel heal.

Causes Of Cracked Heels

Man with cracked heels wearing flip-flops

Now that you know what cracked heels look and feel like, let’s talk about what causes them. Common triggers may include one or more of the below.


Your feet bear the brunt of your body weight. If you are overweight, this can put excess strain on your heels and cause cracks in your skin.


Wearing ill-fitting or poorly made shoes can cause friction on the heel area, especially if you're wearing them without socks. And excess friction often leads to dry, cracked skin.

Open-heel shoes, such as flip flops or other sandals, can also lead to heel cracks because the back of your foot isn’t being protected.

Dry Skin

Dry skin doesn’t hold moisture well and can become brittle and easily broken. So if you have naturally dry skin, you may get heel cracks more easily.

Environmental factors, such as cold weather and low humidity, can also contribute to dryness and play a role in your cracked heels.


If you have psoriasis, you may get flare-ups on your feet that can cause cracks. This auto-immune disorder can also lead to scaling, itching, and redness in the area.


Eczema causes skin inflammation, redness, and itchiness. It can also make your skin extremely dry and cause fissures. You can develop eczema anywhere on your body, including on your feet.

Athlete’s Foot

Psoriasis and eczema aren’t the only skin conditions that can dry out your skin and cause you to itch. Athlete’s foot can as well. This is a fungal infection that causes dry, scaly skin. If left untreated, it can lead to deep cracks.

However, unlike psoriasis and eczema, athlete's foot is very contagious. You can contract it from walking barefoot in communal areas, like locker rooms and public showers. That's why health officials recommend wearing flip-flops or other shoes when walking around these areas.

How To Treat Cracked Heels

Woman applying moisturizer to cracked heels

No matter what’s causing your cracked heels, it’s important to treat the damaged skin. Otherwise, the condition can get worse and may eventually lead to other problems.

Here are some effective ways to reduce the cracks and enjoy smoother skin.

Take Short, Warm Showers

The steam from hot showers may feel good, but it can make dry skin worse. Stick to short, warm showers, and bathe your feet with lukewarm water.

This practice isn’t just good for your heels, either. Taking shorter, cooler showers also helps protect your skin from head to toe.

Use The Right Cleanser

While you’re in the shower, take time to wash your feet. Just letting the soapy water hit them as it runs off your body won’t cut it. You need to keep your feet clean so they can heal.

As you’re washing your feet, avoid soaps with chemicals that might irritate your skin. Instead, look for cleansers specifically designed for dry skin. You want one that contains hydrating ingredients, like shea butter or almond oil.

Once you have the right cleaner, use it carefully. Scrubbing your feet until they bleed isn’t a good solution. Instead, gently apply the product and then rinse thoroughly.

Apply Moisturizer Regularly

As mentioned above, dry skin can lead to cracks. To treat your heels and prevent future problems, you must regularly get more moisture into your skin. Choose a thick moisturizing cream or ointment, and apply it after every shower.

In addition, if you have psoriasis or eczema, use a product designed for those conditions. For example, our Eczema Daily Calming Cream can help soothe and hydrate your eczema patches.

And our lightweight Psoriasis Soothing Spray uses salicylic acid and botanical ingredients to help relieve psoriasis symptoms.

Regardless of which moisturizer you use, apply it regularly, even after your cracks have healed. This can help keep your heels soft for years to come.

Wear The Right Shoes

Shoes are an important part of your treatment plan. Wear shoes that fit properly and have thick soles that lift your heels up out of the dirt.

If you want to wear sandals, look for ones with full-foot coverage or back straps to protect your heel area.

And if you're going to walk around in public places, always wear some sort of foot covering. Even thin flip-flops can help keep you safe from the germs that cause athlete's foot.

Gently Exfoliate

Dead skin cells tend to pile up on the heel, creating a thick, rough layer. To remove this layer, you can use a loofah or pumice stone to gently exfoliate your feet in the shower.

But be careful not to scrub too hard. Otherwise, you can cause more damage to your skin. Instead of forceful, back-and-forth motions, aim for light, circular ones.

Apply A Thick Moisturizer Before Bed

At night, apply a thick moisturizer to your feet and put on some clean, dry socks. This helps lock the moisture in and leaves your heels feeling soft and hydrated when you wake up.

Being consistent with this routine is key. You may be tempted to skip this step, especially when you’re tired after a long day. But prioritizing your foot care routine does make a difference.

When To See A Doctor For Cracked Heels

Most of the time, you can treat cracked heels at home with lifestyle changes and simple remedies. But it's time to see a doctor if the cracks start to bleed or get worse despite your best efforts.

Here are some other signs that might indicate professional help is needed:

  • Cracked skin in other places besides your heels
  • Severe pain
  • A burning, itchy sensation, especially if you've recently gone barefoot in a public place
  • Signs of infection (as mentioned above)
  • Anything that concerns you

Your doctor can evaluate your condition and look for possible underlying health conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, or diabetes. A specific diagnosis could alter the course of your treatment plan.

While you’re at the doctor, they may also prescribe stronger ointments or creams to apply to your cracked heels. Always use any prescription products as directed.

They could also use a special tool to shave some dead skin off to help your heels look better. You don’t want to do this type of treatment at home since it’s easy to shave off too much and get an infection.

Softer Heels Are In Your Future

Woman with soft heels

Cracked heels can be a frustrating and painful condition. However, with the right lifestyle changes and treatments, you can keep your feet soft and crack-free.

Be sure to wear footwear that protects this part of your foot, and apply moisturizer regularly. If eczema or psoriasis plays a role in your cracked skin, use our Eczema Daily Calming Cream or Psoriasis Soothing Spray for relief of symptoms caused by those conditions.

With the right treatment plan, you'll be saying goodbye to your cracked skin before you know it and doing the things you love with feet that feel great!


American Academy of Dermatology Association
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
John Hopkins Medicine
Penn Medicine

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