Suffering from cracked, dry feet? Learn what causes these irritated spots and how to treat sore, uncomfortable skin below your ankles.

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5 Tips For Treating And Soothing Cracked, Dry Feet

05/24/20238 min read

If you’ve ever suffered from the tight, itchy, flaky skin that comes with dry feet, you know what we mean when we say the pain is real.

Dry, irritated skin on your feet can distract you while you go about your daily routine and even make it uncomfortable to wear socks and shoes. But there is hope!

In this article, you’ll learn about the symptoms and causes of dry feet and how to treat the tight, itchy patches so that you can feel comfortable in your skin again.

Table Of Contents

Symptoms Of Dry Feet

Dry, cracked feet

Dry skin is a very common condition and can occur anywhere on your body — including your feet.

Common symptoms of dry feet include:

  • Dry or scaly skin
  • Skin that’s rough to the touch
  • Fine lines or cracks on the bottom of feet and toes
  • Prominent cracking/fissures on the heel (sometimes deep enough to bleed)
  • Redness and swelling
  • Skin peeling or flaking
  • Itching
  • Tightness (especially when exposed to water)

The severity of the symptoms you experience can often vary based on the underlying issues that may be causing your dry feet.

Causes Of Dry Feet

DWoman suffering from dry feet

1) Lack Of Moisture

One of the major causes of dry feet is a lack of moisture. The skin below the ankle is normally very thin — especially on the heel and sole — and has fewer oil glands than the skin on other parts of your body.

Fewer oil glands means less oil produced in those areas and, by extension, less moisture to keep your skin soft and supple.

2) Heat And Humidity

Normal body temperature can range from 97 degrees Fahrenheit to 99 degrees Fahrenheit — including on your feet.

But slip your feet in a pair of sneakers or boots and temperatures can soar to well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Add in the humidity from sweat and you’ve got the perfect environment for dry skin.

3) Harsh Cleansers

Some soaps and body washes contain chemicals and irritants that can strip moisture from the thin skin on your feet and cause dry patches to develop.

While some people develop dry skin right away when using these products, others may be a bit more resistant. That’s not to say that they aren’t immune — they may still experience dryness if they don’t completely wash the soap or body wash off their feet.

4) Cold Weather

Anyone who lives in a cold climate can testify that their dry feet often get worse in the winter. That’s because cold outdoor air can be less humid than warm outdoor air. And low humidity can cause the moisture in your skin to evaporate quicker (leading to dry skin).

Couple that with the dry air provided by indoor heating, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for dry feet.

5) Repeated Friction And Irritation

A woman working in the garden while wearing boots

Your feet go through a lot every day and are subject to more friction and irritation than you may first realize.

The rubbing and pressure caused by repeated activity while wearing sneakers, boots, or other enclosed shoes can lead to dry, itchy patches on your feet, and even blisters and sores.

6) Skin Conditions

Certain skin conditions may also lead to dry feet, including:

  • Athlete’s foot
  • Psoriasis
  • Contact dermatitis (allergic reactions)
  • Eczema

If you suffer from dry skin that just won’t go away, consult a doctor to see if there’s an underlying issue that may be the root of the problem.

7) Medical Conditions

Similarly, certain medical conditions can also lead to dry feet. These conditions may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Essential fatty acid deficiency
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease

If you suspect that your dry skin is the symptom of an underlying medical condition, talk to a doctor about possible treatments.

8) Medications

Medications can cause changes in the way your body works. These changes may sometimes lead to dry skin on all parts of your body.

As with the skin and medical conditions mentioned earlier, consult a doctor to see if the medications you’re taking may be the cause of any dry patches that develop.

9) Aging

As you age, your skin loses the ability to retain water and becomes thinner and less plump. In addition, changes in hormones and metabolism might cause your body to replace skin cells less often.

As a result, older men and women may be more likely to experience dry skin on all parts of their bodies, not just their feet.

How To Treat Dry Feet

Treating dry feet gently with a soft towel

1) Exfoliate

Exfoliation is the process of removing dead cells from the surface of your skin. Your body does this naturally, but you can help the process with either physical or chemical exfoliators.

Physical exfoliators are things you rub on your feet to remove loose skin cells, including:

  • Loofahs
  • Pumice stones
  • Body brushes
  • Washcloths
  • Exfoliating gloves

Chemical exfoliators are lotions or thin liquids that you can apply to your feet to dissolve loose skin cells. These exfoliators typically contain ingredients such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, and alpha-hydroxy acid.

If you choose this route, keep in mind that some products may contain artificial fragrances and alcohols that can irritate already sensitive skin. Check the list of ingredients for any potential allergens or irritants before applying.

2) Soak Your Dry Feet

Another good way to treat your dry feet is to soak them in warm water. This helps soothe and loosen dry skin.

While soaking in warm water is often enough, you can also try adding a small amount of vinegar to help disinfect your feet and even eliminate foot odor.

Other beneficial ingredients you can add to your foot soak include:

  • Epsom salt
  • Honey
  • Oatmeal
  • Lemon juice
  • Peppermint essential oil

Keep soaking sessions under 10 minutes so you don’t weaken the skin barrier and allow too much moisture to escape.

3) Moisturize

Woman applying moisturizer on dry feet

The best time to moisturize your feet is right after a bath, shower, or soak when your skin is the most supple. This allows the moisturizer to absorb deep within your skin for maximum results.

When considering which moisturizer to use, avoid those that contain any ingredients that might cause dry skin to get worse.

Instead, look for products that contain:

  • Humectants (urea, aloe, and hyaluronic acid)
  • Emollients (plant-based butter and oil)
  • Occlusives (petrolatum, lanolin, and coconut oil)

4) Wear Socks To Bed

Another great way to treat and soothe dry feet is to apply a moisturizer before going to bed and wear socks overnight. A thicker product can create a seal of sorts around your skin that prevents moisture from escaping.

When you slip into a thin pair of 100% cotton socks before getting under the covers, you lock that layer of lotion or cream next to your skin all night long and keep the moisture where it belongs — in your skin.

In the morning, rinse the socks in hot water and wash your feet with warm water and a soft washcloth.

You can also purchase moisturizing gel-lined socks to wear during the day or night. These products contain natural oils and vitamins that help hydrate and soothe cracked, dry skin.

5) Limit Time In The Bath Or Shower

The hot water you use in the bath or shower can range anywhere from 100 degrees Fahrenheit to over 105 degrees Fahrenheit.

Those higher temperatures can exacerbate the symptoms of dry skin and might even lead to:

  • Burns or scalds
  • Dehydration
  • Skin irritation

You can try bathing or showering in lukewarm water to reduce the effects of hot water on your skin. Or, if you like a hot shower or soak now and then, limit the time you spend there to help prevent dry skin on your feet.

Keep in mind that when you shower, your feet are exposed to the water the whole time. With a bath, you have a bit more control and can take your feet out of the water while still relaxing in the tub.

Dry Feet No More

Person squeezing Bodewell’s Psoriasis Calming Cream into their hand

When you notice the symptoms of dry feet — particularly tight, flaky, and itchy patches — it’s time to take action.

Dry skin can be frustrating and uncomfortable, but with the right lifestyle changes and a regimen of topical treatments, dry feet may become a thing of the past.

Follow the tips in this article, and if you suffer from eczema or psoriasis on your feet, incorporate gentle products — like our Eczema Daily Calming Cream or Psoriasis Calming Cream — into your daily routine to feel comfortable in your skin again.


American Skin Association
Cleveland Clinic
Mayo Clinic

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