Are cracked, tender heels a problem for you or someone you love? Here are a few quick tips that I have successfully used when I was a caregiver for my mother and others that prevented or treated the cracked skin on their heels. The cracked, dried skin took time to develop and it will take diligent discipline to nourish the heel skin back to supple health.
If the cracks on the heel have bled or are tender, the priority must be to help them heal. If there is an infection or irritated fissure (broken, open wrinkle in the skin) or the person has medical conditions like Diabetes (which may slow healing on the hands and feet), please consult your medical professional first. Follow their instructions to healing this issue.
Once you have determined the area is not infected or has healed per your doctor’s instruction, you can start practicing better habits to keep the skin on your heels healthy. Read the labels on your products to avoid any allergens, gluten or any questionable ingredients. Clean the feet with a gentle, non-drying cleanser. Then place the feet in a tub to soak in a gentle, non-detergent bath with Epsom salts, essential oils and bath oil. This will soften and nurture the skin. We have had excellent results adding melaleuca or lavender oil well dispersed in the water. Using a foot bathe with vibration or ability to bubble keeps the water blended. You want to monitor** that the essential oils do not collect around the ankles.
**Before using essential oils, learn basic safety and be aware of precautions. Do not use essential oils (EO’s) on babies, children, pregnant women or anyone with allergies before reading up on how to safely use them. Essential oils are the medicine that has been used for centuries. It is a gift to be used responsibly. I recommend AromaWeb.com as a resource (they do not sell essential oils) for general safety, EO constituents and useful recipes.
Melaleuca oil (also called tea tree oil) is a natural anti-inflammatory with antibacterial, antifungal qualities. It is also a natural antihistamine to reduce any swelling and redness. Apply the melaleuca oil or other EO of your choice then apply a protecting lotion/cream/oil over the EO to the areas of the foot needing healing. Cover the foot with a white sock (some prefer non-bleached or non-dyed sock.) Apply the EO and oil…or learn to make it into a balm or ointment for simplicity!) twice daily to speed healing.
Once any cracks or irritated areas have healed, we can now work to improve the skin tissue of the heel. Soak the feet in a tub with a soothing non-detergent bath oil – add essential oils (Melaleuca, Lavender, Marjoram, Thyme are great ones to try!) and Epsom salts for added benefit. Once the skin has softened, follow the directions below the picture to gently exfoliate the heel using a pedicure paddle. Our favorite is Swedish Clover Föt File imported by Flowery.This paddle has a coarser side (raised nubs on handle) and a smoothing side (horizontal lines on handle). Depending on the thickness of the skin (as we mature our skin thins so be precise – stay on the thick bottom skin of the foot – usually has a yellowish tint.) Do not use this paddle on someone with diabetes or other medical condition without consulting their doctor first!
For most people, you can start with the coarser side to gently rub the thick skin of the heel (some have this this thick skin on the ball of the foot and big toe) to smooth, soften this heavy pad – when it is very thick, it wants to crack. By reducing the thickness, the skin is able to be more pliable. Be sure to stay on the thick padded parts of the heel, ball of foot or big toe at all times. Focus on the areas that want to crack.
Most common mistake people make using a foot file is removing too many layers of skin. You can always buff a bit more the next day or week. But if you remove too much, it can cause discomfort. Your body built this callous for protection. Usually to cushion a bone that is pushing against the shoe. Start by just a few swipes of the coarser side to soften. The 2nd most common mistake is many people forget to then go back and polish this skin smooth with the finer side of the paddle. If you skip this second step, your body may perceive the swipes from the coarser side as an injury and double it’s effort to replace the skin cells removed. So it is very important that this is always a two step process. Sand a few times, then smooth the skin. I keep my paddle on a suction cup hook in the shower so I remember to use once a week or so for maintenance. For those with very little callous, you may only need to use the smooth side of the foot paddle.
Rinse the feet. While skin is till moist apply your essential oils, ointment or heavy skin oil to the spots that tend to crack. Then massage the whole foot with lotion/cream. Depending on the lotion/cream you use, an all-over application of skin oil (coconut, almond or even olive oils works) may be required to prevent moisture loss. This will help the skin heal and regain its pliable, healthy state.
Application of the products after every bath and shower is suggested to retain the moisture in the skin to eliminate cracked heels forever.
Wash and disinfect the foot file between uses for same person. Washable/sanitizable nail files, cuticle pushers, nail clippers and foot files are personal care items one should not share. I have worked with families that have had a hard time eliminating athlete’s foot…..and it many times was due to the common use of same toenail clippers by all family members. Life gets busy and even though most of the people were diligent in their cleaning of the tools after use – there are so many nooks and crannies on the clippers and foot file that I recommend everyone have their own kit. These are inexpensive items to have a set for each person.
When choosing tools for personal care, I encourage you to use materials that can be reliably cleaned (sanitized) and disinfected. (For definitions of these terms go to my article “The Hand Towel Did It” dated 6.30.2019.) Metal, plastic and glass can be cleaned effectively. Items that cannot be sanitized properly are loofahs, sponge, natural sponge, pumice stones or natural wood. These are porous surfaces that over time may encourage growth of microorganisms that could cross contaminate (spread the germs growing on it to) your skin.
If you found this helpful, let us know. Reminder, if you have any medical condition – consult your doctor before trying any of our suggested treatments. These are cosmetic, skin quality suggestions only. In this article, we are sharing over three decades of success/experience as a cosmetologist/esthetician. Visit us on Facebook (Elizabeth Anthony Gronert), send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call/text at (847) 502-8394. Elizabeth & Kris Gronert bringing you Comfort For Life!