As we’ve all been enjoying our ‘snow’ and ‘ice’ days these past few weeks, I started thinking about the fact that, even in Houston, we need to know about cold-weather foot problems and how to prevent and/or treat them.
One of the most common problems in winter is dry, cracked heels, also known as heel fissures. There are a lot of reasons why our heels tend to crack more in cold weather—we put on central heating, which dries up our skin; we turn up the heat in our shower, sucking up our moisture; and conditions like peripheral neuropathy (which affects circulation) may be made worse by sudden temperature drops.
You’ll know that your heels are getting into cracking territory if the skin in the area becomes thick and rough. Your feet may start to itch because of severe dryness, you’ll likely notice some flaking of the skin and, if things progress too far, cracks may become deep enough to start bleeding. That can be particularly dangerous if you have diabetes, since any type of wound could put your foot health in peril.
That’s how to tell if you’re developing heel fissures; now, here are some tips to stop these cracks from forming. Since you know your feet are likely to become dry during winter, take precautionary measures—try to apply a thick moisturizer like Vaseline once or twice a day to your feet. At night, lather your heels up before bed, then slip on loose, cotton socks to trap the moisture in while you sleep without cutting off circulation.
Try giving yourself a home pedicure—soak your feet in warm, soapy water, then slough off dead skin cells with a CLEAN (sterile) foot file. After the pedicure, give yourself a mini-foot massage, focusing on your heels and the balls of your feet, to help encourage better circulation. You should also focus on your daily water intake, since dehydration can cause or exacerbate heel cracks just like dry skin can.
Heel fissures can begin as an aesthetic problem, progress to an uncomfortable nuisance and, if ignored for too long, become a serious health concern. If you have cracked heels or other foot health concerns, schedule an appointment with your Houston podiatrist at Tanglewood Foot Specialists today.