What Causes Dry, Cracked Heels?

Ever reach down and run into your own dry cracked heels? No fun, right? Dry skin, experienced by 20% of adults in the United States, is quite common.

This occurs especially when the skin isn’t moisturized regularly.

Whether it be environmental exposure or dehydration, dry heels can come about in many ways.

Thankfully, there are several causes and over-the-counter treatments for dealing with dry and cracked heels.

dry cracked heels

Dry Heels: Causes

There are many causes of dry heels, most of which are pre-existing medical conditions.

Still, many of those who suffer from dry heels do so simply due to weather changes or dry skin.

Some of the most prevalent causes include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Eczema
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Juvenile plantar dermatosis
  • Athlete’s foot

Best Treatment for Dry Heels

Emollients and moisturizers are two of the best treatments for dry heels.

With the combination of these products, dry skin will become thoroughly moisturized to repair current damage.

Consistent moisturizing can also prevent cracked heels from forming.


Emollients are an excellent option for mild and severe cracked heels because of how the formula penetrates the skin.

By entering the skin, emollients begin to fill in any gaps between skin flakes, improving softness.

Also, they reduce the amount of water that’s lost within the skin over a long period.


While emollients help to fill cracks, moisturizers are a fantastic topper to add to a skincare regime.

Moisturizers help to focus on the skin’s outer layer to add extra moisture to the areas that need it. They can also help seal the emollients into the skin so that any cracks can repair quickly.

When shopping for a moisturizer, opting for occlusive products is the best option.

Occlusive moisturizers create a thin film that prevents moisture from leaving the skin via evaporation.

A few examples of occlusive moisturizers include mineral oil, silicones, petroleum jelly, and lanolin.

Petroleum jelly is likely one of the most affordable and effective occlusive moisturizers.

With regular use, it can help to reduce moisture loss by up to 90%.

dry cracked heels

Dry Cracked Heels

So, what is dry, cracked heels? Why does it manifest in some but not in others?

What Causes Rough Cracked Heels?

Rough and cracked heels can be developed in several ways, ranging from inherited skin texture to medical conditions.

Often, the worst cases can be found in individuals with hypothyroidism, diabetes, athlete’s foot, and more.

Still, it’s common to experience cracked heels during winter, especially if the skin is exposed to dry weather.

Avoiding moisturizers is a sure-fire way to experience cracked heels, especially during the colder months.

Also, certain skincare products, such as drying body wash, can cause the skin to dry out and begin to crack.

Are Cracked Heels a Fungus?

It’s important to note that cracked heels aren’t the sole cause of foot fungus, but it is essential to consider.

Athlete’s foot is an incredibly common cause of cracked heels, which is why applying basic moisturizer might not always work.

If the cracked heels are accompanied by inflammation, blisters, itchiness, and scaling skin, it could be a fungus.

If the feet are exposed to enough sweat or high-risk areas, such as changing rooms, the fungus is more likely the cause.

Athlete’s foot occurs due to a fungus called dermatophytes, which enjoy consuming dead skin and dead nails.

They fall within the same family as jock itch and ringworm, which means it requires special treatment.

How To Heal Cracked Heels

Depending on the type of cracked heels, there are a few treatments to consider.

Antifungal Creams

If cracked heels result from a fungus, antifungal creams will need to be applied before treating with moisturizers.

Antifungal creams are specifically formulated to attack fungi at its root to be eliminated from the area.

There are also plenty of other options to eradicate the athlete’s foot, such as antifungal sprays and powders.


Moisturizing is an essential component of healing dry skin, especially if there’s no infection present.

There are many specialty moisturizers specifically designed for feet that help to penetrate the deeper skin layers.

Ensuring the feet are moisturized regularly can help to promote healthier skin.

Paraffin Wax

Paraffin wax is a standard treatment for hands, but it can also be used for the feet, especially those with plenty of dead skin.

By buffing away dead skin and using a wax treatment, moisture will penetrate the skin and promote healing.

In the colder months, it can be highly recommended to consider using paraffin wax regularly.

High-Quality Socks

Once dead skin has been sloughed off and moisturizer is applied, wearing a pair of high-quality socks is important.

Footwear made from cotton and other organic materials can keep the feet sweat-free and bacteria-free.

As these materials are naturally absorbent, it can help keep harmful bacteria away from any skin cracks.

One of the critical tricks to treating cracked heels is to apply a heavy-duty moisturizer and put socks on top.

This process ensures the moisturizer soaks into the feet for extended periods, such as before bed.

Care for Cracked Heels

Once cracked heels have been treated, maintaining them is an essential part of personal care.

There are plenty of ways to care for cracked heels to ensure they don’t come back.


Adding regular pedicures into the routine is imperative for the overall health of the feet.

It’s possible to do pedicures at home, which I prefer, as I can comfortably work away dead skin without having to go to the spa.

Also, at-home pedicures are far more accessible and affordable.

It’s essential to focus on soaking the feet and getting rid of dead skin using a pumice stone during the process.

By having a pedicure at least once a month, any dead skin buildup will be removed quickly and easily.

Moisturizing Socks

One of my favorite treats for self-care is to reach for my favorite pair of moisturizing socks.

These socks are designed with a cooling gel that helps to ease away soreness and swelling.

Also, the cooling gel helps moisturizers get absorbed more efficiently for long-term protection.

Liquid Bandages

When my dry feet are at their worst, I experience plenty of skin cracks, which lead to bleeding and discomfort.

Instead of walking on damaged feet all day, I found that liquid bandages were the most comfortable option.

Liquid bandages can be directly applied to where the skin has split, and they help to seal the wound.

I would gently cleanse my feet, moisturize, and let the cracks breathe so that they could heal overnight.

However, it’s essential to consult a doctor or podiatrist if the cracks don’t start to heal after three to four days.

Which Oil Is Best for Cracked Heels?

As mentioned, among the most effective tricks to deal with cracked heels is to use oils.

Tea Tree Oil Foot Cream

Using a tea tree oil foot cream helps moisturize the feet while adding a soothing feeling that other creams don’t have.

With this special balm, irritated skin will gently be smoothed even after the first application.

Also, as tea tree oil is naturally antiseptic, it can assist with foot fungus and harmful bacteria.

Tea Tree Oil Foot Cream - Instantly Hydrates and Moisturizes Cracked or Callused Feet - Rapid Relief Heel Cream - Antifungal Treatment Helps & Soothes Irritated Skin, Athletes Foot, Body Acne (4oz)

The all-natural formula contains white willow, eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, and aloe vera to repair cracked heels.

It’s an essential component of adding hydration to the feet, whether used daily or once per week.

I also love using it to help soften calluses to be worked away with a pumice stone.

Best Foot Cream for Cracked Heels

BLUE GOO Cracked Heels & Dry Hands Skin Softener

Often, balms are a better solution for deeply cracked skin.

BLUE GOO Cracked Heels & Dry Hands Skin Softener is an all-in-one product for hydrating and smoothing the skin.

It contains emu oil, soybean oil, lecithin, lanolin, beeswax, and more to help penetrate deeper skin layers.

BLUE GOO Cracked Heels & Dry Hands Skin Softener for Dry Feet, Hands, Hydrating and Smoothing, Moisturizer, Dryness Relief, 2 Ounce, Made with 100% Pure EMU Oil

It’s a relatively fast-acting formula that I’ve found to be quite useful for cracked heels, corns, and calluses.

As an added benefit, the balm can also be applied to the hands to prevent dryness and cracking.

By using the balm twice daily, I was able to see significant improvements.

Moleskin for Heels

MARS WELLNESS Premium Adhesive Moleskin Pads

In the most sensitive areas of my heels where cracking is the worst, these moleskin pads are essential.

I place them on the bottom of my feet to help prevent rubbing against the inside of shoes.

MARS WELLNESS Premium Adhesive Moleskin Blister Precut Medical Kidney Metatarsal Pads - 3.5" - Callus, Heel, Corns - 50 Pieces

Their kidney-shaped design makes them easy to fit anywhere on the foot, from the heel to my toes.

The extra padding that they offer allows the feet to avoid chaffing and discomfort.

Also, the adhesive is quite reliable, helping the pads stick to the feet with little effort.

How to Heal Deep Cracked Heels

Depending on its severity, deeply cracked heels might require professional help.

With a podiatrist’s help, the dry skin can be analyzed and repaired faster than attempting to do so at home.

Podiatrists will typically recommend potent softening agents to help reduce the thickness of dry skin.

There are also removal agents that can be prescribed to slough off dead skin and expose healthy skin.

With deep cracks, doctors will use medical glue to help seal dangerous skin splits to promote healing.

Also, if there’s an infection, antibiotics are essential to prevent further damage.

How To Avoid Cracked Heels

Avoiding cracked heels is quite simple, as long as you have the right moisturizers on hand.

It’s highly recommended to start preparing for skin health before winter, which is when dryness becomes the worst.

Also, increasing water intake can help to prevent skin dryness from becoming too advanced.

Ensure that moisturizing is added to your daily regime so that dead skin doesn’t turn into a significant problem.

Also, having products to fight against dry heels is imperative.

Socks for Cracked Heels

ZenToe Moisturizing Heel Socks

The ZenToe Moisturizing Heel Socks feature specialty gel in its lining to promote health and hydration.

The socks’ unique design makes them comfortable to wear at night or with a pair of shoes.

When combined with lotion or aloe, these socks allow for complete penetration to ensure smooth skin.

ZenToes Moisturizing Heel Socks 2 Pairs Gel Lined Toeless Spa Socks to Heal and Treat Dry, Cracked Heels While You Sleep (Regular, Cotton Pink)

NatraCure Vented Moisturizing Gel Heel Sleeves

A second option for moisturizing socks is these gel heel sleeves, which are essential for skin softening.

By fitting over the heel area, the breathable material allows for optimal sweat absorption.

Also, there’s a special gel heel pad that releases therapeutic oil and vitamins to prevent dryness.

These socks are enriched with shea butter, aloe vera, and vitamin E. When used in combination with moisturizers, heel health will significantly improve.

NatraCure Vented Moisturizing Gel Heel Sleeves - (Skin softening footcare treatment socks for Cracked heels, Dry feet, Foot calluses, Rough heel socks - (608-M CAT) - Color: Aqua Blue - Size: Regular

Diabetic Heels

One of the largest risk factors for cracked heels is diabetes, among many other foot ailments.

Uncontrolled blood sugars can lead to significant nerve damage, which can also lead to dry skin.

Another concern with diabetics is that cracked heels are more at risk for infection due to weakened immune systems.

Frequent foot inspections are highly recommended for people with diabetes to prevent significant health problems.

Narrow Heels

Living with narrow heels with cracked skin can often be more painful, especially when walking.

As the skin is more compact, any splitting from dryness can be more prevalent. Also, by wearing tight shoes, the skin is far more likely to split from dryness and friction.

It is essential to find the right shoes for narrow heels to ensure feet can move comfortably and breathe.

It’s also important to consider heel cup inserts to give the heel the extra padding it needs.

Best Walking Shoes for Narrow Heels

Dansko Women’s Patti Clog

These shoes feature a rubber sole with a nubuck exterior that adds a luxurious touch.

The interior is designed to accommodate custom orthotics, which is essential for specialty wearers.

Also, there’s a specialized DuPont Sorona fiber sole for superior moisture management.

Dansko Women's Patti Black Clog 5.5-6 M US

When combined with the CleansportNXT technology, foot odors can be significantly reduced.

Those with narrow feet will especially love the triple-density footbed that offers optimal shock-absorption and support.

Additionally, the nubuck is weatherproof so that the shoes can be worn throughout every season.

Dansko Men’s Viktor

As another option for walking shoes, the Dansko Men’s Viktor also features a rubber sole and water-resistant design.

There’s an upgraded comfort system that offers a triple-density EVA footbed and TPU arch for better support.

Also, the footbed features a heel stabilizer to prevent friction.

Dansko Men's Viktor Fashion Sneaker, Russet Tumbled Full Grain, 42 Regular EU Brown

With the combination of the slip-resistant rubber outsole and lightweight EVA midsole, the shoes are quite comfortable.

They also offer the perfect amount of support and shock-absorption.

Heel Cup Inserts for Narrow Heels

Dr. Foot’s Heel Grips

My favorite addition to shoes for my narrow feet are Dr. Foot’s Heel Grips.

These are perfect for men’s and women’s shoes.

Using these pads, I’m able to cushion my feet to prevent slippage and blisters, as well as heel pain.

Dr. Foot's Heel Grips for Women and Men, Self-Adhesive Heel Cushion Inserts Prevent Heel Slipping, Improve Shoes Too Big, Rubbing, Blisters, Foot Pain (Beige+Grey+Black)

They feature a unique design that fits into most shoes, from work boots to dress shoes.

With the help of the extra padding, my cracked heels can be soothed all day.