Cracked Heels: Do You Need to See a Podiatrist?

It's not uncommon for people to suffer from calluses on their heels. Often, you can solve this problem by moisturising your skin or by using something like a pumice stone to rub off the hard skin. In some cases, however, the calluses on your heels can get thick enough to crack, at which point you might experience heel pain. Should you see a podiatrist rather than fix this yourself?

How Bad Is The Cracking?

If you have an extremely thick callus on your heel that doesn't get better with moisturising or pumice rubbing, then you may want to have it treated by a podiatrist. If your skin is cracking open, if it hurts or if the cracks are so deep that you're seeing some blood, then you really do need professional help. This also applies if you're regularly experiencing a buildup of hard skin on your heels.

How Can a Podiatrist Help?

A podiatrist can remove the layers of thickened skin and help you make sure that any deeper cracks don't get infected. During the course of your session, you may also be able to identify why you're having this problem and what you can do to avoid it happening again in the future.

In some cases, simple lifestyle changes can help reduce calluses forming on your heels. For example, your podiatrist may recommend that you do the following:

  1. Keep your feet well moisturised — dry skin cracks more easily than hydrated skin.
  2. Avoid walking around barefoot, and make sure that your shoes aren't causing calluses. You may be more likely to develop cracked heels and heel pain if you spend too much time in sandals or thongs or in shoes that rub against your heels.
  3. Lose some weight — carrying excess weight can put additional pressure on your feet.
  4. Try not to stand for long periods – walking about and sitting down can give your feet a break.

Tips: Cracking on the heels can sometimes be a side effect of medical conditions (such as diabetes or some vascular conditions). If you have a long-term medical condition, tell your podiatrist during your session, as this may affect your diagnosis. If your cracked heels are a sign that your condition is not being controlled as well as it should, then your podiatrist may recommend that you see your doctor as well.

The way you walk and use your feet may also be a contributory factor of cracked heels. For example, irregular gaits and flat feet can put pressure on certain areas of the feet, including your heels, which can lead to the buildup of calluses and related heel pain. If your podiatrist thinks that your heels are cracking because of this kind of biomechanical issue, then you may be advised to wear an orthotic support or lift to correct the problem and/or to take on an exercise program to help modify your gait.