Why do I have dry, cracked heels?

It’s so easy to take things for granted, like when you have a cold and remember all the wonderful moments when you didn’t feel congested. Or, on a very personal note, when you reminisce about all the times you walked around fancy-free before having dry skin and cracked heels. Well, if you feel that way, you’re not alone. A 2012 survey found that 20% of adults in the United States experience uncomfortable cracked skin on their feet (and women are 50% more likely to report them than men).¹

Cracked heels—also known as heel fissures—can cause serious discomfort. While they’re usually not a serious health issue, cracks on the feet can deepen if left untreated, leading to significant pain. If you’re currently experiencing dry, cracked heels, don’t worry; we’re ready to walk you through the causes, prevention techniques and treatments.

What causes dry, cracked heels?

There are many potential causes of cracked heels. The most common starts with dry feet (read our blog post all about dry skin on the feet here). Every time we stand, walk or run, our feet are subjected to immense amounts of pressure, causing our heel pads to expand.² Factor in dryness and the skin can begin to split and crack. As the skin cracks, it can also allow bacteria and viruses to enter the body, potentially leading to even more problems.

Research has identified several other potential causes of dry, cracked heels:

Lifestyle factors

  • Standing for long periods of time
  • Walking around barefoot or with open-back shoes
  • Taking long, hot showers or baths
  • Using harsh soaps that strip skin of natural oils
  • Wearing shoes that don’t fit or support your heels³

Medical causes

  • High blood sugar and poor circulation resulting from diabetes
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Fungal infections
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Atopic dermatitis
  • Juvenile plantar dermatosis
  • Psoriasis
  • Palmoplantar keratoderma
  • Pregnancy

If you believe that any of these medical issues could be contributing to your dry, cracked heels, it’s important to consult with a doctor before attempting any treatment.

How to avoid dry, cracked heels

Thankfully, there are plenty of steps you can take to avoid cracked heels before they form. Many of these techniques rely on treating the underlying issue of dry skin, which we detail in our comprehensive blog post on the topic (seriously, give it a read).

In addition, items like custom shoe inserts, clinically tested padded socks and cracked heel relief sleeves can relieve the pressure on your feet, protect them from wear and tear, and help them to lock in moisture.

We developed our new Heal & Shield set to both prevent and treat dry skin and cracked heels. This skin-smoothing, hyper-hydrating, heel-protecting trio includes The Gratest™ to exfoliate off layers of dry, hardened or cracked skin, High Dive™ to intensely hydrate and new Well Heeled™ cracked heel relief sleeves to boost moisture absorption and protect sensitive skin. This kit makes it easy to remove hardened skin cells, nourish newly exfoliated skin and lock in moisture for healthy, hydrated heels. Hooray!

How to treat dry, cracked heels

If you’re looking to rid yourself of existing dry, cracked heels, just remember that you need to 1. hydrate and 2. protect! When looking for a foot cream to hydrate the thirsty skin on your feet, regular lotion isn’t going to get the job done. In order to penetrate into the extra thick skin on your heels—to replenish and retain moisture—you need a specially formulated foot cream containing ingredients like hyaluronic acid, ceramide NG, podiatrist-recommended urea, glycolic acid and shea butter *Cough* High Dive™ *cough*. To ensure maximum absorption, try soaking your feet and exfoliating with a rasp, pumice stone or scrub immediately before rubbing the foot cream into feet.

To protect the skin on your heels, look for comfortable, breathable cracked heel relief sleeves. These form a barrier between your heels and your shoes in order to prevent further irritation and to lock in the hydration from your foot cream. I mean, we really thought the three steps in our Heal & Shield set through!

When following a specialized foot care routine to target dry skin and cracked heels, consistency is key. Although you may see signs of improvement after the first treatment, it can take weeks for the cracks to fully heal (so think of it as a self care marathon, not a sprint).

We love hearing from you! Tell us what you think of our latest set by leaving us a review.


  1. https://www.ipfh.org/images/research_materials/2012_National_Foot_Health_Assessment_June_2012.pdf
  2. https://www.everydayhealth.com/foot-health/cracked-heels.aspx
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/cracked-heel-heal#causes
  4. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/316572#prevention
  5. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/dry/dermatologists-tips-relieve-dry-skin
  6. https://www.prevention.com/beauty/skin-care/a20509027/4-ways-to-fix-your-cracked-heels-at-home/