Uncomfortable shoes, splashing through puddles, standing up for hours – our feet go through a lot in a day, so it's no surprise that we sometimes get dry skin.
This can occasionally be caused by a lack of moisture in the skin's uppermost layer – the epidermis. It can leave skin looking dull and flaky, feeling rough to the touch, and even cracked. However, the good news is that there's plenty you can do to both avoid and treat dry skin on your feet.
What causes dryness?
There are a number of factors that can lead to the skin on your feet becoming dry and dehydrated, such as:
- Standing for long periods. This can increase pressure on the feet, leading to potential dryness and cracked heels
- Regularly wearing open-backed shoes, like sandals and flip-flops. When you wear these types of shoes, the fat on the back of the heel expands sideways, increasing pressure on the heel, which can dry out and lead to cracks
- Taking long, hot showers or baths and using harsh soaps/shower gels. The combination of hot water and strong cleansers can break down the skin’s natural defence barrier, allowing moisture to escape, and leaving it dehydrated
- Being overweight. This can increase the pressure on the fat pad under the heel, causing it to spread sideways, leading to dryness and cracks
What to look out for
The build-up of dry skin can not only be uncomfortable but, if not dealt with, can also lead to other more painful problems such as corns and calluses. These are areas of hard or thick skin that can develop on the heel or ball of the foot due to pressure or friction. To help prevent corns and calluses from developing, choose footwear that fits properly. You can try soft insoles or heel pads in your shoes to support your feet, especially if you often spend long periods standing.
A lack of moisture can also cause the skin on the feet to crack, particularly on the heels. The first line of defence for cracked heels is to use a heel balm, which is available at your pharmacy. These can moisturise, soften and exfoliate dry skin.
What can you do to help?
Get into the habit of maintaining a proper footcare routine. Regularly file away the build-up of dead, dry skin using a foot file, pumice stone or battery-operated hard skin remover. This is usually best done after you have soaked your feet in water.
Moisturising your feet using nourishing lotions or creams can also be helpful. Rub this into your feet last thing at night after your bath or shower and wear a pair of cotton socks while you sleep to help lock in the moisture.
If things don't seem to be improving or the dry or cracked skin is causing you pain, see a podiatrist, your Doctor or a pharmacist for further advice.
If you have diabetes, or heart or circulation problems, don’t try to treat feet problems yourself. Ask your Doctor or pharmacist for instructions on which methods of hard skin removal are suitable for you, and for further advice around foot care.