Thursday, January 1, 2009

Keep Those Heels From Cracking!!

While countless women maintain their pedicure routine during the winter months, problems with dryness and callus build up can continue to be a struggle for many. Prevention is the best medicine when it comes to heel calluses and understanding why they form can help prevent them from forming and possibly developing into serious cuts or fissures that can even cause infection.

Dry, cracked heels can be as much of a problem in the winter as in the summer. Dryness and friction are the two biggest causes for calluses, dryness and cracking of the heels. Friction occurs most in the spring and summer when women tend to wear open backed shoes that allow the heels to have extra motion and friction within the shoes; but dryness of the winter air can produce dry, cracked heels just as bad as in the summer. Other causes of heel calluses include systemic conditions such as diabetes and thyroid problems.

Even your foot type might be contributing to heel calluses! Many women (and men) have what is called a flexible flat foot. This foot type looks has a nice arch when there is no weight on it but loses some of that arch when standing. This flexibility is caused by excessive motion called pronation and can cause friction on the outer rim of the heel. Friction due to pronation or excessive motion due to backless shoes causes the body to produce a hard skin or callus to protect itself.

If left untreated, calluses thicken as your body continues to produce callus for protection. The thickened skin often cracks in to deep cuts called fissures which can be very painful as the cuts dig into the nerve endings in the skin. These lacerations can even bleed, develop fungus or become infected.

Prevention is important and involves only a few minutes of care each day to be effective. Applying lotion daily to the heels is important to replenish the moisture. If you do tend to produce heel calluses and you do not have diabetes or circulation problems, a daily exfoliation with a pumous stone or foot file will help keep the problem in check. Special lotions that have urea can be recommended by your podiatric physician.

If your heel calluses are more than just a rough layer, a podiatric physician will be able to safely remove the build up. It is never recommended to use a razor or blade on your self, especially for the heels. It is very difficult to remove the hard skin safely by one’s self and it is equally important to leave a layer of roughness that we all need for a little protection. A pedicurist or other non-medical person should also not be using a razor or knife; however a podiatrist can do this safely and with medical care. In fact, the visit to the podiatrist would most likely be covered by health insurance. Your podiatrist can also diagnosis any flexible flat feet problems and prescribe and produce custom made orthotics to help control the abnormal motion causing the calluses.

These days, women want to keep their feet as well manicured as their hands and heel calluses can be a hurdle to overcome. Calluses should be removed by safe and effective means and may require a visit to the podiatrist. Often, one treatment can remove the calluses and then preventative measures ensure they will not return. Even with our feet stuck in boots all winter, smooth, soft heels should be a goal year round!