Well that really escalated quickly! It was only weeks ago we were all complaining about the coldest Melbourne since the end of the dinosaurs and now we have been hit by a spring heatwave. The recent hot weather has brought many feet out of hibernation, and with open shoes come a new problem for many people. Painful, dry cracked heels.
We need to go back to some basics to understand why this occurs, for those who see this as TL;DR explanation (I’m often guilty with these) skip down to bottom of the page to see how to fix cracked heels.
dry cracked heels = pressure x skin elasticity of heel
DCH = p(-skinE)
This is the amount that our skin can be squished, stretched and pulled and then still spring back into shape. There are a couple factors which influence our skin elasticity, some that can be changed, and some that can not. First the untouchables, age and some medical conditions. As we get older, all our stretchy parts become a little less elastic, from our skin, nails and hair, to our muscles, tendons and fascia. It’s all connected together and our basic building blocks just stiffen up. Not much that can be done to change that. Some medical conditions such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and complex autoimmune diseases effect our skin elasticity directly or indirectly with their medical management. Again, not much that can be changed here, if you need medications for these diseases then take them!
The most important factor which can be changed is the level of moisture within the surface of the skin. This mixture of substances allows our skin cells to stretch apart and glide back together. We usually produce natural moisturising factors (NMF) from our sweat glands and they include various acids such as urea and lactic acid. Sometimes we produce less of these and our skin dries out and loses it’s elasticity, other times they evaporate into the hot summer air. Occasionally we apply lotions and potions which are not ideal for keeping our skin acids in place.. products such as soap and sorbolene.
Soap and sorbolene? These have been the staples of hygiene (and foot hygiene to boot) for decades, what has changed?
Soap is an alkaline substance (greater than 7 on the pH scale) and our skin is acidic with a pH of around 5.5. Every time we wash with soap our natural acids are washed away (along with all your filthy grime so it’s not all bad). After washing our skin has to work really hard to get back to it’s favourite acidic state, sometimes it can, sometimes it can’t. This hard work and removal of our natural acids can leave our skin dry and less elastic.
Sorbolene on the other hand (foot) contains glycerin which is a strong emollient. It acts by drawing out our natural acids to the surface, and immediately after using our legs and feet look great. Where it falls down is that there are no humectant properties to bind the sorbolene lotion to the surface of our skin, and our natural acids react away until they’re all gone. Wearing open sandals, thongs or even shoes without hosiery can lead to a faster rate of evaporation of our natural acids just like using sorbolene.
And now the second part, pressure. On earth where most of you will be reading this from, the pressure on our heels is a constant body weight x gravity. We can’t really alter gravity here and changing body weight is more of a long game than an immediate fix. We can move pressure around from our heels however by varying the heights of the heels of our shoes as well as the stiffness of our shoes midsole.
So getting back to the equation:
DCH = p(-skinE)
dry cracked heels = pressure (-ve skin elasticity of heel)
We can see that the easiest component to manipulate to prevent dry cracked heels is our skins elasticity. And we know that we change change this with our hygiene.
Avoid soap: Use a soap free wash with the same pH as your skin. Examples include QV, Dermaveen, Dermeze, Alphakeri
Moisturise: Not with sorbolene, with a moisturiser that is the same pH as your skin and contains natural acids which we need more of as we age and expose our heels to the elements. Examples include the same list as above (QV, Dermaveen, Dermeze, Alphakeri) moisturisers and also some very thick balms for when things have gotten a little out of hand (foot) such as Eulactol Heel Balm or Walkers Pedicreme.
If you already have a build up of hard skin known as callus or hyperkeratosis around your heel then you can moisturise until you’re as slippery as a grape in a fruit salad but your skin will not be elastic. That hard skin needs to go to become a blank canvas for you to work your simple steps magic. For that you should see your Pride Podiatrist.
Footwear/hosiery: just make some smart choices when you can. Wearing only one pair of open sandals all summer without mixing up the socks or stockings or even heel heights is a recipe for disaster. Keep your feet guessing and they will keep you happy.
So now you know how to treat your feet to stop dry cracked heels. If you have any questions, comments or mathematical rebuttals please contact us via email, facebook, google+, twitter or a good old fashioned phone call/in person discussion.