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Cracked heels (fissures)

What is it?

What causes it?

Cracked heels (fissures) occur when the skin on your heels becomes too dry and hard. Pressure when weight-bearing then causes cracks to form in the skin [1].

Cracked skin (fissure) of the heel

Cracked heels can be a result of your foot shape. If you have very low arched or very high arched feet, you tend to put more pressure on the heels, and this pressure can lead to a build-up of hard skin, which eventually cracks [2]. Cracked heels can also occur as a result of very dry skin, being overweight, or wearing certain types of shoes [2].

What are the symptoms?

What podiatry treatments are available?

The skin on your heels will usually be hard and dry, and you may notice cracks in the skin. These can be very painful and may bleed1. If these cracks open up, you may get an infection, which can be serious if you have any existing medical conditions, such as diabetes [3].

  • Dry skin removal – here at Open Podiatry we can gently remove your dry, cracked skin with specialist instruments. If your skin has deep cracks (fissures), we may apply a dressing to the area to protect it and to hold the skin together [1].

  • Biomechanical assessment and management – our podiatrist will carry out weight-bearing and non-weight bearing assessments to determine if there are any abnormal forces going through your heels. You may be prescribed insoles to redistribute this pressure, reduce recurrence of hard skin, and improve your comfort levels [4].

  • Emollient advice – our podiatrist can prescribe the best cream for your dry feet, to improve your overall skin quality.


1.     Rehbock, D. (2008) Common skin conditions that are treated by the podiatrist. SAPJ, 75(10): 44-49.

2.     Springett, K. and Johnson, M. (2010) The skin and nails in podiatry. In Frowen, P, O'Donnell M, Lorimer D & Burrow G. Neale's disorders of the foot. 8th edition. Churchill Livingstone, Elseview, Philadelphia.

3.     Daneman, D. (2006) Type 1 diabetes. The Lancet, 367 (9513), p847-858.

4.     Timson, S., and Spooner, S. (2005) A comparison of the efficacy of scalpel debridement and insole therapy in relieving the pain of plantar callus. Australasian Journal of Podiatric Medicine, 39.2: 33-40.

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