We now know that it is dryness and pressure that causes our cracked heels (we found that out in our cracked heels 101) . So in theory if we increase both, or at least increase one of these factors our heel problems will increase as well.
Here are the main reasons why we get cracked heels:
• Because we are over weight.
Unfortunately the bigger we get the more pressure we put on our heel and especially our heels. Our feet can only handle so much, and time and time again we have seen over weight patients have problems with their heels- ranging from heel spurs all the way through to the very common cracked heels.
• We wear some really poor shoes.
Now I have seen people wear high heels, and shoes that are just material around their foot or even slippers all day, and they wonder why they have heel problems. Sometimes just a change in shoe will help, but unfortunately most patients will say “these are comfortable” or “I paid a lot of money for these”. Well that is a cause in your foot problem.
• Medical illnesses.
Now these are ones that increase hard skin deposition- e.g. Psoriasis, decrease the skin viability- Rheumatoid Arthritis, or reduce the skins natural sweating mechanism, making the foot dryer- Diabetes/ under active Thyroid.
I do not like to use age as a reason because a lot of medical professionals do, and patients get fobbed off with the “age reason”. But unfortunately age does play a small part to play in heel cracks. As we get older the elasticity in our skin decreases and the moisture content reduces. Also many older people are on medication and illnesses which can affect the skin in many different ways. Also as we get older, our “fatty padding protection” reduces. The fatty padding is a “cushion” which protects our feet where stress is more likely to occur. The best place to feel it is under the balls of your feet- it should be quite squishy. As we get older this fatty padding area reduces and moves, now revealing high stress areas.
Probably should come under poor footwear, but every summer the number of people, especially women, who have cracked heels, goes up- guaranteed. Sandals and flip-flops are the main cause- little support and cushioning are the perfect environment for crack heels to thrive. That “slap slap” nature of the sandal on your heel with a plastic sole is not a good idea.
• Season (part 2).
We have air conditioners in the summer and forced air in the winter. These artificial environments dry us out causing our skin to be more mechanically susceptible.
• Mechanical misalignment.
Some people build up hard skin because they are mechanically misaligned. In other words stress is going a little bit more on one area than it should. Now you may not notice it now, but over time and if you include any of the above factors then you may just notice hard skin be laid down that little bit more.
• Working environment.
Some people are standing all day, or walking on hard floors all day. This adds pressure to your feet from above and from below. Store clerks, warehouse and factory workers seem to be most affected.
• Unfortunately neglect can play a part.
If someone can not get down to their feet to treat themselves then the problem only gets worse. Neglect is not that uncommon. If someone has a poor foot problem they tend to cover it up, wearing socks and shoewear all the time. It isn't until they become so much in pain or a family member/ health worker insists on checking their feet then the problems are discovered.
It would be nice and simple if the cause is just one thing, but usually that is not the case. You tend to find multi-factorial issues and patients usually solve one but not the other. So some patients can easily be overweight AND Diabetic which is a bad combination. However reducing weight will help with the Diabetes which in turn will help with the feet and other body systems.