How to Get Rid of Cracked Heels and Dry Skin on Feet


Cracked heels and dry skin on feet are something many people struggle with year-round. They’re not only rough but can also be uncomfortable, potentially affecting the way you stand and walk. During warmer weather, dry, cracked feet may also affect your choice of footwear.

Although there isn’t much you can do to stop dry, cracked feet from occurring the first time (especially on the heel of the foot), there are steps you can take to quickly return your feet to picture-perfect smoothness. What’s more, you can easily stay ahead of the problem so dry heels don’t remain a consistent bother.

Cracked Heels: How to Deal

The obvious treatment for cracked heels is to get weekly pedicures; however, the time and money this takes won’t work for everyone. Not to worry: We’ve got some at-home remedies such as foot exfoliators for dry, cracked heels that can make a beautiful difference.

Here’s what’s easy to do at home to make cracked heels look and feel amazingly better:

  • Each night, after washing your feet (save time and do this quickly with a disposable cleansing cloth or antibacterial wipe), use a pedicure file—we like the ones from Microplane—on your heels. Use firm yet gentle pressure and stop if you feel any discomfort.
  • Next, apply a thin layer of a salicylic acid serum to your heels and any other areas of your foot where dry skin is a problem. This is an exfoliator that can be incorporated as the last step in your evening routine.
  • After exfoliating your feet, follow with a generous application of a buttery rich body cream (which can double as a foot cream.) Massage it over the entire foot; even better if you have someone to do this for you.
  • If heels are severely cracked, apply a soft gauze pad and secure it with first aid tape, and then put on a pair of cotton socks before getting into bed. This keeps the products you applied in contact with the dry skin on your heels throughout the night, which means better results.

The next morning, your heels should look and feel remarkably better—but you may need to follow this routine for several nights if your heels are very dry. Be patient, we promise the results are worth the few extra minutes each night.

Once your dry, cracked heels are under control, you can do the routine a couple of nights per week, or as needed. But don’t forget to regularly tend to your heels with an emollient, daily moisturizer (AKA foot lotion), or the problem will steadily worsen all over again.

What if exfoliating doesn’t seem to help despite several attempts? Ask your pharmacist about applying a moisturizer that contains a high concentration (20%–40%) of urea on your feet. It’s not the most cosmetically elegant ingredient when used in high amounts, but it will provide further exfoliation plus deep hydration of thickened, dry skin.

Important note: Talk to your physician if your cracked heels don’t respond well to over-the-counter skincare products.

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References for this information

Journal of Foot and Ankle Research, February 2017 and August 2015, ePublication
Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigative Dermatology, August 2015, pages 455–461
British Journal of Community Nursing, December 2011, pages 594–597
Skinmed, November-December 2004, pages 350–351
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, volume 3, Issue 3, 2002, pages 217–222