Dry cracked heels: causes, prevention, remedies and treatments

Ultimate guide to the best dry heels care

nice soft feet

Our feet work very hard. They walk, they run and take use to where wherever we need to go. We stick our feet into very uncomfortable shoes, we make put up with high heels, or tolerate no shoes at all.   We expose our feet to cold and heat, we put them in water or wrap them in layers of socks, tights or nylons. The bottom line our feet work hard and get exposed to many different things. 

So it is very important to remember about our feet and take good care of them. 

What causes calluses and cracked heels?

Some of the reasons people have problems with heels skin are the following:

  • Overexposure to water like taking hot baths and showers very often 
  • Overusing high-strength soaps
  • Diabetes
  • Neglecting regular feet care: poor hygiene and not using appropriate moisturizers for feet
  • Dehydration or not drinking enough water
  • Tight uncomfortable shoes
  • Cold winter weather
  • Walking bare feet on hard surfaces
  • Genetics
  • Long-standing at work or at home
  • Increased weight
  • Feet conditions like fungal infections
  • Deficiency in vitamins and minerals such as zinc

….and so on

(There are also medical reasons for people to have cracked heels, but I’m not going to explore those in this post.  In any event it is very advisable to seek medical attention and undergo regular doctor check ups.)

Our feet do not contain large amount of oil glands in comparison to the rest of our body.  Oil glands are responsible for lubricating and moisturizing our skin.  Because we do not have many oil glands to moisturize our feet, our feet become dry very fast.

Layers of dead skin on feet accumulate over time.  Tight shoes or waking bare feet also causes skin on feet and large toes to harden.  Layers of dead and hard skin cause calluses.  Blood vessels cannot go into calluses and cannot deliver blood supply, oxygen and nutrients.  Thick, dead skin becomes over dry and cracks open.

Dry cracked feet

(Disclaimer: this page contains affiliate links, meaning if you make a purchase, I will get a small commission at no cost to you. )

How to avoid dry feet and calluses formation?

  • The best ways to prevent dry and even cracked heels are to have comfortable footwear and use heel balms or oil based moisturizers twice a day. Avoid using creams that contain alcohol or any other drying ingredients. 
  • Cracked heel creams containing urea are very helpful to soften up extremely dry skin and areas. Urea is a type of salt; water goes wherever salt is. So applying urea containing creams attracts water to an affected area.

Open Natural Urea 40% Foot Cream  – this cream will help you to remove thick, callused areas, helps repair cracked heels by relaxing and hydrating dry skin and soles. Formulated with the most potent and therapeutic ingredients, including pure Tea Tree Oil + Aloe 200X + Chamomile Extract and more.

XEROLYS 50 HEALING UREA CREAM 50%  a skin care product with calluses and has keratolytic and moisturizing effect: hands, elbows, feet.  It is one of the strongest urea containing creams available over the counter.

  • Look for feet care products that contain salicylic acid, Alpha hydroxy acid, and petroleum jelly. 
  • Exfoliate your feet using exfoliating gloves. I strongly suggest not to use pumice stone, because it is harsh and removes dead skin abruptly.  You feet might feel nice right after using pumice stone.  However, your body will compensating for harshly removed layers.  In no time your feel will regrow much thicker skin.  

dry feet exfoliating gloves

       So use the exfoliating gloves to exfoliate your feet. Exfoliating gloves do remove dead skin buildup, but they do it in a very      gentle way.

  • Special moisturizing socks can also be a huge help for your dry skin. Those bandages will soften dry skin and promote delivery of nutrients and moisture to dry areas.
  • You can also purchase shoes insoles. Insoles redistribute pressure on your heels and allow affected areas to heal and regain blood supply.
  • Drink plenty of water and reassess your diet. You should include foods with omega-3 fatty acids and other healthy fats to promote adequate nutrition intake.

What to do when best creams for dry cracked heels, moisturizing socks and exfoliation don’t work?

I personally had a very long and somewhat traumatizing journey with my feet.  I always used pumice stone to get rid of dry and old skin.  However my feet kept on getting dryer and dryer and more and more calluses built up.  At one point my soles of my feet felt as hard as a rock and I was very, very close to cracked feet.

I tried a Listerine foot soak that is very famous on Pinterest.  It did help a little bit but it did not eliminate the problem. 

I tried using paraffin to soften up the skin;  I tried using creams, oils, moisturizers and lubricating bandages.  They helped somewhat but again they did not provide me with the results I wanted. 

I realized that I had hard as a rock dead skin and that I needed something stronger and more effective than just creams and moisturizing socks. I neglected my feet for too long and creams only relieved the symptoms but did not get rid of dead dry skin on my feet.

So, I decided to try chemical peel.

Chemical peel at home with lactic acid – the most effective way to remove dead skin from feet

I am fast forwarding in time here and writing the best and the most effective acid peel that really helped me.   I tried another acid peel prior to this method (I will describe it later in the post).

I just wanted to provide you with an effective solution earlier and did not want to make you to read to the very end.

I came up with this DIY foot peel myself by using trial and error method.  I needed something that would help to remove thick dead skin from feet exactly where I needed it:  bottom of my heels and large toe. 

I did the research and was able to find that I can purchase pure 80% lactic acid eBay (you can also buy 90% lactic acid on amazon).  And this acid is cheap comparing to many creams and peels that I tried before.

I read numerous consumers reviews on the use and dilution of a product.  I discovered that people diluted acid to achieve 3-5% strength and add it to creams, lotions, toners and other skin care products.

However, I did not find any useful information on how to use lactic acid for feet peel.  Thus I decided to try to develop my own routine.

I tried to dilute my 80% lactic acid to achieve a 40% strength (I diluted acid with a grapeseed oil). Then I soaked cotton pad in this acidic solution and applied it directly to a problematic area. 

To be honest I didn’t notice any results after,  which was quite disappointing. 

However, I was not going to give up. 

So I decided to use pure 80% strength acid.  I did about 4 rounds of procedure.  And finally I achieved what I wanted.  I finally ended up with pink, nourished, hydrated baby like feet that are free of calluses.  I honestly did not know my feet were able to look like THAT.  It’s been 2 months since I’ve done my first series of peels and my feet are still great.  I exfoliate feet twice a week in the shower using exfoliating gloves; no scrubbing and no pumice stone.

So here is the procedure. 

  • Put on  rubber gloves  (it would be ideal if you put goggles to protect your eyes from splashing but to be honest I did not do that)
  • Have some flat round cotton pads
  • Soak cotton pad very generously with lactic acid. 
  • Apply soaked cotton pad to a desired area.  In my case I applied it to the back side of my heels and to the side of my both large toes. 
  • Hold cotton pads in place and wrap your feet with plastic wrap creating a plastic sock. 
  • Put on regular socks and leave pads for about 30 to 40 minutes (I would say it is good for a beginner.  I personally  leave peel on for 1 hour and even longer).
  • Fill up a medium sized basin with hot (not boiling) water.   The water should not be a boiling hot but comfortably hot so you can keep your feet in there.  Soak your feet for about 15-20 minutes allowing affected skin too soften more.  Use exfoliating gloves to gently exfoliate dead skin.  
  • Dry feet very well and apply shea butter, or petroleum jelly, or any other oil. 

exfoliating feet

Repeat procedure every other day for 3-5 times.  Your skin might start peeling off even from the first time.   For me it was after the third time.

Apply moisturizing care products or natural oils to prevent feet from drying.  While taking a shower, exfoliate your feet daily to promote faster removal of peeled skin.  Reassess your diet, hydration and wear comfortable shoes.

I made a video on how to do this peel at home.  This is my first ever video, so, please, be understanding 🙂   I know it is mediocre, but it explains well the whole procedure.

Chemical Peel at home – mild version 

This is another version of chemical peel at home.  I used it prior “inventing” lactic acid peel.   I found it to be helpful, however, it did not allow me to target specific areas.

Why would you might consider this type of foot peeling?

Well, it does help you to remove dead skin from your feet.  And it comes in pre-packed individual “sock” so you do not really have to mix anything.  You might find it less stressful and easier to use.

You would need to buy at least 10 pairs to achieve good results.  My skin started peeling off after the 3rd application, but I read that some people needed 5 or even 7 applications to see any action.

peeling skin feet

For anyone who would like to use this peel, I recommend to use it during colder temperatures and when you do not expose your feet to others.  Once your skin starts peeling off, it is not a very appealing picture. So you would want to hide your feet from others during this times. 

I used to do the serious of 7 peels twice a year:  every fall after sandals season was over; and in the spring before the flip flops season.   This way I had nice soft feet all year around.

However, there were few things I did not like about these peel socks.

1)  Peel socks were very cumbersome to put on.  I find that each sock was too big for my feet (they do not come in individual sizes).  I eventually started wrapping “socks” with plastic wrap and then secure them with regular socks.

2) I found that it was also very uncomfortable to walk in those socks.  These socks are basically plastic bags filled with peeling acid.   It felt as if my feet were constantly emerged in a cold water. 

3)   Acids in socks was working on my whole foot including the top of it.  And the skin on top of your foot is much more gentle than at the bottom.  So I ended up with a quite severe acid burn on top of my feet and it was very painful for few days to have any foot wear on.  Eventually I came up with the solution to cover the top of my foot with plastic and then put on peel socks. I was always afraid of another acid burn.

4)  These socks are great to work on the whole foot.  I was more interested in targeting specific areas where skin was extremely dry and thick.

At the end, I stopped using this peel completely and converted into using lactic acid peel.  If you watch the video, you will notice that it is not hard at all.

Homemade natural ingredients and remedies for dry and cracked feet

Once you remove dead dry skin from your feet, you would want to maintain the results.  You would want to pumper and care for your feet.

In the very beginning for this post I listed products that will help you to maintain smooth and soft feet.

However, you might also want to consider using homemade masks, foot soaks and exfoliation as an alternative to store-bought products.

dry cracked feet


Honey has anti anti microbial and antibacterial properties. That means that honey can help cleans wound, prevent bacteria build-up and development of infections. Honey can also moisturize the skin and deliver necessary nutrients to the it.

Natural raw honey: 3 table spoons

Lemon juice: 1 tea spoon

Olive oil: 2 table spoons

Mix all ingredients very well.   Apply honey mask to your feet, wrap with plastic wrap, put thick socks on and leave for 1-2 hours.  Wash off with warm water and dry very well.

Natural Oils

Use natural oils like coconut oil, rosehip oil,  almond or grapeseed oil for your feet.  Natural oils help to retain moisture. Coconut oil is also has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties that could be very beneficial for cracked feet that are prone to infections

Apply small amount of oil into your palms.  Rub between your palms to warm oil up and applying all over cleaned and very well dried feet. Put on socks to avoid spreading any grease around. 

Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline)

Petroleum jelly is very good for dry feet as well.

Apply petroleum jelly over your feet before bedtime, put on some socks and fall asleep.  No need to wash off the next morning.

Homemade feet exfoliation

One and a half cup of oatmeal

3 tablespoons of olive oil

One tablespoon of vinegar

Add and vinegar to oatmeal mixed together and apply onto feet. Rub for about 5 or 10 minutes and wash off  with warm water.  Follow up with your feet care cream or petroleum jelly. 

Banana and olive oil feet mask 

This feet mask very good moisturizing and nourishing too tired and overworked feet.

One ripe banana

3 tablespoons of olive oil

In a medium bowl play spilled banana and mash with a fork. Add olive oil and mix together, apply mixture to clean dry feet and wrap around with plastic wrap. Put on warm socks and leave mask on for about an hour hour-and-a-half.  What’s off with warm water and dry skin very well.  Follow up with feet care cream or petroleum jelly. 

beautiful soft feet

Please, note that this post should not be looked at as a medical advice.  I am not an aesthetician, not a podiatrist and certainly not a doctor .  I am just a person who wanted to have nice and soft feet :))) Please, read about precautions before using lactic acid and make yourself familiar with the fist aid steps should acid get onto your bare skin or eyes.  So, be very cautious when using lactic acid and keep it in a locked cabinet where kids cannot find it.

Share your tips on your own feet care.

Ultimate guide to the best dry cracked heels care

3 thoughts on “Dry cracked heels: causes, prevention, remedies and treatments

  1. “Hi,

    You have a great blog! Thank you for posting and sharing these helpful tips. I have dry layered dead skin or cracked heels. It’s a total mess for me seeing those callouses on my feet that I can’t even wear sandals. I will try a few tips on your article coupled with a few from here as well. https://beverlyhillsmd.com/spider-veins/ Let us see how it goes. “

    1. Hi! My feet have been horrible until the age of 40 when I learned on my own how to take care of my feet properly. I was told to schmere crisco over my feet, especially where it’s cracked and tough skin. Wrap with plastic wrap, put socks on and leave overnight. I wake up with considerably better feet! Make sure u do this at night and use caution u don’t slip and fall. Often my feet feel too warm in the middle of the night and I remove them. At any rate they are WAY better! This has literally saved the health of my feet when before all I could do was hobble with deep bleeding cracks. Best of luck!

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