The Best Foot Creams for Your Dry, Cracked Heels, According to Podiatrists
According to podiatrist Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, cracked heels is one of the biggest foot problems many people experience each year, when dry air strips your skin of moisture. When the skin on your heel thickens and dries out, putting pressure on it causes it to crack. Then you're left with a lot of pain as you go about your day-to-day activities. The right foot cream helps to soothe dryness, calluses, and cracks on your heels.
"Home care includes daily use of topical creams specially formulated for foot skin that have gentle but effective acids," says Dr. Sutera, a Vionic Innovation Lab member. "The acids help to exfoliate the skin by breaking down the callous over time, all while moisturizing."
What causes dry and cracked heels?
Turns out wearing too many sandals and flip flops can be the biggest culprit of rough heels. Although these styles are super breezy and convenient—especially for summer—the soles can slap against your feet and cause microtrauma and excessive dryness, says board-certified podiatrist and founder of Progressive Foot Care, Dr. Bruce Pinker, DPM. All in all, there's nothing to protect your heels against the elements and the repeated slapping motion and friction from flip flops and certain sandals allows calluses to form easier.
Additionally, cozy clogs and a no-sock lifestyle aren't really helping either. Without the insulation of sneakers or regularly moisturizing your feet, your heel pad is more likely to become dry. "Open-backed shoes add to heels drying out, causing them to crack and can also contribute to discoloration, as does wearing shoes without socks," says board-certified podiatrist and foot surgeon, Dr. Brad Schaeffer, DPM.
But it's not just your shoes that can cause your feet to feel like sandpaper. Athlete's foot, a type of fungal infection that forms between the toes due to excess moisture and sweat, can also potentially lead to cracked heels and dry skin.
What to look for in a good foot cream for dry and cracked heels
The key for Dr. Pinker is to find a solution that includes super-charged moisturizing and exfoliating ingredients. Products with hyaluronic acid, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and petroleum jelly are great for hydration since they naturally help the skin to retain as much moisture as possible. On the flip side, Dr. Pinker says salicylic acid and glycolic acid are two powerful chemical exfoliants that are great for treating dry and cracked heels. They help break down dead skin cells and expose smoother skin on the surface.
By the way, regularly exfoliating is one of the best things you can do to keep your feet baby soft. "For prevention, I’m a big believer in exfoliating a couple of times a week," says Dr. Schaeffer. "I tell my patients to routinely use a pumice stone on their dry heels, and a GOOD foot cream." FYI, pumice stones are a lava-formed, porous rock that work as natural exfoliants to buff away hard and tough skin.
To help you on your journey to smooth and soft heels, here are some podiatrist-approved foot creams to snag ASAP for your medicine cabinet.
Here are the best creams for badly cracked heels
You know a product is great when it has the American Podiatric Medical Association’s (APMA) seal of approval. “That means a lot to podiatrists,” says Dr. Sutera. “It’s also paraben-free and works pretty quickly. You should start to see results after a few applications.”
Originally $15, now $13
This option is a little pricier, but it’s worth it. “It’s an organic balm, and it smells amazing and is all natural,” says Dr. Sutera. “It’s made by a family-owned company in smaller batches.”
Originally $29, now $19
Another cream with the APMA seal of approval, Flexitol’s heel balm is super concentrated and both exfoliates and moisturizes dry and cracked heels. It’s made with a blend of 25 percent urea, aloe, vitamin E, shea butter, and more to hydrate the skin after 14 days.
Originally $12, now $9
Made with coconut oil and a hint of peppermint to feel cooling, this thick cream is made with 99.4% natural ingredients. It also has emolliating ingredients like oat and olive oil to help soften dry skin.
Make sure your heels regularly stay hydrated with this pack of three tubes of foot cream. It’s designed for dry to very dry feet and has Ceramide-3, natural moisturizing factors, and alpha hydroxy acid to slough away dry skin. It’s non-greasy and fragrance, dye, and paraben-free.
Not only does O’Keeffe’s healthy feet cream hydrate cracked heels, but it also creates a protective layer on the skin’s surface to keep moisture in. It contains allantoin, which helps penetrates into the thicker skin on the heels.
CeraVe’s foot cream has salicylic acid to exfoliate rough skin and three essential ceramides to help restore your skin’s natural barrier. It was developed by dermatologists and has the National Eczema Association seal of acceptance, so it’s gentle enough for most skin types.
The key ingredient in this cream is lactic acid, which is an effective and gentle exfoliant to help smooth callused and cracked skin and help hydrate it too. It has a fragrance-free and non-greasy formula.
This bathroom cabinet staple is multi-purpose product, helping to heal minor wounds, moisturize all over the body, and more. Vaseline acts as a sealant, which can help heal and lock in moisture and leave your feet feeling soft. It’s hypoallergenic and appropriate even if you have sensitive skin.
Rub this balm over your dry heels to soothe and provide a moisturizing, protective layer in seconds. It’s formulated with urea, a blend of alpha hydroxy acids, epsom salt, and essential oils to get rid of flakey skin.
Give your feet 24-hour hydration with this cream that has soothing aloe and a blend of seven moisturizers and three vitamins (vitamin A, C, and E) to nourish dry and cracked skin. It’s hypoallergenic and non-greasy, and absorbs quickly.
This luxurious French moisturizer feels and smells great, but it also will help soothe dry feet. Lavender essential oils and arnica extract reduce irritation, and shea butter and peppermint refresh and rehydrate.
Originally $12, now $9
Bag Balm has been around since 1899 and was originally used by dairy farmers (to help heal chapped cow udders, of all things) but has since become a versatile moisturizer for animals and humans alike. It has a simple ingredient list, including lanolin to soften skin and petrolatum to moisturize and protect. There are no added fragrances, colors, or parabens.
Originally $20, now $16
Get the most of your foot cream by doing a thorough exfoliation first; this cream comes with a pumice stone and brush so you can prep your feet for maximum hydration. The foot cream has urea for deep moisture, as well as tea tree oil, aloe, and chamomile to calm any irritation.
Originally $19, now $13
Non-greasy and fragrance-free, this cream has Argan oil to repair and moisturize dry and damaged skin. When you’re done treating your heels, you can also use the cream on knees, elbows, and other areas that need nourishment.
Once you're healed up, give your feet some extra TLC with these mobility stretches:
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