Dry, rough, and cracked skin is a common skin condition that is inconvenient but can be managed. If left untreated, dermatitis can become worse. In particular, the skin on our feet do not have oil glands, so it relies on sweat and transpired moisture to keep feet moisturized. This can be problematic for people who do not properly moisturize their feet on a regular basis or who have a medical condition such as athlete’s foot that can cause excess dryness in affected areas.

image of cracked skin

Dry, rough & cracked skin on feet is often temporary, but depending upon your age, health status, activities and the environment can be a lifelong issue. Signs and symptoms of dry feet depend on your age, your health, the environment you live in, time spent outdoors, and the cause of the problem. Some of the symptoms of dry feet, especially when it comes to dry, cracked feet, include skin that looks and feels rough, a feeling of skin tightness after bathing, scaling, peeling, or flaking (light to severe), fine lines or cracks, or deep cracks that may bleed and become painful, itchiness and/or redness, gray or ashy skin, if you have dark skin. Problems can often worsen in winter months.


In most cases, dry skin or fissures, is not a serious condition, but it can be embarrassing and uncomfortable depending on where it is. In general, dry skin is caused by environmental factors that you can control and is usually only temporary. However, there are a few contributing factors specific to dry, cracked skin on feet, toes, and heels:

image of cracked heel
  • Athlete’s Foot.
  • Lack of moisture.
  • Deficiencies in vitamins and minerals such as iron and zinc that can affect your heel health.
  • Aging skin.
  • Wearing open-back shoes.
  • Wearing shoes that cause a lot of friction on your heels.
  • Being overweight.
  • Dry, warm
  • Improper foot care.
  • Prolonged standing on hard floors.


Here are a few simple remedies to relieve and treat dry, rough and cracked skin:

  • Moisturize: Moisturizers create a barrier that keeps moisture from escaping from your skin. You should moisturize the affected area several times a day, especially while your skin is still moist after a shower. Pat yourself dry, then apply. Thicker and heavier moisturizers work best or try oils for a longer-lasting barrier.
  • Take warm, short baths: Long baths or showers in hot water take the natural oils out of your skin, leaving you feeling dryer. Keep your bathing time to 5-10 minutes and use warm (not hot!) water.
  • Use gentle soaps: Avoid harsh, drying soaps in favor of more gentle cleansers. Some soaps even have added oils or fats for added moisturizing. Antibacterial soaps, fragrances, and alcohol are all drying.
  • Try a humidifier: Indoor air can be hot and dry, which can make itching and flaking worse.
  • Go natural: Fibers like cotton and silk let your skin breathe and are less irritating.
  • To calm the itch you may wish to speak to your pharmacists for over the counter medicines that may help manage itching and inflammation.
  • Drink plenty of water.

Dry, rough and cracked skin on feet can heal on its own. For more severe cases of rough, dry, or cracked skin, talk with your doctor about other treatment options.



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Frequently Asked Questions
What causes cracked heels?

Cracks can occur on the heels when the skin becomes dry and rough. The skin on the heels contains no sebaceous glands (the glands that produce skin oil). For this reason, the heels can become dry more easily than the skin on most other areas of the body. Because the heels of the feet are subjected to a large amount of friction from shoes and pressure from standing and walking, they are especially vulnerable to cracking and splitting as a result of dry skin.

How to fix cracked heels?

There is no way to permanently fix cracked heels. While cracks can be healed, keeping the problem at bay requires maintenance in order to prevent the skin from cracking and splitting in the future. There are a number of ways to treat and prevent cracked heels:

Moisturizing is the first step towards healing and preventing cracked heels. Thick creams formulated especially for the feet should be applied after bathing or showering to lock in moisture.
Exfoliating with a pumice stone, foot scrub or alpha and beta hydroxy acids can help reduce and remove thickened skin that can lead to cracking.
Wearing properly fitted shoes with socks can help prevent friction that can cause thick, callused skin that’s vulnerable to splits and cracks.

Severe cracks that cause ongoing pain or bleeding should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

How to get rid of dry skin on the feet?

Properly moisturizing is essential for reducing dry skin on the feet. Because the skin on the feet tends to be especially rough and thick, it’s important to use a rich moisturizer formulated specifically for the unique skin of your feet. Moisturizers work best when they are applied to wet skin so it’s vital to moisturize following a shower or bath. This helps seal the moisture in and prevent future dryness.

Regular exfoliation can also help reduce dry, rough skin on the feet. This can be done using a physical exfoliator such as a scrub or pumice stone. There are also chemical exfoliating products that contain ingredients such as salicylic and alpha hydroxy acid.

How to treat cracked skin between the toes?

Oftentimes cracks and sores between the toes are caused by athlete’s foot which is a fungal infection. One of the signs of athlete’s foot is itching and irritation between the toes.

Athlete’s foot can often be treated with over-the-counter topical products containing an anti-fungal ingredient. Stronger treatments may be prescribed by a doctor for more severe cases of athlete’s foot that don’t respond to over-the-counter treatments.

It’s important to wash and dry the feet thoroughly every day, including between the toes. Moisturizers should not be applied between the toes as this can leave the skin vulnerable to further infection Suspected skin infections that do not fit the above descriptions or respond to OTC treatment should be assessed by a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment recommendation.

How to heal cracked skin?

Moisturizing regularly can help heal cracked skin since lack of moisture is the primary cause of skin cracks. Moisturizers are most effective when applied to wet skin after cleansing. This helps seal in the moisture to prevent dryness. Severe cracks that don’t heal or cause persistent pain or bleeding should be assessed by a healthcare professional.

What causes dry skin on the feet?

Dry skin on the feet is caused by lack of moisture and can occur more readily during periods where the weather is dry and cold. Unlike most areas of the body, there are no sebaceous (oil producing) glands on the soles of the feet. This leaves the skin vulnerable to dryness. There are also other factors that can contribute to dry skin on the feet:

• Some soaps and body washes contain ingredients which can strip moisture from the skin, leaving it dry.
• The feet are often overlooked when moisturizing after showering or bathing, causing the water to evaporate and dry out the skin.
• Dry, thickened skin often builds up on the feet due to friction.
• Dry air can draw moisture from the skin. Walking barefoot and wearing open toed shoes in the summer can contribute to dry, rough skin.