Dry skin is a condition that usually appears on the soles and heels of the foot, and which can lead to hardened skin and cracks. Dry skin is not a dangerous condition, generally, but it can become uncomfortable or painful. If the cracking starts to bleed, it can lead to infection, which is particularly concerning to those with a chronic disease like diabetes or a vulnerable immune system due to illness or age.
There are many causes of dry skin. They range from simple matters of age, shoes that don’t fit the foot properly, nutrient deficiency, or dry skin due to heat and low humidity, to problems such as athlete’s foot, psoriasis, thyroid disease, diabetes, or various skin conditions.
Dry skin can usually be spotted as red or flaky patches, possibly with peeling and cracked skin, which will usually be quite itchy. If you’ve had such problems, you’ll also want to check for blistering around your toes—if you find any blisters, the problem is most likely athlete’s foot (see the athlete’s foot page for more information).
Otherwise, dry skin is best treated with therapeutic ointments or creams. Lotions won’t help; they usually contain alcohol, which will dry the skin out even more. You might use a pumice stone to rub away the hard, dry skin to allow the creams to better penetrate the skin. You could also check your shoes for tight spots or areas that rub, and use insoles or other adjustments to correct the problem. (Or buy some new shoes that fit your feet just right.)
If these methods don’t help and the dry skin and cracking worsens, or if bleeding occurs, consult with your podiatrist to get some expert help with the problem and ensure that there isn’t a deeper underlying condition causing the dry skin.