Happy Feet: How To Combat Dry Skin & Cracked Heels

Save your soles with these soothing foot remedies


Feet are unattractive at the best of times, let alone when they're drier than the Sahara. Photo / Getty Images.

Dry, cracked heels are hardly a sexy subject, but it’s a more widespread concern than you think.

Foot dryness is a common complaint amongst women, especially when feet are on display in all manner of high heels, sandals and slides during the balmy summer months.

READ: Viva Life Hacks: How To Make Your High Heels More Comfortable

Our paws suffer the most punishment of all our appendages, from carrying us on our daily commute, through to being squished into heels for a night on the tiles.

If you’re suffering with a case of post-summer dryness, follow our gross-but-satisfying ways to leave your feet feeling baby soft.

THE CAUSE
Most commonly, dead or loose skin forming on your feet is your body’s way of naturally exfoliating and shedding dead skin cells. This dead skin can build up from the friction of walking or running, or if you don’t offer your tootsies regular TLC.

Dry skin on the sole of your feet can indicate severe dehydration, which often results rough skin texture or in extreme cases, skin cracking.

Other causes include:

Environmental factors like heat and humidity, which can result in water loss and the thickening of the top layer of skin.

Footwear can cause skin dryness, as the inside of a sneaker or another type of closed-toe shoe can reach baking temperatures.

Super-hot showers aren’t kind to skin anyway, let alone your feet.

Soaps or cleansers can affect the skin’s acid mantle and strip it of its protective barrier, leaving skin irritated and dry.

Vitamin or nutrient deficiencies, especially vitamin A and essential fatty acids (like alpha-linoleic acid and gamma-linoleic acid). Medical conditions like diabetes, hypothyroidism, Crohn’s or coeliac disease can also cause mal-absorption of these nutrients.

Hormonal and metabolic changes as we age can affect skin cell turnover, resulting in a thickening of the skin’s outer dermis. Ageing is also to blame for the fat in the ball of the foot thinning, leading to skin stress and cracking.

CALL IN THE EXPERTS
It may look harmless, but sometimes dry foot skin can signal infection or disease, like calluses, athlete’s foot or atopic dermatitis. If you suspect this is the case, consult your healthcare professional.

Never attempt to use a scalpel or other sharp tool to scrape away dead skin — leave that to your doctor or podiatrist. Accidental cuts can lead to infection.

Leave it to the pros and give your feet a treat by booking in for one of these bespoke foot spa treatments.

Chuan Feet Retreat at Chuan Spa, Cordis Hotel
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: From $165
Designed to boost circulation and relieve tired feet, this treatment includes an aromatic foot soak, oil and herbal salt exfoliation, foot mask and Chinese pressure massage.

Spring Signature Foot Massage, Spring Spa
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $100
Allow the team at Spring Spa to relieve you of your dry skin woes.

Smooth Operator, Forme Spa
Price: $29
Designed as an add-on to any Lush or Luxe Pedicure, this callus peel treatment is designed to combat dryness.

Warm Milk and Sandalwood Pedicure, East Day Spa
Duration: 60 minutes
Price: $80
This luxe pedicure sees feet bathed in sandalwood-spiced milk to help you relax and unwind.

Sodashi Soothing Mint Foot Therapy, Spa at the Pullman
Duration: 30 minutes
Price: $50
Sore feet are soothed in this invigorating Himalayan salt polish, followed by the application of mint foot cream, arnica, lavender and peppermint oils.

HOME REMEDIES
If you’d rather tackle the problem from the privacy of your own bathroom, then these home remedies are just the ticket.

Pumice is a natural lava stone commonly used to remove dead skin from feet. Simply soak it in warm water and move in circulation motions around the foot, focusing on removing the top layer of skin only. Apply foot cream as the final step.

Create a DIY oatmeal scrub using equal parts oatmeal and milk to form a paste. Apply the scrub to feet and let it set for up to half an hour, before using a foot brush to remove and rinsing thoroughly with cold water. Let your feet air dry before applying foot cream.

Epsom salts are revered for their mineral properties. Dissolve ½ cup Epsom salt into a footbath and soak feet for up to 20 minutes. For best results, use a pumice stone or foot brush afterwards.

Vinegar is another key ingredient that may help soften feet. Combine 1 part apple cider or white wine vinegar with 2 parts cold water. Soak feet for five to 10 minutes. Once per week should do the trick.

Footloose and fancy-free: Give these skin-loving foot products a try for smoother soles. Photos / Supplied.

TREAT YOUR FEET
Sephora Collection Foot Mask, $7. These disposable sock masks are soaked in either lavender or almond oils to nourish feet in 20 minutes.

Weleda Skin Food, $19. Skin Food is good for just about anything – including relieving dry feet. It’s been a popular choice since its inception in 1926, so if you’re late to the party, we recommend jumping on board.

Star Skin Magic Hour Exfoliating Double-Layer Foot Mask Socks, $27. If you’re after a little something ‘extra’, then these exfoliating socks are it. They help remove dead skin and calluses minus the harsh scrubbing.

Scholl Velvet Smooth Foot File, $90. This rechargeable foot file offers multiple speeds to help you buff away dry skin. Plus it’s waterproof.

Lush Pumice Power Foot Soap, $13. This soap/pumice bar breaks down tough skin using a combination of organic sweet orange oil, rapeseed and coconut oils.

The Body Shop Hemp Hard-Working Foot Protector, $27. Buzz ingredient hemp is the hero of this heavy-duty foot cream, which hydrates and softens dry feet while conditioning nails.

Tui Balms Foot Massage Balm, $20, combines a waxy texture with peppermint and spearmint oil to treat dry feet and invigorate the senses. 

Kiehl’s Callus Cream, $46. This emollient treatment looks to avocado oil and Shea butter to offer intense moisturise to dry, callused areas. 

PREVENTION
While we’re hesitant to add yet another step to your daily beauty routine, a little goes a long way when it comes to keeping your feet flake-free.

  • Soak your feet a few times per week in therapeutic oils and use a pumice stone, foot brush or file to gently exfoliate skin afterwards.
  • Moisturise feet regularly with a foot cream containing alpha-hydroxy acid or lanolin.
  • Ditch the heavily fragranced soaps, and hot showers, saunas and steamy baths are a big no-no.
  • Take extra care when drying your feet, so gently pat feet dry after a shower instead of vigorous rubbing.
  • Up your intake of essential fatty acids by including flaxseed oil, walnuts, canola oil and evening primrose oil into your diet.

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New Zealand Herald

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