Don’t Let Dry Heels Ruin Sandal Season

Here's how you can keep your tootsies soft and smooth all summer long
closeup of feet in sandals

It’s finally summer…YES! 

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Are you ready to show off that pedicure?


No? Well, don’t be embarrassed or ashamed. While we all can’t be foot models, there are some things that we can do to get our tootsies ready for those ‘grammable summer moments.

If you’re tired of dry heels blocking your sandal season joy, we have some expert advice for how you can take them from dusty, crusty and desert-like to smooth, satiny and sensational.

Why do our heels get so dry?

There’s nothing like feeling a dry, sandpapery heel graze against your leg or watching it snag a new pair of pantyhose (facepalm). So, why do our heels become so rough and dry in the first place?

Dry skin is common and can be caused by a variety of things,” says dermatologist Wyatt J. Andrasik, MD. “Often, it is a combination of a few different factors.”

According to Dr. Andrasik, these factors include:

Age – “As we age, our skin changes. The accumulation of sun damage, decreased production of oil and reduced cell renewal contributes to dry skin.”

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Trauma – “Exposure to harsh environments, such as dry climates and repeated friction from rubbing, can lead to dry skin.”

Lack of maintenance – “People don’t always moisturize their heels — even if they moisturize the rest of their body.”

Dr. Andrasik also says that dry skin can sometimes be a sign of a more serious underlying condition.

“Dry, flaky skin can be a sign of atopic dermatitis, or eczema, a fungal infection or nutritional deficiencies, among others,” says Dr. Andrasik. In some cases, dry, cracked skin on the heels could signify diabetes. If you’re dealing with an underlying condition, it’s best to seek treatment from a healthcare provider rather than trying to get rid of the dry skin on your own.

What’s the best way to care for consistently dry heels?

If your situation stems from a lack of heel care instead of an underlying medical condition, there are some things you can do to take your heels from Brillo® to buttery soft.

Dermatologist Shilpi Khetarpal, MD, offers these helpful tips for establishing a dry heel care routine.

  • Moisturize at least twice per day with lotion, cream or ointment such as Vaseline®. It’s best to moisturize right after you bathe or shower. Look for ingredients like ceramides which are molecules that help trap water in the skin and restore its natural barrier.
  • Avoid soaking your feet because it can weaken the skin barrier and allow for excessive moisture loss.
  • Avoid washing your feet with hot water. Stick with lukewarm water instead.
  • When washing your feet, use gentle soaps without fragrance such as Dove® Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar or Cetaphil® Gentle Skin Cleanser.
  • At night, wear 100% cotton socks to retain the moisture in your feet.

Dr. Andrasik also emphasizes the importance of wearing socks.

“Wearing socks actually protects your feet. Socks add an additional layer between your skin and the environment and can limit damage to the outer layer of the skin. When it comes to socks, 100% cotton is the best material to avoid irritation,” he says.

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Is it safe to use callus shavers, graters, pumice stones or electronic foot files on our heels?

Dr. Andrasik says these tools are OK when used safely and in moderation. Should they be used on wet or dry feet? “Either can be done safely, but don’t file over any areas of inflamed, itchy or sensitive skin,” says Dr. Khetarpal.

If you’re not crazy about crusty heel dust flying everywhere or even grating your feet like a fine parmesan, Dr. Andrasik recommends trying an exfoliating moisturizer like a urea cream or AmLactin® lotion to soften up your heels.

And what about foot peels?

We’ve all heard about them from bloggers, vloggers, beauty magazines or that one friend who always likes to jump on the latest skincare craze. But is it OK to use a foot peel on rough heels? Dr. Khetarpal has this to say.

“Chemical foot peels can gently exfoliate the outer layers of skin, leading to an improved appearance and softer feel. They can be done safely, but should be avoided by those with underlying skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis or contact dermatitis (allergies to certain ingredients when in contact with the skin).”

Talk to a dermatologist if nothing seems to help

If you’ve tried it all and your heels just seem to hate moisture, it’s time to call in the cavalry. Schedule a consultation with a dermatologist to get to the bottom of your dry heel worries and woes. Dr. Andrasik explains.

“A dermatologist can evaluate you for an underlying pathologic process which may be contributing to your dry skin. In addition to this, dermatologists can offer advice on gentle skin care routines and safe products to keep your skin healthy.”

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