How to Cope With Dry Skin and Cracks on Your Feet

Do you have dry, cracked skin on your feet? If so, you are not alone. Dry, cracked feet are a common foot problem.

Dry skin, also known as xerosis, can be simply a cosmetic problem. Or, it may lead to symptoms such as itchiness, rash, or even pain and infection.

Sometimes dry skin occurs on multiple areas of the body as part of an underlying health issue. But other times, only the feet are affected, resulting in cracked skin or calluses on the heels or soles of the feet.

Products to Help Dry, Cracked Feet
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Ultimately, dryness and cracking occurs when there is a lack of moisture in the skin. However, you may need to do some detective work to determine the reasons.

This article explains the causes and treatment of dry feet. It also details ways to care for your dry feet at home.

Environmental Factors

Things your body comes into contact with may contribute to your feet's dryness. Environmental factors may include:

  • Heat and humidity: The inside of your shoe can get very hot—sometimes well over 120 F. This heat and humidity can cause your skin to lose moisture and thicken.
  • Skin cleansers: Certain soaps can strip protective oils from the skin. They can also leave irritating residues that contribute to dry skin.
  • Cold weather: Dry skin often worsens in the winter months. That's because cooler outdoor air is less humid. In addition, indoor heating further dries out the indoor air.

Skin Conditions

Certain skin conditions can result in dry, thickened skin on the feet. These conditions include:

In children, atopic dermatitis (eczema) is a common cause of dry, scaly skin on the feet.

Medical Conditions

Certain health conditions and nutritional deficiencies can lead to feet that are dry and cracked. These include:

Conditions that cause poor absorption of nutrients from your diet, such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease, may lead to vitamin and essential fatty acid deficiencies.


Due to changes in hormones and metabolism as you get older, your body replaces skin cells less often. These changes result in your skin's outermost layer growing thicker.

In addition, as you age, the protective fat pad on the sole gets thinner. As you lose this cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot, your skin becomes more stressed, leading to cracked, calloused skin.


Sensitivities, allergies, skin conditions, medical conditions, nutritional deficiencies, and aging can cause dry feet.

Care and Prevention

Often, you can moisturize dry feet at home. To soothe and prevent dry, cracked skin on your feet, consider using these:

  • Foot cream: Use a daily foot cream, preferably one that contains an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) or urea. AHA helps slough off dead skin cells and help the epidermis (the skin's outermost layer) retain moisture. Examples of AHAs include glycolic acid and lactic acid.
  • Lanolin: For rough or cracked areas of skin, try applying lanolin, which acts as an effective moisture barrier. You can buy lanolin over the counter (OTC) at any pharmacy. It is usually labeled as a product for breastfeeding parents, although you can use it for any form of dry, chapped skin.
  • Urea cream: Urea is a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory ingredient and very hydrating.
  • Hypoallergenic products: If you are prone to allergies or skin sensitivities, make sure to use products formulated for sensitive skin.
  • File or pumice stone: For rough areas on the soles of the feet, use a foot file or pumice stone after bathing or soaking your feet. This routine is very effective at keeping callouses from building up on the soles. For dry skin on the tops of the feet and the legs, try a loofah sponge or exfoliating skin product.

When To Call a Doctor

Most often, dry feet are not a cause for concern. However, if you notice the following signs of infection, you should contact your doctor:

  • Redness or warmth
  • Swelling
  • Fever
  • Pus coming from cracks in the skin


Calloused, cracked, dry feet may improve with creams or lotions. However, if they persist even with at-home treatment, you should have a podiatrist evaluate them.

A podiatrist can identify and treat the causes of dry skin, such as athlete's foot or eczema. Also, they can prescribe stronger medicated creams.

In addition, podiatrists can safely remove corns and calluses. Keeping other foot conditions in check can help prevent future problems, such as pain and skin wounds.


Environmental factors, aging, and some health conditions can lead to dry feet. Calloused feet may respond to at-home treatments like creams, pumice stones, and switching to sensitive-skin products. Otherwise, a podiatrist can help with diagnosis and treatment.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I get rid of thick, dead skin on my feet?

    You can get rid of thick, dead skin on the feet by using a foot peel. This product involves wearing a pair of plastic socks for one hour; the exfoliating chemicals within the socks will soak into the feet and allow dead skin to peel away over the course of multiple days. Some people may have a sensitivity to the exfoliating chemicals, so be sure to read the product ingredient list beforehand. Foot peels are available online and at many drug stores.

  • How do you heal cracked feet?

    You can heal cracked feet using a daily foot cream containing an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) such as glycolic acid or lactic acid. Lanolin-based products are also a popular choice for retaining moisture in the feet. If foot creams or lotions do not help heal cracked feet, it may be a good idea to visit a dermatologist.

  • Why are the bottoms of my feet peeling?

    The bottoms of your feet could be peeling due to sunburn, eczema, dry weather, athlete's foot, psoriasis, genetics, dehydration, or even reactive arthritis. The best way to remedy the peeling is by treating the underlying reason for it. If athlete's foot or eczema are the cause of foot peeling, a podiatrist can offer specialized treatment such as medicated creams for dry feet.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Institute For Preventive Foot Health. National Foot Health Assessment 2012.

  2. Boutrand LB, Thépot A, Muther C, et al. Repeated short climatic change affects the epidermal differentiation program and leads to matrix remodeling in a human organotypic skin modelClin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2017;10:43-50. doi:10.2147/CCID.S120800

  3. Kapur S, Watson W, Carr S. Atopic dermatitisAllergy Asthma Clin Immunol. 2018;14(Suppl 2):52. doi:10.1186/s13223-018-0281-6

  4. Safer JD. Thyroid hormone action on skinDermatoendocrinol. 2011;3(3):211-215. doi:10.4161/derm.3.3.17027

  5. Hashizume H. Skin aging and dry skin. J Dermatol. 2004;31(8):603-609. doi:10.1111/j.1346-8138.2004.tb00565.x

  6. Parker J, Scharfbillig R, Jones S. Moisturisers for the treatment of foot xerosis: a systematic reviewJ Foot Ankle Res. 2017;10:9. doi:10.1186/s13047-017-0190-9

Additional Reading

By Catherine Moyer, DPM
Catherine Moyer, DPM, is a podiatrist experienced in the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disorders of the foot and ankle.