Cracked Heels & Pregnancy: What You Need to Know

Posted on: 30 October 2015

Pregnancy brings with it a host of discomforts, and your feet are no exception. The unique strain placed on the body can lead to painful conditions in the feet, including severe cracked heels. If you have developed deep fissures in your heels during your pregnancy, you can take steps to prevent and remedy them. 

What causes cracked heels during pregnancy?

Cracked heels occur because the skin of the heel does not have enough moisture. The outer layer begins to dry out and the skin is no longer flexible enough to support the subtle movements of the foot as you take a step. Pregnancy makes it more likely that you will develop this problem because:

  • the feet often swell (a condition known as edema) with excess fluid. The extra volume in the feet can send cracks deeper as the skin cannot expand to accommodate the larger foot size.
  • women are prone to over-pronation when pregnant, which caused the arch of the foot to flatten. This pulls as the skin the bottom of the foot, leading to more cracks.
  • women gain weight during pregnancy. Weight gain is one of the main risk factors for cracked heels. The sudden increase in body weight places more strain on the feet, deepening any existing fissures.
  • dehydration is more common in pregnancy. Lack of moisture leads to cracked heels, so when you don't drink enough water, your skin will naturally be more dry, including the skin on the bottoms of your feet.

Another common complication of pregnancy is gestational diabetes, which can also increase your chances of developing cracks. 

How can you prevent or treat cracked heels?

The best treatment, of course, is prevention. When you discover you are pregnant, take steps to prevent dry feet by:

  • not soaking them in hot baths for a long period of time. The hot water actually dries out your skin more. Pregnant women find some relief from aches and pains with a warm bath. Elevate your feet out of the water if you can. 
  • moisturizing after showering, swimming or bathing. Use plenty of oily hand cream or even petroleum jelly to re-hydrate your feet after water exposure. It's also a good idea to moisturize daily, especially during winter, when dry skin is more common.
  • taking prenatal vitamins. Poor nutrition can exacerbate skin problems, including cracked heels.
  • wearing good, closed shoes instead of flip flops.

If you have already started to develop cracks in your feet, you can restore your skin to health, especially if you take action when the cracks are small. For small cracks, you can buff away dry, dead skin with a pumice stone or foot file. If the cracks are not very deep, they will combined to the dry, dead outer layers of your heels skin. Do not pick at cracks to make them bigger or to even them out with the surrounding skin, as this can help deepen the cracks and be painful if you pull away too much skin and expose the living layers underneath. 

Unfortunately, if cracks are left untreated at home, they can be much harder to get rid of later on. Cracks will extend deep into the heel, even causes bleeding as all the the layers of skin divide. These wounds leave you open to infection and make it hard to walk as the cracks become very painful. At this point, it is best to seek help from a podiatrist, who can recommend a healing regimen for your feet. Be sure to check all medicines and creams with your OBGYN to make sure they are safe for pregnancy. 

If you have more questions about proper foot care during pregnancy, talk to a podiatrist in your area. 


could your feet be causing your problems?

Before my last pregnancy I never had any problems with my feet. Since the last pregnancy, however, I have not been able to wear the type of shoes that I loved and I could not go out for long walks like I used to. After my primary doctor told me that he could not explain the discomfort, I decided to visit a podiatrist to get some help. It was not until my first appointment that I realized how many problems feet can cause. My website is filled with examples of foot problems and what pains you may be experiencing due to problems with your feet.