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Diseases & Conditions

The heel problem that threatens your mobility

January 1, 2022

Cracked heels can cause pain, infection, and more.

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As we grow older, our feet can develop patches of thick, dead skin called calluses. Calluses are especially common on the heels, because they take a lot of pressure as we walk. That pressure, combined with older skin that’s often thin and dry, makes us susceptible to a common and potentially debilitating condition called cracked heels.

Why do we get calluses?

Calluses form as a result of friction. "Sometimes it’s caused by the way your foot strikes the floor, and sometimes it’s due to loose shoes like sandals, which cause your feet to move around and rub against the shoe. With all of that friction, the body protects itself by forming thicker skin on the heels," explains Sara Rose-Sauld, a podiatric surgeon with Harvard-affiliated Mass General Brigham Integrated Health.

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