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Best cream for cracked heels 2023: Heal your heels and banish painful cracks and fissures

Rid your feet of painful fissures and calluses with our guide to the best creams for cracked heels – these products are good for the sole

Cracked heels are not the best way to accessorise your summer slingbacks. As well as looking unsightly and feeling sore, heel cracks – also known as fissures – can get infected and cause a skin condition called cellulitis (no relation to cellulite, except that you probably don’t want either condition). There’s no single cause of cracked heels, but dry skin, standing for long periods and using harsh soaps can all make fissures and calluses more likely, and the condition often coincides with diabetes and athlete’s foot.

The best creams for cracked heels work by intensely moisturising the skin, and contain active ingredients such as shea butter and the super-softening substance urea, which can penetrate, exfoliate and hydrate thick, hard skin. Even if your heels aren’t cracked but you suffer rough skin on your feet, these ingredients will work wonders to smooth and soften those hard-working soles.

Read on for our guide to buying the best cream to heal your heels. To go straight to our recommended best creams for cracked heels, skip down the page.

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How to choose the best cream for cracked heels

How should I treat cracked heels?

Most cases of cracked heels can be treated at home by soaking your feet, then applying an intensive heel crack cream that contains a good proportion of urea (20-30% urea will get the job done quickly). Do this every night, and you should start to see an improvement within a couple of days. You might want to wear cotton socks to keep the cream from getting all over your bed sheets, though. You can put urea cream on all patches of dry skin on your feet, but avoid getting it on delicate skin such as between your toes.

Once the urea cream has helped to repair the cracks and turn that dry, thick, skin into something a little more pink, you can start to ease off on the high urea content. Ensure that you continue to maintain good hygiene to avoid repeating the problem, including wearing clean socks every day and drying your feet carefully. A non-urea foot cream that contains shea butter is a good way to maintain soft skin all over your feet.

If your job requires you to stand for long periods, you may need to keep up the regime with a good cream for cracked heels, but don’t shy away from walking. Moving around on your feet is actually really good for the skin of those poor soles. So if you’re standing a lot, you could always sneak in a cheeky dance while no-one’s watching. Your heels will thank you for it.

What ingredients should I look for?

Urea, also known as carbamide, is widely used in skincare products because it hydrates and exfoliates the skin. It’s able to penetrate deep into the epidermis, locking moisture in and rehydrating, even through calloused skin. Strong 40% urea preparations can be powerful enough to degrade toenails as well as dramatically soften hard skin on your feet, so go easy with this stuff. Slightly less strong preparations are ideal for softening hard skin and treating fungal infections.

If you’re thinking the word ‘urea’ sounds a bit, well, toiletty, then you’d be right: urea is the main nitrogen-containing substance in the urine of mammals. Don’t let that put you off though. Most urea used in products (everything from hair conditioner to explosives) is manufactured synthetically, so it is usually safe for vegans.

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Shea butter may sound innocuous but it’s actually a powerful weapon in the war on dry and damaged skin, and often turns up alongside urea in the best creams for cracked heels. It’s rich in fats, so it’s an excellent emollient that absorbs really fast, creating a smooth barrier to seal in moisture. Research has also shown that shea butter has anti-inflammatory properties, calms itchiness, and helps to relieve soreness caused by cracked heels, eczema and athlete’s foot.

Lanolin is a waxy substance that nourishes skin and hydrates it thoroughly. It turns up in all sorts of skincare products, from lip balm to nipple creams. Suitable for sensitive skin, but not for vegans, because it’s derived from sheep’s wool (indeed, it’s often called “wool fat”).

Bisabolol is derived from chamomile. It acts as an antibacterial and anti-irritant, protecting the skin from everyday damage, and promoting the skin’s healing process.

Petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, may not be the magic crack-healing ingredient we all once thought it was. A 2018 study found that it can prevent the skin from performing its natural protective film, slowing healing and increasing the risk of infection. So if you’re suffering from cracked heels, we’d recommend a special urea-containing cream instead, especially if the cracks are at risk of infection.

The best cracked heel creams to buy now

1. Flexitol Rescue Heel Balm: Best cream to repair cracked heels

Price: £4.75 for 56g | Buy now from Amazon

UK company Flexitol specialises in foot skincare products designed to soften hard skin, treat fungal infections and repair cracked heels.

This 25% urea cream contains less urea than some, but 25% is about right if you’re on your feet a lot, because it heals cracks without eating away your thickened heel skin. That leaves you with a bit of extra padding for comfort and protection. And if you would rather file off the thick skin, Flexitol softens it enough to make the job easy and painless.

We really like the consistency of this cream, which is much thicker than many, and absorbs really fast, leaving no sticky residue. It’s ideal for applying on at night after your bath (once you’ve carefully dried your feet), with or without socks for protection in bed.

Key specs – Size: 340g; Format: Cream; Active ingredient: Shea butter, urea 25%

2. Margaret Dabbs London Pure Cracked Heel Treatment Balm: Best natural cream for cracked heels

Price: £18 for 30g | Buy now from Margaret Dabbs

This balm might be pricey but Margaret Dabbs OBE is a renowned podiatrist whose products are vegan and sustainably sourced, all of which helps to justify the price.

What’s more, this is a great alternative to urea-based products which can be unforgiving on sensitive skin and aren’t suitable to slather all over your feet. If you’re after a powerful cream that you can use a little more liberally, this delicious-smelling balm offers a balance between effectiveness and gentleness.

It still contains exfoliating ingredients (including salicylic acid, better known as a facial exfoliant), so don’t go overboard with it on delicate areas of your feet. However it feels wonderfully soothing, thanks to its blend of oregano and manuka tree oils that heal and soften dry, cracked skin while also fighting bacteria and fungus.

Key specs – Size: 30g; Format: Cream; Active ingredients: Oregano and manuka tree oils, salicylic acid, benzoic acid

Buy now from Margaret Dabbs

3. Scholl Cracked Heel Repair Cream Active Repair K+: Best value cream for cracked heels

Price: £4.50 for 60ml | Buy now from Amazon

Foot care specialists Scholl have combined urea formulated with keratin and urea to prevent infection in cracks, and to exfoliate and repair damaged skin. Be aware that it contains lanolin, so it’s not suitable for vegans.

Amazon’s price for this market-leading cream for cracked heels goes up and down like a foot on hot coals, and occasionally dips as low as £2, one-third of its RRP. At the time of writing it’s £4.50, still excellent value for one of the best cracked heel creams you can buy.

Key specs – Size: 50ml; Format: Cream; Active ingredient: Urea 25%, lanolin, keratin, panthenol (vitamin B5), bisabolol

4. YES!YOU 30% Urea Foot Cream: Most powerful over the counter cream for cracked heels

Price: £10 for 250ml | Buy now from Amazon

This powerful high-urea formula really gets to work on heel cracks, providing fast and effective moisturising that makes fast work on painful dry skin. It’s also good value, because a little goes a long way.

It’s not exactly the kind of foot cream you’ll want to slather all over after a bath, though. Firstly, it doesn’t smell very nice. Then you need to rub it in for a while, because it doesn’t absorb as quickly as the other creams on our list. It’s also non-vegan, thanks to its lanolin content. But if you’re at your wits’ end with heel cracks and just want them gone, this is the medicine for you.

Key specs – Size: 30g; Format: Cream; Active ingredients: Urea 30%, peach kernel oil, lanolin, glycerine

5. Jessica ZenSpa Intense Heel Repair Cream: Best cream for cracked heels and sweet-smelling feet

Price: £8 for 15ml | Buy now from LookFantastic

Another urea-free cream, this non-greasy formula relies on shea butter, vitamin E and aloe vera to deeply hydrate and repair cracked heels. It’s gentle enough to use all over your feet, so it’s a great maintenance option for formerly-cracked heels and dry skin. It absorbs really well, so it’s great for use at bedtime, and its divine lemongrass scent really helps to eliminate nasty whiffs.

Key specs – Size: 15ml; Format: Cream; Active ingredient: Aloe vera, shea butter, vitamin E

Buy now from LookFantastic

6. Löwengrip Feel my Heel Foot Balm: Best gentle cream for cracked heels and calluses

Price: £11 for 75ml | Buy now from LookFantastic

This super-soft, lemon-scented balm contains shea butter and a little urea to heal heel cracks and exfoliate the skin of your feet. The urea content isn’t high enough to irritate sensitive skin, so you can smooth it all over your feet (and hands, and knees) for a skin-softening treat. It’s not powerful enough to heal cracks and calluses overnight, but this non-greasy balm is such a pleasure to use that you’re unlikely to mind using it after every bath and shower.

Key specs – Size: 75ml; Format: Balm; Active ingredient: Shea butter, urea

Buy now from LookFantastic

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