Dry skin is something we all deal with, but it seems like when our feet get dry, they get atomic levels of dry to the point where normal lotions don’t cut it. They need the best foot cream.
There’s a scientific reason your feet are likely to be the driest part of your body.
Your skin acts as a barrier to keep microbial threats out of our bodies and keep moisture in. When that armor is compromised, we can start losing that moisture. Our bodies combat this with oil glands in our skin that produce natural oils to keep our skin hydrated and sealed off. It’s a fairly good system.
But the bottoms of your feet are one of the few parts of your skin that don’t have oil glands. Which makes sense–can you imagine trying to walk around with oily feet? I already slip and fall for no reason. The last thing I need is the whole world feeling like a freshly waxed floor.
This evolutionary tactic leaves our feet vulnerable to drying out. Dry skin itches and can crack, exposing us to infection. It’s important to keep our feet properly moisturized so they can properly perform their job.
What causes dry feet?
Dry feet has all the same causes as dry skin on the rest of your body, with a few causes specific to feet. Non-moisturizing soaps, spending time in hot water, too much sun exposure, and dry air either from heating or natural climate can cause skin to lose too much moisture.
Ill-fitting shoes or shoes that don’t allow your feet to breathe can also cause dry skin. As anyone who has lived through the resurgences of the trend of plastic jelly shoes can tell you, when your feet can’t breathe, they sweat. That moisture has to come from somewhere, and it’s coming from your feet’s water reserves.
There are several medical conditions like eczema and psoriasis cause dry skin wherever you are affected and your feet are no exception.
Diabetes can also cause dry feet as well as make the body more susceptible to infection so it’s especially important for diabetics to take good care for their feet before they get to the cracking stage.
Is it dry skin or athlete’s foot?
One tricky issue is that athlete’s foot can sometimes look a lot of like simple dry skin. Both this common fungal infection and dry skin can cause flaky, dry, itchy feet.
They can be hard to tell apart unless the athlete’s foot has really progressed. I’m not a doctor and can’t definitively say anything with authority, but the general litmus test is do you have dry skin between your toes? Because that’s not normal dry skin and you want to be seen by a doctor or be looking at anti-fungal creams at the very least.
This is important here because if you have athlete’s foot, moisturizers will only make your problem worse. If you’ve been putting even the best foot cream on your dry skin for a couple of weeks and the dryness is getting worse, you’ll need to reevaluate the situation.
What causes cracked heels?
When our feet get too dry our skin loses its ability to properly stretch causing it to crack open creating fissures that are painful and can easily become infected. Most often, cracked heels happen when you combine super dry skin and either standing for a very long time or wearing sandals or clogs with open backs.
Shoes that don’t have a back to them don’t give any support or compression to the heel of your foot. Without that support, the pad of your heel spreads out wider than it would in sneakers for example.
This spreading causes the skin to bulge out the side, almost in a pinched position. That puts the skin on the edges of your heels under a lot of strain and when your skin is dry and in trouble already, it can open and cause a fissure.
If you don’t have a medical condition that can make these a more serious problem (like diabetes) and your feet aren’t infected, a good moisturizer should be enough to heal cracked heels with proper use.
When to see a doctor.
If you have the access and financial means, I say the time to see a doctor is when you start wondering if you need to see a doctor.
If it’s a little more complicated than that, it’s important to get medical attention when there are signs of obvious infection like puss or weeping or seriously foul odors. If you’re having difficulty walking from foot pain or the dry skin has spread to the tops of your feet or your toenail–these are signs you might need something more than a quality foot cream.
Can’t I just grate all the dry skin off?
Well, sort of. Pedicure machines are meant to remove calluses which are different from dry skin.
Calluses are a build up of dead skin that your body creates on purpose in response to repeated pressure or friction. Your body means to make a callus but your body doesn’t ever intend to have dry foot skin.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use these machines and files to help rid of you the dry skin. Just be aware that there is live, feeling skin under there and it’s easy to go too far especially if you have a medical condition that causes you to lose feeling in your feet.
For more information you can check out my guide to the Best Electric Pedicure Machines. Either way, you always want to use a good moisturizer after exfoliating.
How to get touchably soft feet.
Three things: hydrate, make use of your AHA’s, and moisturize.
Hydrate. If you’re not drinking enough water, all your parts are going to be dry. That moisture has to come from somewhere.
AHA’s. Alpha hydroxy acids are natural acids derived from foods that are used in chemical peels. Lotions that have AHA’s, and body peels in general, will help your body remove dead skin that has built up so you can deliver the moisture where you need. it.
People have been using AHA’s to soften our skin since Cleopatra. For more information on how AHA’s work, see my guide to the Best Body Peels.
Moisturize. Keep reading this post for the best foot cream of 2018 to keep your feet supple and soft. To make the most of them, apply before bed and wear cotton socks to keep your creams from rubbing off on the sheets.
1. Ahava Dead Sea Water Mineral Foot Cream
I’ve included Ahava’s creams in my other moisturizers articles because their Dead Sea minerals have been known for their skin benefits in multiple ways. Dead Sea minerals soften skin, stimulate the growth of fresh new cells, kill acne-causing bacteria, and soothe skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
They also coax dry skin into opening up and drawing in and keeping more moisture. You know how eating too much salt causes you to retain water? Well, salt causes your skin to retain water and that’s a good thing when you have dry feet.
Ahava actually has three foot creams which I would recommend in order of how intense you need your moisturizer to be.
If you have dry feet and are looking to hydrate and prevent them from getting worse, the Dead Sea Water Mineral Foot Cream is for you. It’s the lightest moisturizer and uses avocado, jojoba, sweet almond, and wheat germ oils along with glycerin and aloe vera to hydrate skin.
Dead Sea water does its thing while antibacterial tea tree and astringent witch hazel condition skin, helping it to hold on to more moisture. Lactic and salicylic acids act as a gentle chemical peel to rid you of built up dead skin.
The fragrance is clean smelling and nondescript. Some have called it perfumey, but on your feet, you tend to smell it less so it’s not the biggest problem if the fragrance isn’t your cup of tea.
If your feet and heels are already in bad shape and need a little extra care, go for heavier creams like the Ahava Dead Sea Mud Dermud Intensive Foot Cream which adds Dead Sea mud to the mix along with coconut and sea buckthorn oils.
For cracked heels go with the Ahava Clineral D-Medic Foot Cream which was developed with dermatologists and targets cracked heels with Dead Sea minerals and mud, specific oils, and botanical extracts. Keep in mind, however, with this last one that you need to wait 10 minutes before wearing socks or shoes after applying.
It’s all a matter of how heavy you need your foot cream to be.
- Three choices of hydration levels, all with Dead Sea minerals
- Free of parabens, GMO’s, sulfates, petroleum, or animal products
- Cruelty free
- Strong enough to tackle cracked heels
- Clineral D-Medic is artifical fragrance free
- Not everyone loves the fragrance
2. CND Cucumber Heel Therapy
The Cucumber Heel Therapy from CND targets heels and other rough patches like elbows and knees. It’s a super concentrated cream so you only need a little bit at a time, meaning your jar can last you a long time.
The star of the show is cucumber extract which has a cooling, refreshing feel to it as well as being an anti-inflammatory.
This cream has the scent of fresh cut cucumber, that sweet, cold, melon-y smell that always reminds me of summer. If it’s important to you that all your moisturizers are dreamy to smell, then Cucumber Heel Therapy is a good choice.
Unlike some of the other botanical heavy creams, this one doesn’t contain camphor or eucalyptus so it may be more comfortable to put on severely cracked heels. Plus it doesn’t have that menthol, Vic’s fragrance.
Instead, botanicals like calming chamomile extract and cooling aloe vera hydrate and soothe irritated skin. To further moisturize, CND uses urea, vitamin B5, soybean oil, and lactic acid which is almost a very mild chemical peel to help remove built up dead skin. It soaks in quickly and isn’t greasy.
- Great pick for cracked heels
- Fresh cucumber fragrance
- Nourishing botanicals like chamomile, cucumber, and aloe vera
- Mild chemical peel from lactic acid
- A little goes a long way
- Contains artificial colors
- Rather small jar
3. Elemis Treat Your Feet Foot Cream
Elemis’ Treat Your Feet Foot Cream has a cooling sensation to soothe irritated skin and intensely moisturizing oils. It uses camphor and eucalyptus oils for their cooling and healing properties which also means you probably don’t want to put this one on broken skin.
Patchouli oil adds fragrance and encourages healing and stimulates cell production. Between the patchouli and camphor, this does have an assertive herbal scent that fades quickly.
For hydration, Treat Your Feet contains shea butter, jojoba oil, glycerin, beeswax, urea, and mineral oil. Shea butter and jojoba oil are some of the top moisturizers I would want in any cream for very dry skin.
Urea is a moisturizer that is naturally made by the human body and dry skin often signifies that your body can’t produce enough and that’s where lab-made urea comes in as a substitute. For most people this is the perfect, body-compatible moisturizer.
A rare few, myself included, tend to react to urea–but if you do you probably already know it since urea is in a fair number of products these days from skin lotions to deodorants.
Treat Your Feet is a thick, luxuriant cream that can transform rough, chapped heels into sandal ready feet.
- Cooling eucalyptus and camphor
- Contains shea butter and jojoba oil
- Fragrant patchouli oil aids in healing
- Trusted luxury brand
- Contains PEG’s and mineral oil
- Not vegan (beeswax)
4. L’Occitane Shea Butter Foot Cream
L’Occitane is a high end French brand that often uses lavender oil sourced locally from Provence, France.
This thick, intensely hydrating cream is 15 percent fair-trade shea butter. It sounds like a small number, but for a lotion that’s a huge percentage. Along with 15 percent shea butter, the L’Occitane Foot Cream also packs coconut oil, sunflower seed oil, and glycerin. This is heavy duty stuff that can tackle deeply cracked heels, scaly soles, and tough, dry feet.
Many foot creams are meant for daily use, but this cream is so potent you can only use it occasionally and still have your flaky feet transformed into touchable toes. That also makes your tube last longer since you only have to use it as needed.
It has a relaxing lavender scent and includes extracts of rosemary and arnica–rosemary is antiseptic and arnica is most commonly used on sore back muscles, so if you suffer from aching feet arnica is a perfect addition to your foot cream.
- 15 percent fair-trade shea butter
- Arnica extract for sore muscles
- Ultra concentrated
- Can tackle cracked heels
- Calming lavender fragrance
- Contains mineral oils
5. Kneipp Healthy Feet Foot Repair
This calendula and rosemary foot cream harnesses the skin nourishing powers of botanical extracts to soften feet and condition your skin.
Calendula is one of the gentlest, most nourishing botanicals there is for your skin. This yellow-orange flower eases pain, reduces inflammation, and contains vitamin A and antioxidants.
Rosemary moisturizes, supports collagen production, and is naturally antiseptic–did I mention foot odor generally comes from bacteria?
To aid these herbs, deep moisturizers like shea butter, sweet almond oil, sunflower seed oil, glycerin, and urea restore hydration to parched skin with this thick, buttery cream.
Extracts of hops, orange flower, and maritime pine reduce inflammation, itching, and redness. It does have a prominent menthol scent to it from camphor and eucalyptus which soothe inflammation and itching.
All of these botanicals make this a very calming balm for irritated feet and cracked heels that need the help of an intensely hydrating foot cream. Compared to some of the others, this one might take a little longer to soak in, but it’s perfect for a nighttime treatment.
- Lots of soothing botanicals
- Strong menthol smell from eucalyptus and camphor
- Deeply hydrating shea butter, sweet almond oil, and urea
- Thick, rich texture
- Scent is strong
- Takes a little longer to absorb
6. Queen Odelia Nourishing Foot Cream
For a foot cream that is packed with loads of hydrating moisturizers, Queen Odelia is a great choice. It’s a very thick cream that’s almost whipped because it goes on lightweight for such a rich cream.
It absorbs quickly and is nongreasy which is always a plus. The unique moisturizers in this is prickly pear seed oil which is high in essential fatty acids and has more vitamin E than even argan oil. Vitamin E is great for skincare as it fights free radicals and rejuvenates skin by stimulating cell turnover.
On top of that, this cream also includes jojoba oil, argan oil, coconut oil, glycerin, silicone, and aloe vera for deep hydration.
Dead Sea minerals help your skin absorb more moisture and witch hazel and algae extracts condition and improve the texture of your skin.
It has a light, pleasant fragrance and is a great choice for a foot cream to follow up your exfoliation. My only criticism is that this could easily be used on your whole body as a body cream as it doesn’t directly target feet with any of its ingredients.
- Hydrating prickly pear seed oil, jojoba oil, and argan oil
- Never greasy
- Chock full of vitamin E
- Contains antibacterial witch hazel and Dead Sea minerals
- Nothing seemingly foot related
7. Bag Balm by Vermont’s Original
While not a specialized foot cream, this is a long-trusted ointment for softening dry, painful skin anywhere. It’s gentle enough to be used on lips but concentrated enough to treat cracked heels.
Bag Balm was originally developed to be used on cow utters to protect them from getting chapped in the cold, harsh Vermont winters. But humans quickly picked up that it works just as well for dry cracked hands, elbows, knees, feet and more.
There are only four ingredients in this tin: petroleum, lanolin, 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate, and paraffin wax. Some may not be that excited by the inclusion of petroleum, but we know for a fact that it works to moisturize and keep hydration sealed into your skin.
Lanolin is a natural moisturizing oil extracted from sheep’s wool. It’s intensely hydrating as well as soothing for skin irritation.
The 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate is an anti-septic which stops the growth of both bacteria and fungi making this great for use on both infection-susceptible cracked heels and minor scratches.
- Deeply hydrating lanolin and petroleum
- Antibacterial and antifungal
- Ultra concentrated
- Can tackle cracked heels
- Great for the rest of your body
- Made in Vermont
- Contains petroleum so can be slightly greasy
- Not vegan (lanolin)
8. Glytone Ultra Softening Heel and Elbow Cream
This is going to be the odd man out in the foot cream list. This foot cream by Glytone is targeted to the driest, thickest, most callused, and most hardened feet. I’m talking the parts of your feet that you want to pumice, grate, or shave off.
This foot cream is odd because you have to wash off–it’s a combination foot cream and chemical peel. The thick, silky cream is packed with moisturizing glycerin, vitamin E, and mineral oil, but the active ingredient is glycolic acid.
Glycolic acid is derived from sugar and breaks down dead skin so that you can remove it easily and reveal the soft, fresh skin underneath.
You apply this foot cream a couple time a week to the hardened areas of your feet and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes while it hydrates and while the glycolic acid does its job. Then you want to rinse it off. Glycolic acid is strong stuff and if you leave it on too long it can leave a kind of burn. But it’s unarguably effective against calluses and hardened, cracked heels.
That said, this isn’t for everyone. If you only have slightly rough feet seasonally and are just looking for a good cream, this isn’t for you.
- Erases calluses and hardened built up skin with chemical peel action
- Hydrating glycerin and vitamin E
- Contains parabens, PEG’s, and mineral oils
- You have to wash it off
9. Nu Skin Epoch Sole Solution Foot Treatment
If the idea of a foot chemical peel appeals to you, but the Glytone cream seemed a little too strong, you might want to try Nu Skin Epoch Sole Solution Foot Treatment. First off, kudos to Nu Skin for the punny name, but back to business.
The Sole Solution Foot Treatment contains papain which is a proteolytic enzyme found in papayas. It’s not a standard acid chemical peel, but it will help to break down dead skin in the same way.
These enzymes are why pineapple makes your mouth feel funny after a while. This enzyme will slowly dissolve your dead skin in a much more gentle way than a strong glycolic peel.
You don’t have to wash this off, you just apply it like any other foot cream. That does mean that it will take longer to see dramatic results, but for some that’s absolutely worth it.
To speed up the process, Nu Skin also includes a tiny amount of sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, in this cream. Sodium hydroxide is a common main ingredient in cuticle removers, but this small amount will only help to increase the chemical peel action.
This cream also contains deeply hydrating urea, glycerin, silicone, and extract of allspice berries–a unique ingredient which is antibacterial, antioxidant, increases blood flow to your feet, and gives the cream its warm fragrance.
- Allspice extract nourishes skin
- Hydrating urea and glycerin
- Papaya enzymes act as a chemical peel
- A little goes a long way
- No parabens or artificial fragrances
- Contains alcohol and sodium hydroxide which can be drying
10. All Purpose Salve by Ora’s Amazing Herbal
Harnessing the power of natural herbal remedies, this salve is an all-purpose moisturizer that is tough enough to tackle cracked heels. This salve hydrates with grapeseed oil, coconut oil, beeswax, and Vitamin E. These oils are rich and emollient, meaning they are good at sealing in moisture.
The oils are infused with organic herbs like calendula, comfrey, chickweed, St. John’s wart, burdock, thyme, rosemary, tea tree, cedar, and plantain. I’m not talking about the banana shaped plantains–the plantain plant is a leafy herb that contains a slippery gel similar to aloe.
This combination of herbs soothes irritation and helps to kill the microbes that cause infection. It has a pleasant herbal scent and rich texture. For best results you’ll want to apply this at night and cover with socks.
Price: From $11.97
- Deep hydration from coconut oil, beeswax, and grapeseed oil
- Antibacterial and soothing organic herbs
- All purpose
- A little greasy for day wear
- Not vegan (beeswax)
- Factory also processes strawberries so avoid if you have an allergy