Comparing to the supple skin on other parts of the body, the epidermal cells of the foot grow and renew at a relatively slower rate. As a result, the cutaneous surface of the foot tends to thicken more easily. With the impact from various external factors, such as the choice of shoes and inadequate day-to-day care, the skin conditions of the foot could worsen, ending up in the build-up of dead skin layers, calluses, corns, etc. Over time, if the problems are not properly dealt with, the foot can become covered with thick, hard skin – not the sight you want the world to see when you take off your shoes!
Constant friction between the foot and tight-fitting shoes (such as high heels) results in the gradual thickening of the stratum corneum of the epidermis. When sandals are worn in summer, the skin of the foot is exposed and easily gets in touch with dust and dirt; eventually, oxidation occurs on the stratum corneum of the epidermis. When topical care is overlooked, dead skins will form. On the other hand, the skin on the foot easily dries out because there is less sebum secretion. If the skin does not receive the necessary moisturization, the renewal rate of the skin would be affected as a result of inadequate moisture over time, which slows down the speed of the exfoliation of the aged epidermis layer and result in the build-up of dead skin.
Because the epidermal cells of the foot renew slowly and the ball-of-foot is taking the weight of our body every day, certain parts of the foot, such as the heel and the underside of the toes that are in direct contact with the ground, are subject to prolonged pressure and friction. As a result, the stratum corneum thickens to form calluses – which may turn into corns as the situation progresses. There is usually a conical core in a corn, which is a very dense knot of skin. The root of this core is embedded in the subcutaneous layer and the uppermost layer forms a knot, which can feel rather painful when it is pressured during walking. To prevent corns, do not wear shoes that are too tight or too hard. Pay attention to personal hygiene, and regularly clean off the dead skins of the feet to reduce the likelihood of calluses.
If the dead skin and calluses on the foot is not properly dealt with, cracked heels would follow. Fissures usually occur at the heel and they are caused by the thickening of the stratum corneum. As the weight of our whole body is supported by the heel, which needs to constantly move about, the same location is usually exposed to friction, which stimulates a defensive response from the stratum corneum – it continues to thicken to provide protection for the skin. With no sebaceous gland, the sole cannot enjoy the protection of a hydrolipidic film, making it difficult to prevent moisture from vaporising from the stratum corneum, especially on dry days. Affected by various inherent and external factors, the stratum corneum on the heel is much thicker than that on other parts of the body. If care for the stratum corneum is overlooked over an extended period, the complexion of the foot would worsen by the day. The thicker is the stratum corneum, the less elastic would that part of the skin be. When the thickness reaches a level that it can no longer withstand the stretch from foot movements, topical cracks will occur, forming thin and deep fissures. If these fissures extend to the vessels and nerves of the dermis, painful sensations will be experienced. Bleeding would also occur in serious cases. This is called “cracked heels”.