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Why Are My Feet Peeling?

With winter here to stay for the next few weeks, so are some of its less-than-enjoyable effects on your body – like dry, peeling, flaking, cracked skin on your feet. Sometimes this can be a direct result of the weather; sometimes it can be an aggravation of another foot issue.

Are you noticing dry, peeling skin on your feet? You’re not alone! It’s a very common issue, especially during the winter. Read on to discover four reasons why your feet are peeling, and some of our top tips for how to treat and prevent it!

1. Dry Skin

Yep, you guessed it! Dry skin is one of the biggest culprits behind peeling skin during the winter. The cold air outside mixed with dehydrating heat indoors can leave your feet desperate for moisture. This can cause the skin on your feet to peel and your heels to crack from dehydration. Thankfully, there are many things you can do at home to deal with this issue.

First, cutting down your time in hot baths and showers, as well as using a mild soap, will help prevent the dryness from getting worse. In addition, after bathing, and while your feet are still wet, apply a fragrance-free moisturizer to lock hydration into your skin. Be sure to also exfoliate the skin on your feet once a week to remove any dead skin. Just be careful not to do overdo it!

2. Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s Foot can also cause skin peeling along with itchiness, redness, and blistering. The rash will normally start between your toes, but it can then spread to the rest of the foot and cause cracking on the heels. Athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection that can be picked up easily from locker rooms, communal showers, pool decks, and any warm moist area where people walk barefoot. Damp socks and shoes also help Athlete’s Foot fester, making winter a prime season for infection.

If you’re experiencing foot peeling along with an itchy red rash, you can try a topical anti-fungal cream. It’s also important to note that Athlete’s foot, like any fungal infection, can be incredibly stubborn and persistent. If you think you may have Athlete’s foot and your symptoms aren’t going away, we recommend seeing a chiropodist for fungal testing and further treatment. Click here to learn more about how a chiropodist can help treat your Athlete’s foot.

3. Eczema

A skin condition that plagues thousands of Canadians, eczema (or atopic dermatitis) can appear anywhere on the body – including your feet! Eczema normally presents as itchy, red patches, but it can also cause skin peeling and cracks. Eczema is usually caused by environmental factors, like allergens and harsh soaps. The drying effects of winter on your skin, combined with moisture build-up from winter boots and thick socks, can also contribute to flare-ups this time of year.

If you think your foot peeling is caused by eczema, we recommend moisturizing your feet at least twice a day to soothe the inflamed skin. When moisturizing, use a non-scented specialty moisturizer suitable for sensitive skin, like Gehwol Med Sensitive or Gehwol Medicated Salve for Cracked Skin. We also recommend opting for winter boots made with breathable materials, like leather and GORE-TEX, that will protect your feet from the elements and foot perspiration.

If moisturizing isn’t quite doing the trick, we recommend consulting with your family doctor or a dermatologist for a prescription cream.

4. Psoriasis

Psoriasis is another skin condition that can leave scaly red patches on the skin. These patches (called “plaques”) can be sore, itchy, or peeling, and frequently appear on the soles of the feet. Although often confused with eczema, they are quite different: Unlike eczema, psoriasis is a chronic auto-immune disease; environmental factors therefore do not play as big of a role as they do for eczema. In addition, psoriasis plaques look slightly different than eczema patches.

If you’re concerned about psoriasis on your feet, it’s a good idea to consult with your family doctor or rheumatologist. Treating the plaques themselves on your own is a delicate task and can be difficult. Expert foot care by a chiropodist can help soothe the inflamed skin and remove any dead skin buildup without causing irritation.

Psoriasis plaques also tend to follow a pressure pattern based on how you distribute your weight. Custom orthotics can redistribute your weight and alleviate pressure on certain parts of the foot, which in turn will help reduce and prevent the psoriatic plaques and the peeling they cause.

How do I stop my feet from peeling?

Peeling feet can be itchy and uncomfortable this time of year – but it is definitely treatable! Your first step to treat the peeling skin on your feet is a good foot care regimen. This includes:

  • Daily Moisturizing: Moisturizing your feet daily with a high-quality moisturizer is your first line of defence against peeling feet. Moisturizing strengthens your skin’s natural protective barrier, which keeps it strong and protects it against the environmental factors that cause skin peeling.
  • Exfoliate: Exfoliate your feet once a week with a foot scrub and pumice stone to remove any dead skin. Removing the stockpile of dead skin on your feet lets moisturizer penetrate deeper into the skin, so it can work more effectively.
  • Footbaths: Soaking your feet at least once a month will go a long way toward keeping the feet on your skin clean and healthy. It’s also very relaxing and great for sore, tired muscles.
  • Foot care with a Chiropodist: Professional foot care by a foot specialist is one of the most effective ways to treat your peeling skin. A chiropodist will help you find the right treatment for your flaky toes and make recommendations to keep your feet healthy as the seasons change.
  • Waterproof and breathable footwear: Staying warm this winter doesn’t have to mean sweaty feet. When selecting boots (or any footwear for that matter) make sure they’re waterproof and breathable. Keeping your feet dry and free of moisture build-up will promote good foot hygiene, which is key to preventing peeling feet.

Wondering why your feet won't stop peeling this winter?

Skin peeling on your feet can be an irritating part of winter! Here at Feet First Clinic, we’ve got both the treatments and the expertise to ensure your feet stay hydrated and comfortable this season. Call us at 416-769-FEET (3338) to ask for product recommendations or to see a specialist to treat your peeling feet!

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Carolina Charles

Patient Relation Coordinator (She/Her)

If you’ve been to the clinic before, chances are you had the pleasure of meeting Carolina! Carolina’s daily goal is going above and beyond to make sure patients are always completely satisfied. Having worked in the podiatry industry for 22 years, Carolina brings a wealth of knowledge pertaining to client service, insurance policies, and procedures.​ She steers the ship to make sure everything runs smoothly on the daily. Carolina is known for spicing up every outfit with her signature costume jewellery.