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What causes dry skin on feet?

Barefoot boy walking on wooden floor

Dry skin, also known as xerosis, is a common condition that occurs when the skin lacks enough moisture. It can result in flaky, rough, or cracked skin on the feet, which may be accompanied by itchiness or discomfort.

Dry skin on the feet can have several causes, and it can occur in children for various reasons.

What causes dry feet?

Dry feet can be caused by a number of things and often happens after regular or reoccurring scenarios, rather than one-off events. Some common causes of dry skin on the feet in children include:

  1. Dehydration and lack of moisture: When the skin on your child’s feet doesn’t receive enough moisture it can lead to dry skin.

  2. Cold weather: Dry environment or low humidity during the winter months can contribute to dry skin on the feet.

  3. Excessive bathing: Frequent, long, or hot baths can strip the skin of its natural oils, leading to dryness.

  4. Harsh soaps or detergents: Certain soaps, shampoos, or detergents can be harsh on the skin, causing it to become dry. This is why mild, fragrance-free, and gentle products are recommended for children.

  5. Allergies or skin conditions: Some children may have allergies or skin conditions like eczema, which can cause dry skin on the feet.

  6. Improper footwear: Wearing shoes that do not allow your child’s feet to breathe, or that cause excessive sweating, can contribute to dryness.

Can standing up too long cause dry feet?

Standing up for prolonged periods of time can contribute to dryness in the feet. When you consistently stand, especially on hard surfaces, it can put pressure on the feet, leading to reduced blood flow and moisture loss. This can result in dry and cracked skin. However, it's important to note that standing alone may not be the sole cause of dry feet. Other factors like environmental conditions, footwear, and personal hygiene practices also play a role.

While prolonged standing can lead to dryness in children’s feet, it may not be as common as in adults. Children tend to have more active lifestyles and often alternate between sitting, standing, and moving around. However, if your child spends extended periods standing, especially in ill-fitting or uncomfortable shoes, it can contribute to dry skin on their feet. Ensuring proper hydration, moisturising their feet regularly, and providing comfortable footwear can help prevent dryness in children as well. School shoes are one of the most important types of footwear to get right as your child will be wearing them for most of the day, up to five days a week, every term. It’s important to get shoes made from high quality, breathable materials, as well as those that are designed for their foot shape and their correct size and width.

Can dry feet be caused by a skin condition?

It’s common for dry feet to be caused by various skin conditions and many can be easily treated. However, if you ever have any concerns about your child’s feet, we’d always recommend speaking with your GP.

A couple of common skin conditions that can result in dry feet include:

  • Eczema: Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic inflammatory skin condition. It can cause dry, itchy, and flaky skin on the feet.

  • Psoriasis: Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the skin. It can lead to the development of thick, scaly patches of skin that can be dry and itchy.

  • Athlete's Foot: Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that commonly affects the feet. It can cause dryness, itching, redness, and peeling skin.

  • Allergic reactions: Although rarer, some children may have allergic reactions to certain substances, such as detergents, soaps, or materials in shoes, which can result in dry and irritated skin on the feet.

Can cold weather cause dry feet?

During the winter months, the air tends to be drier and lower in humidity, which can contribute to dry feet. Additionally, we often have the heating on, or use additional heaters to keep the house warm, which can further reduce moisture levels in the air. This combination of cold outdoor air and dry indoor air can lead to dry skin, including on the feet.

Additionally, wearing closed-toe shoes and boots during cold weather can lead to increased sweating, which in turn can contribute to moisture loss from the feet. The combination of reduced humidity and increased moisture evaporation can result in dry and dehydrated skin on the feet. This is why all our shoes are made with breathable materials, to ensure feet stay warm, protected, and dry.

Are dry feet a sign of diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is most common in children and it can cause significant changes in the body's blood circulation and nerves, which can lead to dry skin. The condition can affect the sweat glands, resulting in reduced moisture in the skin of the feet.

Plus, high blood sugar levels in individuals with diabetes can lead to increased urination, which can cause dehydration and further contribute to dry skin.

If you’re worried your child may have diabetes it is important to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and diagnosis.

Do socks dry out your feet?

Socks themselves generally don't dry out kids feet. In fact, wearing socks can have several benefits for their foot health. Socks help absorb moisture and sweat from your feet, which can help prevent bacterial and fungal infections. Additionally, certain types of socks, such as moisture-wicking or breathable, can help keep their feet dry and comfortable by allowing air circulation.

However, if their socks become wet or damp and they leave them on for an extended period, they can contribute to the feeling of having "wet" or "damp" feet. This can potentially create an environment for bacteria or fungi to thrive, leading to unpleasant foot odours or infections.

To keep their feet dry and comfortable, it's important to choose socks made from breathable materials like cotton, wool, or synthetic fabrics designed to wick away moisture. It's also a good idea to start every day with clean socks and change them after physical activity or if they become wet.

Does wearing flip flops cause dry feet?

Wearing flip flops, especially those made of non-breathable materials like rubber or plastic, can potentially contribute to dry feet. This is because these types of footwear often don't provide adequate ventilation and can trap moisture against your skin, between your toes for example.

Additionally, flip flops often don't provide much cushioning or support for your feet, which can exacerbate dryness and lead to calluses or rough patches.

It’s much better for them to wear good quality, breathable sandals over flip flops to ensure not only dry and protected feet, but also healthy foot development.