As you may well have realised, the skin on the soles of your feet is considerably thicker than anywhere else on your body. While facial skin is around 0.02mm thick, the skin on the underside of your foot can be up to 5mm thick. This is because it needs to cope with the stresses and strains generated by all the walking, running or jumping you will do throughout your life. In addition, the heels and balls of your feet have special fat pads directly beneath the skin to provide additional protection from impact.
Whilst the skin on the soles of your feet has no oil glands or hairs, on average there are 125,000 sweat glands on the sole of each foot, which is the highest concentration anywhere on your body! You sweat in order to regulate your body temperature and keep skin supple. Squeezed in alongside these glands are masses of nerves that relay information about the nature of the surface you’re walking or running on to your brain.
All skin continuously renews itself, shedding dead cells and replacing them with new ones from beneath. In response to pressure or friction the skin on your feet undergoes this process at a far faster rate. There is also a decrease in the amount of skin cells being shed which can lead to a build up of hard skin. However, too much friction or pressure, through poorly-fitting shoes for example, can trigger excessive thickening – leading to a variety of problems.
Dry, rough skin
Dry, rough skin occurs when water is lost from the top layers of the skin. Normally, cells with high water content are swollen and press tightly together. This is assisted by a combination of epidermal lipids which hold the cells together, and the natural moisturising factors (NMFs) which keep the skin moist and pliable by attracting and holding water within the cells. However, if the lipids and NMFs are reduced, water is lost. The skin can then become dry, rough, scaly and may also result in breaks in the skin – called fissures – which can leave the foot vulnerable to infection.
All of these are problems which need to be tackled, starting with the removal of rough and hard skin, and rehydration of the underlying skin. When the skin is restored daily moisturisers such as Scholl Deep Moisturising Cream can be used to maintain the skins condition.