Spring is around the corner – time to soothe and restore your cracked heels

<span>Heel care Photography: Martina Lang</span><span>Photograph: Martina Lang/The Guardian</span>
Heel care Photography: Martina LangPhotograph: Martina Lang/The Guardian

Slingbacks are now a massive trend, at the worst possible time for them. Winter is the time I like my feet to move inconspicuously from thick socks and robust combat boots to hot bath, to sheepskin slippers, and back again, without risk of shaming exposure. Saint Laurent and Chanel can insist all they want, but exposing dry, cracked heels in these temperatures is against God and nature.

However, the trend serves as a useful reminder that your feet might benefit from attention in the shortening run-up to spring. Neglected heels can swiftly be soothed and restored in time for sandal, slingback or flip-flop weather.

Before we consider the cosmetic, step one is to tackle uncomfortable or painful cracks. I’m evangelical about silicone-heel socks, if frustrated by their price hike since I began recommending them years ago. Still, they’re miraculous. These admittedly unsightly toeless ankle socks have a machine-washable silicone gel panel inside the heel, and can be worn overnight (or even by day, under your normal socks). The gel soothes cracks, re-plumps the skin barrier and softens hard skin, quickly making it safe to work on.

Cheap own-brand tools work way better than any of those electrical gadgets designed for the same purpose

It’s only after this that I would reach for a pumice, rubbing gently around wet heels to make them smooth. On days in-between, I lightly file dry heels with a sandpaper foot file. In both cases, I use cheap own-brand tools from Boots or Superdrug, since they work better than electrical gadgets designed for the same purpose, which never have enough power in the motor to rival old-fashioned elbow grease, and soon break.

After scrubbing and filing, adding moisture to repair and protect the skin barrier is essential. Again, I don’t hold with anything fancy, and this winter I’m using Scholl’s Cracked Heel Active Repair K+ balm (£5.25). I also love O’Keeffe’s Healthy Feet Exfoliating Moisturising Foot Cream (£10.50). Both work fast (expect a big improvement in a couple of days), and after necessary repairs are done, you can maintain smoothness by switching to a regular body cream after showering, and popping on the socks a couple of times a week.

People love spa-style foot scrubs and I can see why, but don’t introduce them until after any cracks are healed (a fragranced salt flake in an injured heel is no fun). I enjoy Aveeno’s Skin Renewal Gentle Body Scrub (£9.99), which can be taken up the shins to de-flake.