Athlete`s foot

Book an Appointment

Overview

Athlete's foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal infection that usually begins between the toes. It commonly occurs in people whose feet have become very sweaty while confined within tightfitting shoes. A variety of fungi all belonging to a group called dermatophytes is responsible. Signs and symptoms of athlete's foot include a scaly rash that usually causes itching, stinging and burning. Athlete's foot is contagious and can be spread via contaminated floors, towels or clothing .

Athlete's foot is closely related to other fungal infections such as ringworm. It can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications, but the infection often recurs . Keeping the area clean and dry limits re-infection.

Symptoms

Scaly, peeling or cracked skin between the toes.

Itchiness, especially right after taking off shoes and socks.

Inflamed skin that might appear reddish, purplish or grayish, depending on your skin color.

Burning or stinging.

Blisters.

Dry, scaly skin on the bottom of the foot that extends up the side.

Causes

Athlete's foot is usually caused by fungi that infect the skin (dermatophytes). They can enter the skin through small cracks or wounds, and infect the top layer.


The fungi are passed on through direct skin contact or through contact with flakes of skin. That can happen if, for instance, you step on infectious flakes of skin in communal showers. The same fungi can also cause fungal nail infections.


Fungal skin infections need moisture and warmth to spread. Our feet offer a perfect environment for them, because we wear shoes for most of the day and so our feet are often warm and moist. The skin on our feet also contains a lot of keratin, – a protein that can be found in the top layer of skin. The fungi feed on this.

Risk factors

Certain risk factors can increase the risk of athlete's foot. These are the main ones:


A genetic predisposition (if a lot of people in your family have it),

Allergies and eczema

Particularly sweaty feet

A weak immune system, for instance due to a serious illness or the long-term use of medication that weakens the immune system

Circulation problems in the legs, for example as a result of diabetes or narrowed blood vessels

Some sports, especially running and swimming

People who always have to wear sturdy shoes at work, such as safety boots or rubber boots, are also at higher risk.

Calendar Schedule

Have a medical question?

We are available to help you with all your questions and concerns.

Complications

Here are two common complications of athlete’s foot:


Other fungal infections. Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that thrives in dark, damp areas. Unfortunately, there are other fungi that are attracted to similar environments, including a nail fungal infection that often goes hand-in-hand with athlete’s foot.

Bacterial infections. Like fungus, bacteria like a warm, moist environment, but fungus can produce an antibiotic substance that kills off the bacteria. While this may seem like a good thing, it actually promotes the growth of heartier, more resistant bacteria. These infections are not only harder to kill, they also cause tissue breakdown, resulting in eroding between the toes and painful, soggy skin.

An allergic response. An outbreak of athlete's foot can cause protein to enter the bloodstream, causing an allergic reaction that can lead to further itching or blisters on your feet and toes.

Prevention

Because fungi grow particularly well in a moist environment, it's important to make sure you keep your feet dry. You might try the following, for example:


Thoroughly drying your feet with a towel after having a shower or bath, or after swimming

Wearing shoes that aren't too tight and let your feet breathe

Not wearing the same pair of shoes two days in a row

Taking your shoes off as often as possible

The following things can help keep you from getting athlete's foot from infected flakes of skin and stop it from coming back:


Wearing flip-flops when using swimming pools, communal showers and changing rooms

Not sharing towels, shoes, or socks

Washing socks, bedding and towels at 60 degrees Celsius or more

Adding special anti-fungal laundry sanitizers if washing at lower temperatures

There haven't been any good studies on how effective these preventive measures are.

Keep feet clean, dry, and cool.

Avoid using swimming pools, public showers, or foot baths.

Wear sandals when possible or air shoes out by alternating them every 2-3 days.

Avoid wearing closed shoes and wearing socks made from fabric that doesn't dry easily (for example, nylon).