A Guide to Athlete’s Foot

May 2, 2022

Are your feet feeling itchy and raw? Perhaps they are starting to develop an unpleasant odor? If so, you may have athlete’s foot, an often embarrassing yet highly treatable fungal infection that spreads in locker rooms, pool decks, and hotel bathrooms. In this guide, we will explore how to spot athlete’s foot and quickly resolve any symptoms. 

What is Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot is a fungal skin infection affecting the toes and feet. It causes an itchy rash that typically starts between the toes and gradually spreads across the foot. The condition often affects people who frequently experience sweaty feet and wear tight-fitting shoes, which creates restricted airflow between the toes. Active people are at higher risk of developing athlete’s foot, but this name is deceptive as athlete’s foot can affect anyone, regardless of their lifestyle.

Athlete’s foot (Tinea Pedis) is related to a range of other fungal infections and can be treated with antifungal medications. It is important to treat athlete’s foot at an early stage, as it is contagious and can spread via contaminated surfaces. There are two forms of Tinea Pedis: acute and chronic. The acute form usually develops between the toes with associated burning, cracking, and itching. The chronic form is usually asymptomatic and appears to the untrained eye as dry scaly skin on the bottom of the foot.   

How Did I Develop Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot is caused by dermatophytes – a category of fungi that cause a range of conditions, including ringworm and jock itch. If you start experiencing athlete’s foot symptoms, you have likely encountered an infected person or a contaminated surface. Common transmission zones include floors, shoes, and towels – hence why many people develop athlete’s foot after visiting a public locker room or shower. To catch athlete’s foot from someone else usually requires direct contact with the affected part of their body.

Athlete's foot between the toes

What are the Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

The classic sign of athlete’s foot include:

  • A burning or stinging sensation in the affected area
  • Peeling, scaly, or cracked skin that initially forms between the toes
  • Itchy feet that get worse when removing shoes or socks
  • Blisters
  • Dry and scaly skin on the sides and sole of the foot
  • Skin that appears red and inflamed
  • Skin that takes on a purple or gray tinge

It is worth noting that athlete’s foot can spread to other parts of the body, particularly if you continually scratch or pick the infected skin. It is common for the fungus to spread to other moist parts of the body, such as the groin. In some rare cases, athlete’s foot can lead to serious bacterial infections.

Treating Athlete’s Foot

You can often treat athlete’s foot at home. Some of the most effective remedies and actions include:

  • Over-the-counter antifungals: Antifungals such as terbinafine and clotrimazole can help to ease the symptoms of athlete’s foot and prevent any recurrence. These medications are widely available in drug stores and come in a range of formulations, including gels, creams, sprays, powders, and ointments. You may need to try out a few products until you find one that works for you. Typically, you will need to apply the product twice a day for a few weeks. Your rash should clear within a month, reapplying as needed for recurrence.
  • Wash and dry your feet regularly: You should wash and towel-dry your feet at least twice a day, paying particular attention to the spaces between your toes.
  • Wear well-ventilated footwear: Avoid tight shoes made from synthetic materials such as rubber or vinyl. If possible, wear sandals.
  • Change your socks regularly: Change your socks at least once a day and more often if you are very active or if your feet perspire a lot.
  • Wear shoes in public places and do not share shoes: These actions could spread the infection.
  • Try to avoid scratching and picking the rash: While you may feel the urge to scratch your feet, this action could prevent healing and spread the infection.

If your feet do not show signs of improvement within four weeks of following these tips, it is worth visiting our office. Our medical staff will prescribe stronger medications and evaluate your nails for onychomycosis (nail fungus) which can be a source for recurrent tinea pedis. Common prescription-strength athlete’s foot remedies include ciclopirox, econazole, and itraconazole. You may also require oral medicine.

Avoiding Athlete’s Foot

It is worth taking preventative measures to avoid athlete’s foot. Top tips include:

  • Change your socks regularly: You should maintain a strict hygiene regimen to avoid developing health issues. We recommend changing your socks at least once a day. If you are sporty, moisture-wicking socks can help prevent your feet from getting too sweaty during a workout.
  • Protect your feet in public places: Wear waterproof shoes when walking around public showers, pools, and locker rooms.
  • Wash your feet every day: Remember to wash your feet with warm, soapy water and dry them thoroughly before wearing socks. If you’re prone to athlete’s foot, medicated powders can help prevent recurrences. 
  • Alternate your shoes: Try to avoid wearing the same pair of shoes on consecutive days, as this will allow your shoes to dry and air out. 

Get in Touch Today!

Are you struggling with raw, itchy feet? Do not suffer in silence! We are here to treat all kinds of foot-related conditions. If you suspect you have athlete’s foot, get in touch with us today at (252) 638-4700 or contact us online.