How to prevent and treat athlete’s foot

Foot Care

by Baylor Scott & White Health

Nov 17, 2021

Sweaty feet stuck in shoes all day can be stinky and gross. But even more than smelly feet, this environment is the perfect breeding ground for germs or for contracting a rash known as athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot can be misleading because it doesn’t only plague athletes. In fact, anyone can contract this fungal growth also called tinea pedis, or “ringworm of the feet.”

“Contrary to its name, athlete’s foot affects all types of people: men, women and children,” said Christopher G. Browning, DPM, a podiatrist on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center – Temple. “It is the most common type of fungal skin infection.”

Athlete’s foot is a skin rash

Dr. Browning sees people with a number of foot conditions, including athlete’s foot. He said athlete’s foot is a skin rash on the foot that’s caused by a fungus. There are three types to look for:

  1. Interdigital athlete’s foot: Appears as white, scaly, wet skin and is often found between the fourth and fifth toes.
  2. Moccasin athlete’s foot: Dry, scaly skin to the bottom of the feet.
  3. Vesicular athlete’s foot: Appears as fluid-filled blisters, usually to the bottom of the foot, but can be found anywhere on the foot. Can become secondarily infected with bacteria.

It can be bothersome to have this irritated skin on your toes and feet. If you’re itching or wondering what the rash may be, it’s best to get help from a podiatrist. They can make the proper diagnosis, provide treatment and give you preventative tips to help you avoid getting athlete’s foot in the future.

Breeding grounds for athlete’s foot

Fungus is the cause of athlete’s foot and it grows well in warm, damp places. This means places such as locker rooms, public pools and showers can put you at risk for getting this fungus.

“Athletes who tend to be found in these same environments were often times found to have this common ailment,” Dr. Browning said. “Therefore, the term athlete’s foot was born.”

It is true athletes may spend a lot of time in their exercise shoes, but if you’re sweating while wearing tight fitting shoes all day, you may also be at risk. The condition is also contagious, so if you are often barefoot in public places you may want to wear sandals.

How to prevent athlete’s foot

  • Wear sandals in public pools, showers and locker rooms.
  • Avoid walking barefoot in these areas.
  • Wear well-ventilated shoes or sandals to allow your feet to air.
  • Wash feet daily with soap and water, then dry thoroughly (especially between toes).
  • Use over-the-counter antifungal foot powders.
  • Wear clean absorbent socks and change twice daily.
  • Alternate the shoes you wear and let them air out for 24 hours between wear.

Remember most of all to move away from the moisture. Men are most commonly affected by athlete’s foot—so, guys, don’t forget to kick off your shoes after a long, hard day.

“Athlete’s foot does not go away on its own and should be treated,” Dr. Browning said. “The condition can worsen if a concomitant bacterial infection occurs, which could be serious.”

Dealing with athlete’s foot? Find a doctor near you today

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