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What is Athlete’s Foot?

What is Athlete’s Foot?

The athlete’s foot, known as tinea pedis, is a common fungal infection affecting millions worldwide. This irritating condition primarily targets the feet, causing itching, redness, scaling, and discomfort. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or looking for practical solutions, this blog post will provide valuable information on an athlete’s foot, its causes, prevention methods, and effective treatments to help you regain healthy and happy feet.

What Causes Athlete's Foot?

Athlete’s foot is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes, which thrive in warm, moist environments like sweaty shoes or public swimming pool areas. These fungi can be easily contracted by direct contact with infected surfaces or walking barefoot in contaminated areas. Athlete’s foot is highly contagious, so it’s crucial to address it promptly to prevent further spreading and discomfort.

Who is at Risk of Getting Athlete's Foot?

Athlete’s foot is a common condition that can affect anyone, but there are certain behaviors that can increase your risk of getting it. These include going barefoot in public places such as locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools, sharing items like socks, shoes, or towels with someone who has the infection, wearing tight and closed-toe shoes, keeping your feet wet for prolonged periods of time, having sweaty feet, and having a minor skin or nail injury on your foot.

What Are The Symptoms of Athletes Foot?

Athlete’s foot can cause various symptoms, such as itching, stinging, and burning sensations between your toes or on the soles of your feet. You might also notice blisters on your feet that itch, as well as cracking and peeling skin, which is most common between your toes and on your soles. Additionally, you may experience dry skin on the sides or soles of your feet, raw skin, discolored and thick toenails, or toenails that detach from the nail bed.

How is Athletes Foot Diagnosed?

Athlete’s foot can be diagnosed by a doctor based on the symptoms you are experiencing. In case of doubt, the doctor may order a skin test to confirm if a fungal infection is causing your symptoms. The most common test for athlete’s foot is a skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam. During this test, the doctor will scrape off a small area of infected skin and place it in potassium hydroxide. This destroys normal cells and leaves the fungal cells untouched, making them easily visible under a microscope.

How Does a Podiatrist Treat Athlete's Foot?

If you have athlete’s foot, you can usually use over-the-counter (OTC) topical antifungal medications to treat it. However, if these medications do not work, your doctor might prescribe stronger topical or oral antifungal medications. Your doctor may also suggest home remedies to help get rid of the infection.

OTC medications
There are many OTC topical antifungal medications, including:

  • miconazole (Desenex)
  • terbinafine (Lamisil AT)
  • clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF)
  • butenafine (Lotrimin Ultra)
  • tolnaftate (Tinactin)

Prescription medications
Some of the prescription medications your doctor may prescribe for athlete’s foot

  • topical, prescription-strength clotrimazole or miconazole
  • oral antifungal medications such as itraconazole (Sporanox), fluconazole
    (Diflucan), or prescription-strength terbinafine (Lamisil)
  • topical steroid medications to reduce painful inflammation
  • oral antibiotics if bacterial infections develop due to raw skin and blisters

How Can I Prevent Athlete's Foot?

Practice good foot hygiene: Wash your feet daily with soap and warm water. Dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.

Keep feet dry: Moisture provides an ideal breeding ground for fungi. After washing your feet, use a clean towel to dry your feet thoroughly, and avoid wearing damp socks or shoes.

Wear breathable footwear: Opt for shoes made from natural materials like leather or canvas, which allow air circulation and reduce sweat accumulation.

Change socks frequently: Change your socks daily, especially if you have sweaty feet.

Use antifungal powder or spray: Applying antifungal products to your feet and inside your shoes can help prevent fungal growth.


Anyone can get athlete’s foot, but certain behaviors can increase the risk of contracting it. Symptoms include itching, burning, and peeling skin on the feet. Treatment options range from over-the-counter medications to prescription-strength antifungal drugs. Practicing good foot hygiene, keeping feet dry, wearing breathable footwear, changing socks frequently, and using antifungal products can help prevent athlete’s foot. By following these prevention methods and seeking prompt treatment, you can regain healthy and happy feet.