When you think of athlete’s foot, you may be under the impression that it’s only a concern for gym bros who refuse to wear sandals in locker room and college kids sharing nasty communal showers. But the all-too-common fungal infection can occur in people of all ages and lifestyles—and you may contract a case of athlete’s foot without a clear-cut cause or general hygiene transgression. After all, athlete’s foot is notoriously contagious.
When you catch yourself with scaling skin and redness between your toes, it’s possible you have a case of athlete’s foot. So now what? Well, there are several proven treatment options to get rid of athlete’s foot that are relatively inexpensive, making the infection easy to treat. And that’s not to mention the number of ways to prevent the condition from returning after you get rid of athlete’s foot. All you need is the foot facts to keep your fungal foes at bay—and luckily, you’ve come to the right place for an athlete’s foot education.
Looking to get rid of athlete’s foot fungus stat or prevent it all together? Here’s how to identify and cure a case of athlete’s foot based on solid expert advice.
First up, what is athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection caused by various types of fungi all belonging to a group called dermatophytes, which is also responsible for conditions like jock itch and ringworm, Healthline reports. Yes, it’s a myth that athlete’s foot only affects the feet. You can possibly get “athlete’s foot” on your arm, on your groin, under your armpit, under your nails, and in even more places—but it’s sometimes named something else, like ringworm or jock itch or simply a fungal infection. The fungi that cause athlete’s foot thrive in dark, warm, moist parts of the body and feed on the protein found in hair, skin, and nails called keratin.
Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread through direct contact with skin particles left on floors, towels, clothing, or shoes. That’s why it’s synonymous with gym locker rooms and communal showers.
What does athlete’s foot look like?
Athlete’s foot often occurs between the toes—remember, the offending fungi thrive in dark, warm, moist places. The infection is marked by an itchy red rash between the toes, peeling or scaling between the toes, skin peeking on the bottom of the foot, and small blisters or open sores.
If you handle your feet, the condition can also spread to your hands. If that happens, you’ll notice peeling or redness between your fingers or underneath your nails, as this is the best environment for fungi growth. The fungal infection can also spread to your groin via your hands or towel, appearing as jock itch, according to Mayo Clinic. The rash-like appearance mimics the look of athlete’s foot but presents itself in the inner thighs and near the genitals.
How to get rid of athlete’s foot fast
According to experts, the best way to get get rid of athlete’s foot is by using over-the-counter anti-fungal products to manage the infection. Dermatologists and doctors recommend treating your feet with anti-fungal powder, creams, or sprays as recommended by the given brand, which is often twice a day. To prevent athlete’s foot from returning, continue treatment as recommended for one to two weeks after the infection has cleared.
At the first sign of an infection, dedicate to washing your feet every morning and evening, thoroughly drying them to prevent any moist areas where athlete’s foot may thrive. Change your socks once daily or more, and don’t wear the same shoes day after day, allowing each pair to dry completely before wearing them again. Treating your shoes with anti-fungal powder before putting them on may also help manage the infection. If you’re looking for a foot powder to treat athlete’s foot, Mayo Clinic recommends brands like Gold Bond, Lotrimin, and Zeasorb.
When possible, go barefoot or wear sandals to let your feet breathe and heal. Experts recommend wearing moisture-wicking socks (not cotton) to discourage fungal growth when going barefoot is impractical.
There are many home remedies for athlete’s foot, though these treatments have largely not been studied for their effectiveness. Tree tree oil, for example, is said to reduce the itching, scaling, swelling, and burning of athlete’s foot when applied topically—but experts say it can take a month to see progress and it doesn’t work for everyone, according to Mayo Clinic. Bitter orange oil, which needs to be watered down before any topical application, is also a natural anti-fungal that may help treat athlete’s foot, but it can inflame your skin if not diluted correctly and can make your skin more prone to sunburn. When it comes to getting rid of athlete’s foot, most experts recommend seeking out dedicated over-the-counter products rather than using home remedies for the fastest and most effective relief.
Be careful of especially harsh treatments, like some foot peels, when trying to get rid of athlete’s foot. While treatments like this are noted for treating dry, dead skin, it can make burning, itching, and sensitivity associated with athlete’s foot worse, according to some health care professionals. It’s also recommended to lay off the pedicures until an athlete’s foot infection is good and healed. Though it may be tempting to have someone else address all that flaking skin, getting a pedicure while having athlete’s foot can actually make the condition worse—not to mention you can infect other people who use the facility after you, Chicago Tribune reports. Most reputable nail salons will likely turn you away if you have a noticeable fungal infection anyway.
Some cases of athlete’s foot can be treated at home, but you may need to call in reinforcements if you have an especially severe case of athlete’s foot. If you don’t notice an improvement in two weeks after using over-the-counter anti-fungal products, experts recommend consulting a doctor.
How to prevent athlete’s foot from returning
Athlete’s foot thrives on sweaty feet—especially sweaty feet enclosed in a small area. To prevent the condition before it starts, go barefoot at home whenever possible to let your feet breathe. Experts recommend changing socks at least once daily (or more if your feet are particularly sweaty) and wearing a different pair of shoes each day to let your shoes dry out from sweat and moisture.
Having good basic hygiene may also help prevent the condition. Wash your feet daily using warm water and soap, making sure to dry them thoroughly. If you are prone to athlete’s foot, the experts at Mayo Clinic recommend applying a medicated foot powder after washing as a preventative measure.
It’s also essential to protect your feet in public places, as athlete’s foot is spread via surfaces. Be sure to wear waterproof sandals or shoes around public pools, showers, and lockers rooms to prevent contracting the fungal infection.