HomeAthlete's FootGuide to Athlete's Foot Treatment (Causes, Symptoms)

Guide to Athlete’s Foot Treatment (Causes, Symptoms)


What is Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot is essentially a type of fungal infection. Indications that you may have caught Athlete’s foot are flaking or scaling of the skin, which can be accompanied by itching in the affected area.

Athlete’s foot is also known as the Ringworm of the Foot or Tinea Pedis.

How do I get Athlete’s Foot?

Most people with Athlete’s foot may have inadvertently contracted the fungal infection when frequenting areas where others walk barefoot. Showers and swimming pools are prime areas as they provide moist conditions for the disease to spread.

Athlete’s foot, perhaps aptly named, generally affects one or both feet. The fungal infection enjoys a warm and moist environment to incubate, so the inside of a shoe provides an ideal breeding ground for such an infection to manifest.

Unfortunately, foot fungus does not limit itself to the foot area only as it can spread to other areas of the body, which are also warm and moist.

Therefore, areas such as the groin are susceptible to contracting the fungal infection as the wearing of undergarments can increase the temperature by body heat and moisture levels by natural perspiration assist in the breading of the fungal infection.

What Does Athlete’s foot look like?

1. Athlete’s foot pictures 1

2. Athlete’s foot pictures 2

How Does a Doctor Diagnose Athlete’s Foot?

Not every red, scaly, or oozing foot problem is due to a tinea pedis infection. Bacterial infections, dermatitis, psoriasis, and other skin diseases can mimic this fungal infection.

That’s why it’s vital to initially get your condition diagnosed by a podiatrist or another competent health care provider before you take any further curing or preventive measures.

When you see your doctor, a diagnosis is made by visual observation of the symptoms. Though if that isn’t sufficient in diagnosing your condition, other tests can be performed:

  • Skin culture (fungi are grown from flecks of skin in a laboratory)
  • Skin lesion biopsy (This is the process of removing a portion of skin from a patient for a diagnostic examination under a microscope)
  • Skin lesion KOH exam (skin scrapings in KOH show fungus under the microscope). The skin lesion KOH exam is a test to diagnose a fungal skin infection.

Diagnosis is made by visual observation of the symptoms. Microscopic examination of skin scrapings is used to determine the type of fungus causing the infection and rule out bacterial infection. Other tests include growing a fungal culture from skin scrapings and examining the patient’s foot under ultraviolet light.

Categories of Athlete’s Foot

Interdigital: This is the most common type of fungus, and symptoms usually include itching, scaling, and fissures on the bottom of the feet. The first indications of infection are typically found between the 4th and 5th toes.

Moccasin-Type: This type of infection usually causes dry, flaky skin and tender areas to develop on the soles of the feet. It also often produces an unusual pattern of infection by showing up in two feet and one hand, or two hands and one foot.

Acute Vesicular:  This is the least common of the three types of fungus and is characterized by a sudden outbreak of painful blisters on either side of the foot caused by an allergic reaction to the fungus.

Athlete’s Foot Symptoms

Regardless of the type of infection occurring, most cases of athlete’s foot display very similar symptoms, such as itchy red skin and small, inflamed bumps on the soles of the feet, sensations of ‘burning’ in the feet, blistering, cracking, or fissures developing on the soles of the feet. In most cases, symptoms often first develop between the toes.

Causes of Athlete’s Foot

Athletes’ foot is most often contracted through wet public surfaces such as those found near public pools and gym locker rooms. It can also be spread by sharing socks and towels or by direct skin-to-skin contact.

The fungus requires both heat and moisture to survive and spread, so special care should be taken in these environments.

Cuts and scrapes make the skin more vulnerable to infection, and people with diabetes need to take special care to examine their feet after exposure to high-risk areas, as they may not feel discomfort when symptoms of athlete’s foot develop.

What to Change if You have Athlete’s Foot

1. Medication. Suppose you are on medication that reduces your body’s natural defenses- like chemotherapy, steroids, etc. In that case, there is a likelihood that you will be more prone to a fungus.

2. Certain conditions. Now this one gets ignored by medical professionals an awful lot. If you have something like Diabetes, you will be at a higher risk of AF. This is simplistic because Diabetes does three things:

 a. It reduces your body’s defenses.

 b. It affects a part of your nervous system that affects how you sweat. Typically your skin is slightly supple. Because your nervous system is controlling how and when you perspire- automatically. With Diabetes, the sweating mechanism is affected. Therefore you can either get a sweaty or a dry foot. A sweaty foot increases the likeliness of fungus infection, a dry foot becomes cracked, and the skin loses its suppleness so that a fungus can jump straight in.

c. You may also have an excess of sugar running around your body, especially on your skin. For the fungus, sugar acts as gravy that adds to the meal’s flavor.

3. Foot fungus is sometimes called “fungal infection.” The infection part scares many people. You will find that the fungus will spread because it is finding more food sources.

In a worst-case scenario (if the fungus goes unchecked and is left to go rampant), then the skin can crack. If your skin breaks, then friendly bacteria covering your skin can become opportunistic and jump through that crack and become a bacterial infection. Now, this is a breach in the most sophisticated defense systems around.

4- Zoophilic. Meaning “animal-loving.” It is not uncommon for pets to harbor infection and then spread it onto the human host. Unfortunately, where the animal sheds its fur is an area for infection.

5. Non-Typical Foot fungus. This usually appears if the patient has traveled abroad and then suddenly an AF appears.

So now that we have a good idea of what causes it. How on earth do we get rid of it?

Treatment Options

The best Athletes foot treatment, by far, is the use of pharmaceutical cream.

Lamisil cream is by far the most effective. You can buy an enormous amount of medication from the drug store, but I found that the ingredients and how the cream is used increases the effectiveness. Lamisil contains one of the highest percent of anti-fungal agents (Terbinafine).

It is so good because it is a fungicidal agent. This means that it kills off the fungus. Whereas most, if not all, other agents are fungistatic- they stop the fungus from growing rather than destroying it.

How you use it is pretty straightforward. First, make sure you have Athletes Foot to start with, and then apply the cream to the area and leave it to dry.

Easy huh?! However, where most people go wrong is the length of time you apply the cream. Too short, and the fungus will rebel and come back. Too long, and the fungus goes, but you can also build up toxicity. I prefer Lamisil because it kills off the fungus in a shorter time.

The best length of time is eight days. This is different from the guidelines. You apply the cream until the AF has gone, usually within five days- this is the stated guidelines. However, what we noticed is that sometimes the AF can come back. So what we did was extend the application for three more days after the AF had disappeared. The additional days get the spores from where the fungus grows.

Unfortunately, some people have mega amounts of Athlete’s foot, but there are a few things to mention:

  • If you get repeated episodes months down the line, try to figure out why; there is always a reason.
  • Never use the cream or any product to prevent problems because it builds up toxicity.
  • Never apply onto an open wound- if the skin is broken and bleeding, do not apply on that area.
  • If you can not find Lamisil, a brand name, then find a cream with “Terbinafine” as its active ingredient.
  • AF is nothing to be worried about; it is a nuisance, but it is treatable as long as it is athlete’s foot and not Eczema, Allergic reaction, or Psoriasis, which are easily mistaken for AF. If it goes or reduces over a couple of days, great; it is not an AF if the site is the same. You could even find a small area and try using the cream.
  • If you are concerned or need advice, see a medical professional.
  • You can also go for the three-pronged method. This is for people who have a long-standing problem and have had serious AF. Three-pronged means that you attack the fungus three ways- so you:
  • Kill it off • Stop re-infection, and• Prevent it from coming back.

Most people will do just fine with the preventative measures already being outlined.

1. Antifungal Cream

Use the anti-fungal cream- this will take care of the main store of fungus

Lotrimin Ultra 1 Week Athlete's Foot Treatment, Prescription Strength Butenafine Hydrochloride 1%, Cures Most Athlete’s Foot Between Toes, Cream, 1.1 Ounce (30 Grams)
  • 1 week treatment: Cure most athlete's foot between the toes in 1 week while providing effective relief from the itching and burning of athlete's foot
  • Proven to cure most athlete's foot: Kills the natural fungus that causes tinea pedis in athletes and others, commonly known as athlete's foot
  • Prescription strength formula: Lotrimin ultra contains prescription strength butenafine hydrochloride medicine to kill most fungus between the toes
  • Safe for kids over 12: Help your teenage athlete with the discomfort of itchy feet due to athlete’s foot
  • Also treats jock itch and ringworm: Fungus on your skin can lead to jock itch and ringworm, too. This prescription strength cream is formulated to treat all three conditions

Related: Best athlete’s foot cream

2. Antifungal Powder

Use an anti-fungal powder within your shoes. I wouldn’t say I like powders on the feet because they don’t work that well- they clump, move around, and leave half of the powder on the floor anyway. But within the shoe, the powder is fine, and we need it to keep down or eliminate any fungus that might be hiding within the shoe.

Lotrimin AF Athlete's Foot Deodorant Antifungal Powder Spray, Miconazole Nitrate 2%, Clinically Proven Effective Antifungal Treatment of Most AF, Jock Itch & Ringworm, 4.6 Ounces Spray Can (Pack of 3)
  • Provides relief: Lotrimin AF Athlete's Foot Deodorant Powder Spray helps to relieve the discomfort of smelly feet and itchy, cracked skin on feet and toes.
  • Proven to cure most athlete's foot: Clinically proven to cure most athlete’s foot infections, Lotrimin AF deodorant powder spray controls the growth of fungus that causes tinea pedis, commonly known as athlete's foot.
  • Safe for kids over 2: Help your little athlete with his or her uncomfortable, itchy, smelly feet. Lotrimin antifungal deodorant powder spray can easily get between tiny toes for fast relief.
  • Contains 2% miconazole nitrate: This clinically proven ingredient relieves itchy skin and cracked feet as it controls the natural fungus that causes athlete's foot, jock itch, and ringworm.
  • Keeps feet dry: Moisture can promote the growth of fungus, which can cause athlete’s foot. Lotrimin antifungal deodorant powder spray is formulated to absorb sweat while it works to cure athlete's foot.

3. Wash your Socks

We wash our socks at a higher temperature than usual- this will take care of any fungus, not the spores. Spraying our socks with an anti-fungus spray can help (making sure that it is colourless and does not affect the sock is a good idea).

If you have a significant athlete’s foot problem, it might take longer than five days to clear up. If you don’t, you should see some minor resolution occurring, then make sure that it is an AF rather than something else. If you are unsure it is AF, go to a medical professional for help, or apply some AF cream onto a small “test” area and see if that clears up as stated above.

I have seen some anti-fungal treatments which are “one-off.” With these, you only need one application, and the medication does its thing- and you don’t have to reapply.

While this is indeed a great way to treat AF, I have found that it does work initially…but it doesn’t seem to stop the fungus from coming back later.

So instead of a 5-8 day treatment regime, you treat once. I believe that is how it works. But to stop the fungus from coming back, period? It didn’t seem reasonable at that task when I tried it. Try these home remedies for athlete’s feet.


Yeast infections of the skin (and the nail) are not uncommon. From Candida Albicans, yeast infections are troublesome because some anti-AF creams do not seem to affect these fungi.

Candida usually comes secondary to a dermatophyte infection (so they occur on top of that previous infection) in between the toes.

As a side note, Candida infections within the nail present themselves as a fungus growing from the base and going up the nail rather than extending from the tip of the nail down, which fungus dermatophytes do.

A severe Candida infection is uncommon but presents as a chronic condition when the patient is in childhood, affecting the mouth, skin, and nails. It is associated with hard skin areas and thickened nails in the foot.

How to Prevent Athlete’s Foot

Here are some practices to prevent athlete’s foot:

  1. Wash your feet daily. Pay special attention between toes.
  2. Keep your feet completely dry. Take special care between toes.
  3. Do not wear synthetic or tight footwear.
  4. Use footwear that allows your feet to breathe.
  5. Wear leather shoes because they will prevent moisture better than plastic.
  6. The shoes you wear should allow for proper ventilation.
  7. To keep feet dry, change socks once a day at a minimum.
  8. Use hot water for washing socks.
  9. Avoid wearing synthetic socks because they will increase moisture.
  10. Wear cotton socks that allow your feet to breathe. Whenever possible.
  11. Always use your footwear.
  12. Wash towels and clothing frequently.
  13. Sprinkle antifungal powder on your feet, socks, and shoes.
  14. Keep your shoes dry to prevent Athlete’s foot.
  15. Change your shoes at least daily and allow them to dry.
  16. Do not walk barefoot around swimming pools, gyms, or other common areas.
  17. At home, walk as much as possible barefoot.


If you suspect you have Athlete’s foot, but the condition does not clear up or respond to over-the-counter treatments, you must see your doctor.

Your condition may be caused by other pathologies, such as eczema, ringworm, or psoriasis, and proper treatment must be undertaken. If Athlete’s foot is left, various untreated infections may develop.

Dr Christine Nolan is the CEO and founder of Footdiagnosis.com. She also has extensive clinical experience and is therefore uniquely qualified to detect and manage diseases of the lower extremities including those related to peripheral arterial disease and diabetes.