Causes, Signs, Solutions, Prevention
What is Athlete's Foot?
- Athlete’s foot (also known as tinea pedis) is a common fungal infection that affects the skin on your feet.1
- It is very contagious2 and occurs mostly between the toes (called an interdigital pattern) and less commonly on the soles of the feet (called a moccasin pattern).3
What causes athlete's foot?
Athlete’s foot is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes.1 They thrive in warm and moist environments like showers and changing rooms.1
You can become infected by direct skin-to-skin contact with another person who has athlete’s foot or through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.1 The fungus can also spread from your feet to other parts of your body.2
Anyone can get athlete’s foot (although it is rare in children3), but it is more likely to develop when your feet are exposed to warm and moist conditions.1 Factors that increase your risk of infection include:
- Walking barefoot in public places with wet floors, like changing rooms and showers at the gym and swimming pools1,2
- Wearing tight-fitting, closed-toe shoes2
- Humid conditions or sporting activities that make your feet wet, warm, and sweaty2
- Poor foot hygiene—not washing and drying your feet regularly, or wearing the same socks or shoes for too long1,2,3,4
- Damaged or broken skin2
- Certain medical conditions1,2
What are the signs of athlete's foot?
An itchy, red rash in the spaces between the toes is a classic sign of athlete's foot. The skin can be pale, moist, and soft. Other signs include skin with a scaly, cracked, and peeling appearance.1,2
You may experience a stinging or burning sensation,1,2 or notice an unpleasant odour.2 If left untreated, athlete’s foot can spread to other areas of the foot.3 .1
How to treat athlete's foot
Athlete’s foot can usually be resolved with an over-the-counter antifungal treatment to get rid of the infection.1
Topical antifungal treatments are applied to the affected area, usually once or twice a day for 1 to 6 weeks (depending on the type of treatment).2,3 It is important to apply the antifungal treatment as directed, because the fungus may still be present even after the symptoms completely disappear.2
How to prevent athlete's foot
While athlete’s foot is likely to affect most people at some point in their lives,2 you can take the following steps to help prevent catching and spreading the fungal infection that causes athlete’s foot:
Avoid walking barefoot in public areas, and wear footwear in showers or changing rooms at the gym or swimming pool1,2,3,4
Wash your feet regularly, and make sure they are thoroughly dry—particularly between your toes (pat dry instead of rubbing)1,2,4
Use a separate towel for your feet, and wash your towels and sheets regularly in hot water1
Wear breathable shoes and take your shoes off when you’re at home2,4
Change your socks regularly1,3—breathable cotton socks are better than synthetic socks4
Don’t share towels, socks, or shoes with other people1,2,4
Avoid wearing shoes that make your feet hot and sweaty,2 and use an antiperspirant to limit excessive sweating2,4
Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day3 and disinfect your shoes regularly1
Optimising your general foot health
A simple maintenance routine can help to keep the skin on your feet healthy.5
Daily care: Wash and dry and your feet thoroughly and apply moisturiser every day
Footwear: Ensure that your shoes fit properly (both in width and length) and are appropriate for your activity
Appearance: Check the appearance of your feet regularly for any changes.
Movement and flexibility: Check that you can move your feet easily and without discomfort; some simple stretches may help
Referral: Speak with your GP, pharmacist, or podiatrist if you have any concerns about your foot health
Scholl's range of footcare options are available in major retailers and pharmacies in New Zealand
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.
1. The Australasian College of Dermatologists. Athlete’s Foot. Updated February 2020. https://www.dermcoll.edu.au/atoz/athletes-foot. Accessed August 3, 2020.
2. Ilkit M, Durdu M. Tinea pedis: the etiology and global epidemiology of a common fungal infection. Crit Rev Microbiol. 2015;41(3):374-388.
3. Kovitwanichkanont T, Chong AH. Superficial fungal infections. Aust J Gen Pract. 2019;48(10):706-711.
4. Better Health Channel. Tinea. Updated July 2020. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/tinea. Accessed August 3, 2020.
5. Musculoskeletal Australia. Feet and musculoskeletal conditions (Factsheet). Updated June 2018. https://www.msk.org.au/feet/. Accessed July 22, 2020.