What Is Athlete’s Foot?
Tinea pedis, commonly known as Athlete’s foot, is a contagious fungal skin infection that affects the skin on soles of the feet and between the toes. Tinea pedis was given the name ‘athlete’s foot’ because it is commonly found on people who have sweaty feet, which is often the case for athletes.
However, athlete’s foot affects athletes and non-athletes alike. Dermatophyte fungi thrive in dark moist areas and feed on keratin – a primary component of the epidermis (the outer layer of human skin). This means that our feet, which spend most of the day bound up in socks and shoes, present an ideal environment for the proliferation of a fungal infection. Consequently, one in 10 people have athlete’s foot.
Athlete’s foot is by no means a life-threatening issue; however it is contagious and can spread to other parts of your body or to other people. It can also cause foot pain and difficulty walking if left untreated. It can also make your feet smell (which isn’t fun).
What Are The Symptoms Of Athlete’s Foot?
Signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot include:
- Translucent white moist skin between the toes on one or both feet.
- A scaly and raw looking rash
- Dry skin on the soles of the feet
- Peeling skin on the soles of the feet
- Cracked skin on the heels
- Foot odour
Symptoms most commonly appear on the skin between the toes, which is the area of our feet with the most moisture buildup (it is also the toughest area to dry).
What Causes Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus called dermatophytes, which can inhabit, grow and feed off of the outer layer of our skin. The fungus can then easily spread to others through skin contact, whether it be direct (skin-to-skin) or indirect (i.e.: skin contact with an infected surface). It can even spread from one part of your body to another.
Fungi love warm, moist environments, such as communal showers, locker rooms and around public swimming pools. We recommend wearing flip-flops or shoes in these places so that your skin won’t come into contact with any infected surfaces.
Athlete’s foot can also be spread by touch: If you touch an infected surface, you can then spread it to others, even if you don’t get the infection yourself.
How Do I Treat Athlete’s Foot?
Over-the-counter topical antifungals are the most common remedy for athlete’s foot. Our Toronto foot clinic and online shop offers a variety of antifungal products including:
- Medicated creams
Topical antifungals must be applied to all visible fungus on the toes and feet for four weeks or at least one week after all symptoms have cleared. Athlete’s foot is notorious for recurring, so it is extremely important to comply with the full course of treatment.
In resistant or recurrent cases of athlete’s foot, a foot specialist or doctor can prescribe a prescription antifungal cream or an oral antifungal pill to eradicate the infection.
While treating your athlete’s foot infection, it’s important to also do the following:
- Clean your socks and linens with bleach or hot water: the fungus can spread from your feet to these surfaces, and then re-infect you if they’re not thoroughly cleaned before being used again.
- Thoroughly clean any surfaces that your bare feet came into contact with
- Wash your feet at least once a day and ensure they are thoroughly dried
For more information about what to do while you’re treating an athlete’s foot infection, see Prevention.
A foot specialist can go over your best treatment options if you are having difficulty with persistent or recurring athlete’s foot infections.
Our Toronto foot clinic is open Monday-Friday 9am-6pm, Saturdays 9am-4pm. You do not need a referral to become a patient at our foot clinic.
The following risk factors can make you more prone to getting athlete’s foot:
- Sharing mats, rugs, bed linens, clothes, or footwear with someone who has athlete’s foot or a related dermatophyte infection like jock itch or ringworm
- Walking barefoot in contaminated areas such as public locker rooms, saunas, swimming pools, and communal showers
- Having a fungal infection elsewhere on your body, i.e. jock itch
- Sweaty feet: damp socks or tight fitting shoes, especially those made of non-breathable materials, exacerbate moisture levels and make feet more habitable for fungus
- If you have previously had an athlete’s foot infection
How Do I Prevent Athlete’s Foot?
Here are various foot care solutions you can do to prevent athlete’s foot or to reduce the progression of active infections:
- Thoroughly dry between your toes after a bath or shower
- Change socks regularly, even multiple times a day if your feet get very sweaty
- Spend time barefoot to let your feet air out as much as possible when you’re home
- Make sure your shoes dry after each use and alternate shoes throughout the week
- Wear well-ventilated shoes and avoid shoes made of non-breathable synthetic materials such as vinyl or rubber
- Always wear sandals or shoes when visiting public pools, showers, and lockers rooms
- Be cautious when sharing shoes or towels
Book an appointment for athlete’s foot
You do not need a referral to become a patient at our foot clinic. Schedule an appointment by using the Appointment Request form below or contact the clinic at 416-769-FEET(3338).