When we think about "athlete's foot", high-intensity physical activity and sports involvement typically come to mind. However, athletes are not the only ones at risk of developing this pesky condition. Poor hygiene and tight-fitting shoes, among other factors, may also cause symptoms to arise regardless of an individual's activity level. 

Athlete's foot is a term used to describe a fungal infection that typically appears on the skin of the feet, but may spread to other parts of the body. The affliction is brought on by a variety of fungi, with the most common culprit known as Trichophyton. These fungi are attracted to moist, warm conditions, making the inside of a shoe the perfect breeding ground to grow and thrive. 

Normally, the infection first appears in the crevices between the toes. It presents as an itching, burning rash that may look red or flaky in appearance. If left untreated, symptoms may spread to the rest of the foot and, in certain cases, may be transferred to the hands as condition known as tinea manuum. Symptoms also tend to worsen as time goes on. Rashes may crack or fissure, resulting in oozing, crusting and blister formation.

Certain lifestyle choices and pre-existing health conditions may put you at a heightened risk of developing athlete's foot.

Risk factors:

  • Frequent foot exposure in public areas where conditions are moist and warm (i.e. public pools and locker rooms)
  • A weakened immune system
  • Diabetes*
  • Psoriasis
  • Excessive sweating
  • Wearing tight shoes, or wearing the same socks and shoes for a prolonged period of time

* Studies have found that diabetic patients are predisposed to developing athlete's foot.

While athlete's foot is contagious, it is easily treated with proper medical intervention. In early stages, OTC medications can be effective in clearing up any infection. For more progressed cases, stronger anti-fungal prescriptions may be necessary. 

Home remedies:

  • Soaking feet in warm salt water or vinegar diluted with water 
  • Applying OTC hydrocortisone cream to sore, swollen skin
  • Switching to well-ventilated shoes and cotton socks 
  • Washing feet at least twice daily with soap and water
  • Drying feet completely upon washing

Preventative measures:

  • Washing feet daily with soap and water
  • Wearing shoes that fit properly, and always wearing dry, cotton socks under sneakers and loafers
  • Removing shoes promptly upon completion of physical activity
  • Ensuring feet are dried completely upon exposure to moisture
  • Wearing well-ventilated shoes made of materials such as canvas and leather, when possible
  • Washing towels, socks and other foot garments often

How our podiatrists can help:

If you believe you have athlete's foot and are experiencing persistent or worsening symptoms, our podiatrists are here to help. While most mild cases can be treated using the methods listed above, it is best to consult a professional if symptoms continue despite proper foot care, or if you are have pre-existing health conditions that put you at heightened risk. Left untreated, athlete's foot can lead to severe complications including:

  • Secondary infection
  • Fungal infection of the nails
  • Infection of the lymph system
  • Cellulitis

Our podiatrists Dr. Elizabeth Davis, Dr. Dina Hansen McCoy, Dr. Daniel Heck and Dr. Khoa Pham are experts at diagnosing and treating athlete's foot at all levels of severity. By conducting a full examination of the foot, they can determine the exact cause of your symptoms, whether athlete's foot or any other ailment is to blame, and respond with the proper treatment. 

To schedule an appointment at one of our Palm Beach County locations, or to learn more about your options, call us at 561.433.5577 or email and a member of our team will follow up with you.