Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal infection that usually, though not always, begins between the toes. It often occurs in people whose feet have become sweaty while confined in tight fitting shoes. While it is usually treated with over-the-counter remedies, more serious cases may require prescription medication.
Athlete’s foot usually causes a scaly red rash and an itching sensation. Itching is often the worst right after you take off your shoes and socks.
Types of athlete’s foot
- Toe web infections – These occur between the toes, especially between the fourth and fifth toes and is the most common form of athlete’s foot infection.
- Moccasin-type infections – These cause thickened, scaly skin on the sole and heel of the foot. This type is often difficult to treat because of the thick skin on the sole of the foot.
- Vesicular infections – This type usually appears as blisters on the instep of the foot, but blisters can also be found between the toes, on the top or soles of the feet and on the heel. This is the least common form of infection.
You are most at risk for athlete’s foot if you:
- Are a man.
- Wear damp socks or tightfitting shoes.
- Share mats, rugs, bed linens, clothes or shoes with someone who has a fungal infection.
- Walk barefoot in public areas where the infection can spread. These include locker rooms, saunas, swimming pools, communal/hotel baths and showers.
The application of topical ointments on the skin is usually the first approach in treating athlete’s foot.
- Over-the-counter antifungals are often tried first. The more common of these include Lotrimin, Micatin, Lamisil and Tinactin.
- Prescription medication may be required if symptoms have not improved after two weeks of treatment. Examples are Mentax and Naftin. Prescription medications can also be taken in pill form, and these include Diflucan, Sporanox and Lamisil.
When treating athlete’s foot, don’t stop treatment when the symptoms begin improving. You should complete the full course of medication to increase the chances the infection will not return.
Prevention of athlete’s foot
- Keep your feet clean and dry.
- Dry between the toes after showering or bathing.
- If your feet get really sweaty, change your socks twice a day.
- Wear light, well-ventilated shoes.
- Let your shoes air for 24 hours before wearing them again.
- Use talcum powder on your feet daily.
- Wear waterproof sandals around public pools and showers.