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 the 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 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
There may be 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
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
The feet 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 the feet to other parts of the body.2
Anyone can get athlete’s foot (although it is rare in children3), but it is more likely to develop when feet are exposed to warm and moist conditions.1 Factors that increase the 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 feet wet, warm, and sweaty2
- Poor foot hygiene—not washing and drying feet regularly, or wearing the same socks or shoes for too long,1,2,3,4
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
- Avoid walking barefoot in public areas, and wear footwear in showers or changing rooms at the gym or swimming pool1,2,3,4
- Wash feet regularly, and make sure they are thoroughly dry—particularly between the toes (pat dry instead of rubbing)1,2,4
- Use a separate towel for feet, and wash towels and sheets regularly in hot water1
- Wear breathable shoes and take shoes off when at home2,4
- Change 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 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 shoes regularly1
Optimising your general foot health
A simple maintenance routine can help to keep the skin on the feet healthy.5
- Daily care: Wash and dry and feet thoroughly and apply moisturiser every day
- Footwear: Ensure that shoes fit properly (both in width and length) and are appropriate for the activity
- Appearance: Check the appearance of feet regularly for any changes
- Movement and flexibility: Check that feet can move easily and without discomfort; some simple stretches may help
- Referral: Speak with a GP or podiatrist if there are any concerns about foot health
Scholl’s range of footcare options are available in major retailers and pharmacies in Australia, including Coles, Woolworths, Chemist Warehouse, and Priceline.
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional.