Athlete’s Foot is a fungal infection of the skin on the feet. It is very common – up to one in four people have athlete’s foot. Microscopic fungi often occur in small numbers on human skin where they usually do no harm. However, if conditions are right they can invade the skin, multiply and cause infection. The conditions fungi like best are warm, moist and airless areas of skin, such as between the toes.

Anyone can get Athlete’s Foot. It is more common in people who sweat more, or who wear shoes and socks which make their feet sweatier. Athlete’s foot can also be passed on from person to person, for example, in communal showers used by athletes or swimmers. Once a small patch of infection develops, it typically spreads along the skin.

Typical appearance of Athlete’s Foot infection:

Athlete's foot appearance

Example Athlete’s Foot appearance

The skin between the little toes tends to be affected at first. A rash develops that becomes itchy and scaly. The skin may become cracked and sore. Large splits (fissures) in the skin between the toes can develop, which can be very painful. Tiny flakes of infected skin may fall off. The rash may spread gradually along the toes if left untreated. In some cases it spreads to the soles. Occasionally, the infection causes a scaling rash on the entire sole and side of the foot. In other cases it causes more of a blistering rash on part of the sole of the foot.

Athlete’s Foot is not usually serious. Most people treat their itchy toes before it spreads. Sometimes the infection spreads to the skin on other parts of the body. These are usually the moist and airless parts of the skin such as the groin. Fungi do not usually spread deeper than the skin. However, other germs (bacteria) may enter through the cracked skin of untreated athlete’s foot. This can occasionally cause more serious infections of the foot or leg.

Treating Athlete’s Foot

You can buy a topical antifungal treatment from pharmacies, or get one on prescription. Topical means it is applied directly to the area affected. There are various types and brands, usually containing one the active ingredients terbinafine, clotrimazole, econazole, ketoconazole or miconazole. They are usually creams, but can also be sprays, liquids or powders. These treatments are all good at clearing fungal skin infections.

Apply for as long as advised. This varies between the different treatments, so read the instructions carefully. Although the rash may seem to go quite quickly, you may need to apply the treatment for 1-2 weeks after the rash has gone. This is to clear the fungi completely from the skin and so prevent the rash from returning.

I also offer two alternative treatments, giving excellent results:

  • A cream by Imperial Feet based on glycerine, almond oil and aloe vera;
  • ‘Ditch That Itch’, a blend of Lemongrass, Patchouli and Lavender oils that relieves and soothes the symptoms of Athlete’s Foot, such as drying, itching and redness.

Tips for prevention of Athlete’s Foot

  • Wash your feet daily, and dry the skin between your toes thoroughly after washing. This is perhaps the most important point. It is tempting to put socks on when your feet are not quite dry. The soggy skin between the toes is then ideal for fungi to grow.
  • Do not share towels in communal changing rooms. Wash towels frequently.
  • Change your socks daily. Fungi may multiply in flakes of skin in unwashed socks.
  • Socks made of fibres with moisture wicking properties (transporting moisture away from the skin) are preferable to cotton socks, which tend to hold moisture next to the skin.
  • Ideally, alternate between different shoes every 2-3 days to allow each pair to dry out fully after being worn.
  • Ideally, wear flip-flops or plastic sandals in communal changing rooms and showers. This prevents the soles of your feet coming into contact with flakes of skin from other people.
  • Ideally, when at home, leave your shoes and socks off as much as possible to let the air get to your feet. However, this may not be practical for some people.
  • regular use of DAKTARIN® Aktiv Spray powder, available from pharmacies, is a good ongoing measure if Athlete’s Foot is a recurring problem.