Skin Conditions

Skin conditions of the foot are common in sports and most are easily avoidable. They include athlete’s foot, blisters, corns, calluses, and verruca. Most can be treated with over the counter remedies, but if you think something is wrong, then view our advice on whether to see a doctor about your foot injury or skin condition.

On this page:

  • Athletes foot
  • Blisters
  • Corns & Calluses
  • Verruca

Athlete’s foot

Athletes Foot

Athlete’s foot is a skin infection, which commonly affects those who regularly wear trainers and other non-breathable footwear. Symptoms include itching or burning between the toes, often with peeling or flaking skin. In extreme cases, the skin may crack and result in painful bleeding. The cause of athlete’s foot is a fungus called Trichophyton which loves warm, damp places, such as between the toes of sweaty or damp feet.

It grows in warm, moist environments, just like a sweaty trainer which is why it can often affect athletes! It is contagious, meaning it is caught from someone else, usually in communal changing rooms of gyms and swimming pools. It is easily treatable, but with many foot conditions, prevention is better than a cure.

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Friction between the skin and the inside of a shoe or clothing can cause blisters. The friction causes heat to build up which makes the skin look red (called a hot spot), which is the first sign of a blister. The blister may develop into a swelling under the skin, which may sometimes have blood in it (a blood blister). They are particularly common at the back of the heel, instep, and toes.

Blisters can often be prevented by looking after your feet and ensuring you have the correct footwear with fits properly. Protecting the foot with blister plasters or protective tape is important and easily done. Different people will have differing views on the best way to prevent blisters, but if you do suffer there are things you can do both during an event, or afterward to treat the blister.

Most blisters will drain and heal on their own, but in some circumstances, it may be necessary to ‘pop’ them. However, this must be done with caution, because of the risk of infection.

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Corns and calluses

Corns and Calluses

Corns and calluses occur when there is excess or thickening of the skin, usually on the soles of the feet. Calluses form on weight-bearing parts of the body and corns on non-weight bearing areas. Applying gels to reduce friction and applying plasters can help ease any pain and protect the area.

A podiatrist or chiropodist may remove the corns and hard skin with a special tool, or a scalpel, making sure they do not cut into the healthy skin tissue. They can also look at foot biomechanics to identify if overpronation or oversupination is a contributing factor.

Overpronation is where the foot rolls in or flatten too much, and over supination is when the foot rolls outwards too much during the gait cycle. Orthotic inserts can help correct poor foot biomechanics by controlling the position of the foot during the gait cycle and preventing abnormal pressure on parts of the foot.

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A verruca, also known as a plantar wart, develops on the sole of the foot. Verrucas vary in size and are not normally something to worry about. They are the same as warts on any other body part and are caused by a virus, known as human papillomavirus (HPV). They can be contagious so care should be taken and treatment applied.

There is no real need to treat a verruca unless it is causing problems or is uncomfortable to walk on. Most will go away on their own within 2 years, although treatments may clear it sooner. These include salicylic acid creams which should be applied daily for several weeks. Salicylic acid plasters are available which cover the area. A doctor or chiropodist may freeze the Verucca to remove it.

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This article has been written with reference to the bibliography.