Athlete's foot, also known as Tinea Pedis is a skin infection which is commonly thought to occur amongst athletes and those who wear trainers and other non-breathable footwear. It is caused by a fungus that grows in warm, moist environments, just like a sweaty trainer! Read more on how to prevent and treat this foot infection.
On this page:
- Home help remedies
Athlete's foot symptoms
Symptoms include varying degrees of itching or burning on the skin of the foot. Signs of athlete's foot often include peeling or flaking skin is present. Mild athlete's foot may appear as just dry skin. More severe cases may present with blisters or thick patches of dry red skin. In extreme cases the skin may crack and result in bleeding which can be very painful.
Causes of athlete's foot
Athlete's foot is caused by a fungus called Trichophyton which thrives in warm, moist environments. It most commonly affects the toes and in the spaces in between them, however it can also affect the soles of the feet.
The condition is contagious meaning it is caught from someone else, however the foot has to provide the right conditions for the fungus to thrive. It may be passed through direct contact and also by using the same towels, socks or from changing room floors.
It can appear in anyone, although it is more common in teenagers and men. Some people also seem to be more prone to developing the condition than others although it is not known why. The prevalence in athletes may be due to wearing enclosed footwear such as running shoes or trainers which become very hot and sweaty during exercise, but is probably also linked to using communal changing areas in pools and health clubs.
Treatment of Athlete's foot
An effective athlete's foot cure should be two fold. Firstly, the area should be made less suitable for the fungus to grow. This means keeping the area clean and dry. Try to wear breathable shoes (leather and natural materials are better than synthetics). Absorbent cotton socks are also recommended.
The second stage involves directly treating the infection. This can be done with anti-fungal creams, powders, washes or sprays. Many of these products are available from your local pharmacist and should be used on a daily basis until you have been symptom free for at least a week. More resistant or severe cases may require a course of oral anti-fungal medication. These are only available on prescription from your Doctor.
Preventing Athlete's foot
Prevention is always better than a cure! Tinea pedis does have a tendency to return and so it is important to continue to look after your feet by following these simple steps:
- Wear leather shoes, or even open shoes when possible.This allows the feet to breath and air to get to the foot helping them stay moisture free and dry.
- Wash your feet regularly and make sure you dry them thoroughly.
- Use foot powders such as talcum powder, or even better an anti-fungus athlete's foot powder to make sure your feet are completely dry after washing.
- Wear flip-flops or sandals when using communal changing areas.This prevents the foot from coming into direct contact with potentially infected floors.
- Wear cotton socks and change them regularly.
Home help remedies
Athlete's foot needs to be treated accordingly and medication can be bought over the counter or, if symptoms persist, visit your doctor. Here are the most common athlete's foot home remedies that may aid recovery from the infection.
Rubbing cornstarch into your feet absorbs moisture and takes away the environment that athlete's foot becomes prevalent in. That is why keeping your feet dry is essential. Applying cornstarch is effective at removing moisture so can help prevent athlete's foot.
Tea Tree Oil
Soaking your feet in a footbath with drops of tea tree oil added can be beneficial for athlete’s foot. The tea tree oil has ingredients that work against the fungus and prevent it from spreading further. When you remove your feet from the warm footbath make sure you dry them fully and appropriately. In some cases, people have seen benefits from using tea bags that have been in boiling water for 5 minutes and added to a footbath where the feet are then soaked. This is due to tannic acid being present in tea bags which helps dry the feet out, which in turn reduces the fungal infection.
Sesame Oil/Coconut Oil
Both of these can be applied to reduce fungal infections. They can be applied to the feet and allowed to dry when small measures are applied. The properties of both of these deter and fight against the fungal infection.
The acidity of vinegar stops the fungal infection due to the environment it creates. Cider vinegar is of particular benefit in this instance and, like the above, you can soak your feet in this. Once you soak your feet in a small cup full mixed with warm water make sure the feet are dried appropriately to stop the moisture.
Salt or Bicarbonate of Soda
Salt added with warm water and soaked can stop peeling on the skin of the feet when there is a fungal infection and help reduce the spread. The feet should be allowed to soak for 10 minutes and then dried appropriately. Bicarbonate of Soda can be added with a small amount of water and applied as a paste to the feet. It is important to wash your hands following this as you may have touched the fungal infection, which can also spread to other areas of the body Make sure the feet are rinsed and dried post the application of the paste after allowing it to be absorbed for a few minutes. It may even be worth sprinkling some soda in your shoes to absorb the moisture.
Povidone-iodine (PVPI) / Betadine
This is a chemical and should not be used if pregnant. Caution should be taken with this but it is often used for wounds and infections. Soaking your feet in this chemical in a warm footbath treats the fungal infection directly and again, post application, the feet should be dried sufficiently. This can be applied twice a day to help remove the fungus.
Wash and Dry
Simply washing and drying appropriately and regularly, especially if your feet sweat, will stop the fungal infection from festering in conditions that it likes. The towel used should also be washed and changed after use and all moisture removed from the feet. Talcum powder can then also be applied to reduce the moisture. It may even be appropriate to wear flip-flops or go barefoot to allow the foot to breathe. A use of a hairdryer can also be effective to dry the foot following the use of soap and water.
These athlete's foot home remedies have been shown to work and people have advocated ginger, garlic, and hydrogen peroxide among others to combat the condition. Prevention should always be paramount, either to stop the infection in the first place or to reduce the conditions and environment that allow for growth. If symptoms persist and a home remedy is not sufficient then seek medical advice.