Athlete's foot is a common skin infection. It affects the skin between the toes and soles of the feet.
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Athlete's foot is caused by a fungus. A fungus thrives in a warm, dark, moist place. The most common place is inside shoes, locker rooms, showers, and swimming pool areas. Fungus from a floor, mat, rug, shoe, or towel can pass to bare feet with contact. Athlete's foot can also pass from contact with fungus on someone else's feet. Once the fungus is on skin it can grow.
Athlete's foot is more common in adults and males. Other things that raise the risk are:
- A warm, moist environment
- Walking barefoot in locker rooms or public places
- A wound on the foot
- Sweaty feet
- Wearing air-tight or poorly ventilated shoes or boots
- A weak immune system
- Close contact with someone who has a foot fungus
Athlete's foot symptoms usually start in the skin between the toes. It may spread to the soles or arches of the feet. It can also spread to the toenails if the infection continues. Symptoms may be:
- Dry skin
- Scaling, cracking, and redness
- A white, wet surface
- A bad odor
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. The feet will be examined. The doctor may suspect athlete's foot based on the exam.
If necessary, the doctor may scrape a small sample from the area. The sample will be checked for fungus or other problems.
The goal is to clear the infection and prevent it from spreading.
Athlete's foot is treated with medicines, such as:
- Creams, gels, and powders applied to the feet—to kill the fungus
- Antifungal medicine by mouth—to treat severe infections or other problems
To lower the risk of athlete's foot:
- Wear shower shoes or sandals in locker rooms, public showers, and around swimming pools.
- Keep feet clean and dry.
- Do not share socks, slippers, shoes, or towels.
American Academy of Dermatology
Foot Health Facts—American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons
Canadian Podiatric Medical Association
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Athletes' foot. American Podiatric Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.apma.org/files/ProductPDFs/Athlete%E2%80%99s_Foot.pdf. Accessed July 27, 2021.
Iwanaga T, Ushigami T, Anzawa K, Mochizuki T. Viability of pathogenic dermatophytes during a 4-week treatment with 1% topical luliconazole for tinea pedis. Med Mycol. 2020;58(3):401-403.
Tinea pedis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/tinea-pedis. Accessed July 27, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Daniel A. Ostrovsky, MD Last Updated: 7/27/2021