Tinea pedis, commonly known as Athlete’s foot, is a contagious fungal skin infection that affects the skin on soles of the feet and between the toes. Tinea pedis was given the name ‘athlete’s foot’ because it is commonly found on people who have sweaty feet, which is often the case for athletes.
However, athlete’s foot affects athletes and non-athletes alike. Dermatophyte fungi thrive in dark moist areas and feed on keratin – a primary component of the epidermis (the outer layer of human skin). This means that our feet, which spend most of the day bound up in socks and shoes, present an ideal environment for the proliferation of a fungal infection. Consequently, one in 10 people have athlete’s foot.
Athlete’s foot is by no means a life-threatening issue; however it is contagious and can spread to other parts of your body or to other people. It can also cause foot pain and difficulty walking if left untreated. It can also make your feet smell (which isn’t fun).
Signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot include:
Symptoms most commonly appear on the skin between the toes, which is the area of our feet with the most moisture buildup (it is also the toughest area to dry).
Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus called dermatophytes, which can inhabit, grow and feed off of the outer layer of our skin. The fungus can then easily spread to others through skin contact, whether it be direct (skin-to-skin) or indirect (i.e.: skin contact with an infected surface). It can even spread from one part of your body to another.
Fungi love warm, moist environments, such as communal showers, locker rooms and around public swimming pools. We recommend wearing flip-flops or shoes in these places so that your skin won’t come into contact with any infected surfaces.
Athlete’s foot can also be spread by touch: If you touch an infected surface, you can then spread it to others, even if you don’t get the infection yourself.
Over-the-counter topical antifungals are the most common remedy for athlete’s foot. Our Toronto foot clinic and online shop offers a variety of antifungal products including:
Topical antifungals must be applied to all visible fungus on the toes and feet for four weeks or at least one week after all symptoms have cleared. Athlete’s foot is notorious for recurring, so it is extremely important to comply with the full course of treatment.
In resistant or recurrent cases of athlete’s foot, a foot specialist or doctor can prescribe a prescription antifungal cream or an oral antifungal pill to eradicate the infection.
While treating your athlete’s foot infection, it’s important to also do the following:
For more information about what to do while you’re treating an athlete’s foot infection, see Prevention.
A foot specialist can go over your best treatment options if you are having difficulty with persistent or recurring athlete’s foot infections.
Our Toronto foot clinic is open Monday-Friday 9am-6pm, Saturdays 9am-4pm. You do not need a referral to become a patient at our foot clinic.
The following risk factors can make you more prone to getting athlete’s foot:
Here are various foot care solutions you can do to prevent athlete’s foot or to reduce the progression of active infections: