Medically known as tinea pedis, Athlete’s foot is an itchy and uncomfortable fungal infection that affects the soles of the feet and between the toes.
Athlete’s foot is a fungal skin infection that is well-known for causing the skin around your feet to become itchy, red, and uncomfortable. Many people will experience an Athlete’s foot infection at some point in their lives, some even many times, as it is relatively easily spread through sharing surfaces where the feet are exposed such as showers and changing rooms. This occurs because fungal infections spread through microscopic, lightweight spores that are invisible to the naked eye, but that a bare foot can easily come into contact with. Once you’re exposed to the fungus, anyone can develop the infection - you don’t need to be an athlete to develop it.
Signs that you may have an Athlete’s foot fungal infection include:
Some people may also develop an unpleasant foot odour, and for others they may find their toenails could also be involved, with their appearance developing yellow or brown streaks. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to investigate whether you may also have developed a fungal nail infection, or if the presence of bacteria together with the fungus could be causing your foot odour.
A number of different types of fungus can be responsible for an Athlete’s foot infection, the most common being called trichophyton. This fungus is found in warm and damp environments, which provides the ideal conditions for fungus to quickly multiply and spread. For this reason, Athlete’s foot is often contracted from communal showers, changing rooms, pool areas, and the like. Sweaty and damp gym shoes also make a perfect breeding ground for this fungus, which is why Athlete’s foot tends to be more prevalent among athletic individuals. With that said, sandal wearers have an increased risk too, with the hot sun drying out the skin so it loses its natural protective oils, and with the potential rubbing and friction from wearing the sandals making you more prone to infection.
There are a lot of simple and easy steps you can take at home to start getting your Athlete’s foot infection under control, as well as helping prevent it from spreading to other members of your family. These include:
As fungus loves moist and damp conditions, we want to limit our exposure to these environments as much as possible. When we wear a pair of enclosed shoes like sneakers, it typically takes up to 24 hours to completely dry them out from the natural sweat and moisture that builds up as we wear them throughout the day. Instead of wearing the same shoes the next day which may still be damp and therefore encourage fungal growth, we recommend having at least two pairs of work/casual shoes that you’re happy to alternate on different days. Don’t forget to remove the insoles from the shoes when drying them to help them dry faster.
Thoroughly dry the soles and tops of your feet, and between your toes, any time your feet get wet - whether that’s after swimming, a shower, or exercising in the heat. If you have a bunion or other foot condition when the toes are positioned closely together, make sure you take the time to really get into the spaces between the toes as this will be a high-risk area for trapped moisture - and therefore fungal growth as well as maceration (skin breakdown), which can cause you much pain and discomfort.
Wearing sandals or other simple foot protection in damp public areas like swimming pools, changing rooms or showers is an easy way to prevent you from coming in contact with more fungus that may be lingering on the ground.
Choose socks that draw moisture away from your feet such as those made of bamboo, polyester, merino wool, nylon, lycra and CoolMax technologies. This will prevent sweat from being trapped in your socks and being held against your feet all day, promoting the fungus to grow and spread.
If someone in your household develops an Athlete’s foot infection (or any fungal infection), encourage them to treat their infection quickly to reduce the likelihood of it spreading to you or other members in your household.
Here at Matt Raden Podiatry, our trusted and experienced podiatrists listen to the concerns, goals and needs of our patients with an Athlete’s foot fungal infection, and utilise a range of evidence-based treatment methods to help you get the best outcome - to get rid of your fungal infection for good.
Treating Athlete’s foot with us starts with confirming the diagnosis, as there are a number of other conditions that may appear similar to an Athlete’s foot infection, including foot eczema (specifically podopompholyx), psoriasis, a bacterial infection, or contact dermatitis. This is done during your first appointment with your podiatrist.
After your Athlete’s foot infection is confirmed, we’ll recommend specific over-the-counter antifungal medications or products that will be best suited to your circumstances. In some cases, particularly where an Athlete’s foot infection may be combined with a bacterial infection which will be marked by a significant foot odour, a hydrocortisone cream may also be recommended. Your podiatrist will inform you what you need, how to use it, and what extra measures you can be taking to treat your infection promptly and effectively - such as anti-fungal aerosols to be used in your shoes, or antifungal washing powder for your towels, bath mats and sheets. Throughout your treatment, care must be taken as the infection can make your skin very fragile and susceptible to damage.
We’ll also double check for signs of a fungal nail infection, which can occur with Athlete’s foot. Fungal nail infections are notoriously stubborn and difficult to treat, which is where catching them early can go a long way in helping you nip it in the bud and stop the infection from spreading to others in your family.
If you’ve developed a fungal skin infection, our team is here to help - and to ensure you have the best experience doing so. We’re proud to go above and beyond for our patients, focusing not only on managing your itchiness, discomfort and other symptoms, but helping you get the best long-term outcomes so your Athlete’s foot infection doesn’t return.