A person walking in the bathroom with bare feet

Athlete's Foot

What is athlete’s foot?

Athlete's foot is an infection also called tinea pedis, caused when various types of fungi invade the skin. It usually occurs between the toes but it can also occur on the bottom and sides of the feet. Athlete’s foot can spread to other parts of the body and it can affect your toenails resulting in nail fungus.

Athlete's foot is a contagious fungal infection. It's caused by a certain kind of fungus (Trichophyton fungus) that loves warm, moist conditions (like the environment in your boots or shoes). About 20% of the population suffers from athlete’s foot. Athlete's foot symptoms, especially when persistent and left untreated, can be painful and unsightly, and can make walking difficult.

Bare feet with athlete’s foot on the sole of the left foot

Symptoms of athlete's foot

Athlete's foot is noticeable as one or a combination of these symptoms:

  • Itchy skin
  • Irritated skin
  • Unpleasant smell
  • Burning feeling
  • Scaling and cracking skin
  • Inflammation

Athlete’s foot causes

  • You can catch athlete’s foot by coming into contact with an infected person or with objects or surfaces contaminated with the fungus.
  • Walking barefoot in locker rooms, public pools, or shower areas may increase the risk of contracting athlete's foot.
  • People are most susceptible to athlete's foot when their feet are sweating or have a lack of proper ventilation.
  • Shoes create the ideal environment for fungus growth, as they provide a warm, moist area. Especially thick, tight shoes in which the air cannot circulate are more likely to trigger athlete's foot. They squeeze the toes together, creating ideal conditions for the fungus to thrive.
Two feet in the air with a salmon-coloured background

How to prevent athlete's foot

  • Wash your feet daily
  • Dry your feet well, including between your toes
  • Avoid walking barefoot
  • Wear shoes in locker rooms or common shower areas
  • Wear well-fitting, ventilated shoes
  • Alternate your shoes to allow for air drying
  • Wear socks that keep your feet dry
  • Change shoes and socks at least once daily
  • Do not share shoes or towels with others