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Athlete's Foot - Fungal Overview

by Jessica Hegg April 11, 2018 0 Comments

using anti-fungal foot cream

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that impacts more than just ball-players. In fact, something as simple as wet shoes or a trip to a public swimming pool can be enough to make your feet feel itchy. More prevalent than most people realize, this problematic foot fungus affects more than three million people each year in the U.S. alone. In this guide, we will discuss all the need-to-know information on this condition that can be frustrating for sufferers.

What is Athlete’s Foot?

Also known as ringworm of the foot and tinea pedis, athlete's foot is a contagious fungal infection that appears between the toes. Highly contagious, exposure to the infection can also spread to the hands and toenails.

What fungus causes athlete’s foot? Doctors have determined that athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus called Trichophyton. This species of fungus is usually discovered in clothing and floors, but will infect feet under the right conditions and opportunity. Studies show that up to 70% of individuals will have athlete’s foot at some point in their lifetime.

Types of Athlete’s Foot

There are different kinds of athlete’s foot. Each type may look different and affect different areas of the feet.

  • Athlete’s Foot Between Toes: Toe Web Infection

    Toe web infections occur between the toes or fingers. This type of athlete’s foot between toes typically starts between the pinkie toe and the fourth toe, causing itchiness and discoloration. The bacteria thrive and reproduce quickly in warm, muggy environments, like unwashed sweaty socks or tight confined shoes without socks.

  • Athlete’s Foot Blisters: Vesicular Infection

    Acute vesicular athlete’s foot occurs anywhere on the foot, causing red blisters that get worse during the summer. Sometimes, a wave of painful blisters can appear on the chest, arms, or sides of the fingers too. If the athlete’s foot blisters burst, there is a high risk of bacterial infection, warranting a possible need for antibiotics. Thus, it’s important to keep the blisters protected and clean. 

  • Athlete’s Foot Infection: Ulcerative Infection

    This type of athlete’s foot infection causes ulcers or open sores on the foot, which are vulnerable to severe infection. They cause discoloration and inflammation around affected areas that can be extremely uncomfortable. Ulcerative infection rarely occurs, but can be very painful.

  • Athlete’s Foot Rash: Moccasin Infection

    Moccasin athlete’s foot is a chronic scaly type of the disease. This type of athlete’s foot rash is usually seen in individuals who are suffering from asthma or eczema, and is linked with fungal nail infections. The pattern of moccasin infection most often affects two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.

What Causes Athlete’s Foot?

How do you get athlete’s foot? Leading causes are poor foot circulation, wet socks, or unclean feet. Athlete’s foot is caused by the mold-like fungus that is commonly found around unkempt swimming pools, communal baths, on gym locker room floors, and in showers.

Athlete’s foot itch may spread and severely affect other parts of the body. These include:

The Groin

An athlete’s foot infection may spread from your foot to your groin because the fungus can quickly transfer on your towel or hands. Jock itch is caused by the same type of fungi associated with athlete’s foot.


The fungus linked with athlete’s foot may also infect the nails, which are more difficult to treat. Possible symptoms include crumbly and discolored toenails. This is why it is important to always keep feet dry and clean, especially between toes.


Frequently touching or scratching your infected feet puts your hand at high risk of contracting a similar fungal infection.

Athlete’s Foot Symptoms

Exact athlete’s foot symptoms depend on what type of fungal infection you have. This condition looks different in each individual, but the most common signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot include odor, a powdery appearance, and small burning rashes. In the early stages of athlete’s foot, the skin looks pale and is itchy. Other possible symptoms include blisters, ulcers, or chronic dryness depending on which type you are dealing with.

If you experience athlete’s foot pain and the rash does not seem to improve, consult a doctor or a skin specialist right away. Apart from pain and soreness, a secondary bacterial infection may cause fever, swelling in the leg, or blisters. 

Keep blisters from spreading with these comfortable shoe pads.

When to Call an Athlete’s Foot Doctor

Knowing how to get rid of athlete’s foot is about fast and effective treatment. Luckily, many treatment options are within arm’s reach in your own home. It’s important to talk to your doctor right away if your symptoms are getting worse, aren’t getting better after two weeks of treatment, or you experience signs of infection (warmth, redness, and inflammation). Additionally, if you are diabetic it’s important to seek help as soon as possible to preserve the integrity of the skin on your feet.

Diagnosing Athlete’s Foot

As athlete’s foot is a common condition, a lot of people have tried to self-diagnose their skin infection at home. However, if certain medications no longer work to alleviate symptoms, then it is best to visit a healthcare provider to figure out the problem; especially since it can often be mistaken for chronic dry skin or eczema.

How do you know if you have athlete’s foot? Apart from a thorough physical examination, your doctor may require a potassium hydroxide test to confirm the signs of athlete’s foot. Other diagnostic tests may be conducted to help rule out other chronic conditions such as:

  • Psoriasis
  • Irritant rash (contact dermatitis)
  • Dry skin
  • Dermatitis
  • Erythrasma
  • Diabetic ulcers
  • Dyshidrotic eczema

Preventing Severe Athlete’s Foot

Treat fungal infections the moment you notice the first sign of itchiness. Chronic athlete’s foot is something that you should never take for granted, as skin infections can be painful and make daily life much more difficult. Plus, they can easily spread if you don’t address them quickly and find yourself itching or picking at the affected area. Follow the tips mentioned in our full resource on how to effectively treat the condition. And if you have recovered or have been lucky enough not to experience any problems, make sure to also implement a full athlete’s foot prevention plan today.


Athlete's Foot Products


Jessica Hegg
Jessica Hegg

Jessica Hegg is the content manager and at With vast product knowledge and understanding of individual needs, she aims to share valuable information on making smart buying choices, overcoming obstacles and overall improving the quality of life for others. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle.

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