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How to Get Rid of Athlete’s Foot

by Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT October 12, 2021 0 Comments

woman using foot cream

At the first sign of itchy feet, a game plan for how to get rid of athlete’s foot can help reduce the severity of your symptoms and prevent the spread of the itchy fungus to other parts of the body like the hands and groin. Thankfully, most cases of athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis or ringworm of the feet, can be managed with over-the-counter products and home remedies. Keep reading to learn more about what you can do at home to effectively treat athlete’s foot.

Not sure if you have athlete’s foot? Talk to your doctor and see our full guide to symptoms of athlete’s foot, diagnosis, and more.

Antifungal Cream or Powder

Over-the-counter antifungal remedies come in the form of creams, lotions, powders, and sprays. The most common active ingredient in these is clotrimazole. They can be found at your local pharmacy and are usually very effective at clearing up the sight of itching. Daily application (follow exact directions on the product) is important. Antifungal powder can also be added directly to your shoes to kill any fungus that is already lurking in them too.

If over-the-counter products don’t seem to be working, you may need to get a stronger dermatology prescription from your doctor.

Antifungal Products from a First Aid Kit

There are a couple of different options that can be found in your first aid kit to help combat athlete’s foot thanks to their antifungal and antibacterial properties. One antifungal remedy that some people use is the application of hydrogen peroxide. It can be applied/poured directly over affected areas. Be aware that this can sting over any open wounds, such as blisters, and should cause bubbling. Using it twice per day seems to be most effective when it is being used for treatment.

Another common household product is rubbing alcohol. It can be used similarly to hydrogen peroxide as described above. Otherwise, it can also be used as a soak with 70% alcohol and 30% water for up to 30 minutes.

Always check with your doctor before beginning any new regime.

Daily Foot Care

Fungus is opportunistic when the environment is right to allow it to thrive. Being mindful of your foot care can help with current symptoms, minimize the risk of spreading, and prevent the onset or return as well.

Moisturize

Feet that are too dry can be problematic when it comes to athlete’s foot. Irritated, cracked skin is a perfect breeding ground for fungus to start growing. Affected skin that becomes overly dry can also increase your risk of developing an infection. While keeping the feet moisturized isn’t a cure for athlete’s foot, it can help with the itch and prevent complications. Make sure to choose a scent-free product that is breathable.

Find Foot Cream Here

File Calluses

A callus or corn is a telltale sign that an area of the foot is being subjected to excessive pressure, irritation, and friction. Thus, calluses can be present before, during, or after the onset of athlete’s foot. Good foot hygiene to prevent unnecessary skin irritation should involve managing your calluses with a designated foot file. Additionally, pay attention to your shoes and movement mechanics to ensure you aren’t perpetuating any calluses and skin irritation with your daily activities.

Scrub Away Dirt

Lingering dirt between your toes, around a callus, or on the toenails can be a breeding ground for fungus. It’s important to thoroughly wash the feet each day, particularly after sweating or being exposed to dirt. Soap and water aren’t usually enough. Plus, due to balance issues, many people neglect their foot hygiene altogether. Using a foot scrubber is a great way to get all those hard-to-reach spots on the bottom of the foot.

Keep Feet Dry

Most importantly, you want the skin of your feet to stay as dry as possible throughout the day. The bottom line is that if your feet are dry there is nowhere for fungus to grow and flourish. After bathing, always pat your feet completely dry with a towel. If needed talcum powder to keep the feet dry as well (as discussed below). Additionally, keep the type of shoes and socks you are wearing in mind as well. We will dive into further details about this below.

Foot Hygiene with Socks and Shoes

The type of shoes and socks you wear daily and how you care for them can play a major role in the development and perpetuation of athlete’s foot. Keep these basic tips in mind for being more aware of what you’re putting on your feet.

Wear Breathable Shoes

Shoes that are restrictive and don’t allow any airflow are a recipe for disaster since fungus loves dark and moist spaces. When choosing tennis shoes, opt for a breathable material that keeps your feet cool and minimizes the risk of the feet getting overheated and sweaty. When possible, also consider periodically wearing sandals or open-toe shoes that will allow more breathing too. Certain careers and seasons of the year require shoes that are unfortunately innately not breathable. Thus, when it can’t be avoided, make smart sock choices, try to take breaks from your shoes when possible, and use a powder for moisture control.

Avoid Cotton or Wool Socks

What type of socks you choose to wear in your shoes is important for optimally managing sweat and moisture on your feet. When it comes to socks, it’s best to avoid cotton or wool socks that aren’t breathable and leave your feet feeling hot and sweaty. Instead, opt for breathable synthetic materials that wick away moisture.

Avoid Sharing Shoes or Socks

Fungus is very contagious and shoes are a breeding ground for it since they can lead to foot sweating and moisture accumulation. While avoiding sharing shoes and socks should be an obvious solution to avoiding getting athlete’s foot, it can be tempting to grab a friend or family member’s shoes when you’re in a rush or forgot your own shoes. While sharing is caring, when it comes to what you’re putting on your feet it’s best to keep what you put on your feet to yourself. 

Wash Socks with Hot Water

Fungus can linger on your sock and in your shoes long after you’ve taken them off. You can spray your shoes with antifungal and anti-bacterial sprays. Plus, practice good sterilization techniques with the washing of your socks. Use enough detergent and choose hot water on your washer settings for the best results. You can also throw your shoe liners in if they are washable as well. Nowadays, many washing machines even have a “sterilize” option pre-programmed that you can quickly select.

Talcum Powder

The use of talcum powder or cornstarch can be effective because of its ability to keep the feet dry. When applied to the feet, it can wick away moisture within the shoes and socks during the day to help manage and prevent the spread of the fungus. Simply apply the powder to your dry feet on the affected skin before putting on socks and shoes. Talcum powder is not good for the lungs, so take caution when applying it to prevent inhaling it.

Avoid Going Barefoot in Public Places

As already mentioned, fungus is very contagious and can be easily spread from person to person. Thus, moist public areas can be breeding grounds for athlete’s foot. Common areas to be wary of include swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms. Protect your feet in these vulnerable areas by wearing sandals, such as flip-flops, when you’re moving about.

Alternative Home Remedies

Many people with mild symptoms have their own strategies to deal with athlete’s foot relief at home. Although there are limited scientific studies to prove how well these home remedies work, some are worth trying and can yield great results. See a list of options below:

  • Tea tree oil can kill fungus and bacteria, potentially reducing the swelling, scaling, and itching of athlete’s foot when applied to the skin at least two times daily.
  • Neem oil or neem leaf extract has antifungal properties that can help too when applied daily. It can be massaged into the skin and be particularly helpful with affected toenails.
  • If you don’t mind the smell, garlic is also a potential solution thanks to its antifungal properties as well. Smash up a handful of cloves and apply them directly to the feet and toes twice daily.
  • Sea salt has been an age-old effective remedy for skin irritation and infection. It can be mixed with vinegar to make a paste. However, most often it is used as a soak by adding 1 cup of salt to warm water and doing a foot soak for at least 20 minutes. Always ensure you completely dry your feet afterwards. Some people have also had success with using baking soda in a foot soak as well.
  • Eucalyptus oil and menthol, common in chest opening rubs, can also provide relief by applying them each night before bed.

Improving Foot Health

Athlete’s foot treatment all comes down to minimizing moisture and keeping good foot hygiene to get rid of the fungal infection. Most often, you can manage your itchy feet on your own with the home remedies for athlete’s foot that we discussed above. You should notice a gradual improvement in symptoms over two weeks with dedicated treatment and awareness. However, if your symptoms get worse, aren’t getting better with two weeks of conservative treatment, or you suspect a skin infection is starting (evident by redness, swelling, and heat around any open sores) it’s best to talk to your doctor, particularly a dermatologist or podiatrist, for further medical advice and treatment recommendations.

Resources:

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/understanding-athletes-foot-treatment#:~:text=Sprinkle%20antifungal%20powder%20on%20feet,feet%20get%20plenty%20of%20air.

https://www.lamisilat.com/athletes-foot/

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Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT
Jaydee Vykoukal, PT, DPT

JayDee Vykoukal is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, owner of the healthy habit platform Health Means Wealth, and freelance medical writer. She loves traveling and spending time with her family in nature. Her passion is helping others continue to participate in the activities they love through education and proper exercise.



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