You Don’t Have to be an Athlete to Get Athlete’s Foot

One of the conditions I frequently see in my practice is athlete's foot. This condition is caused by a fungal infection affecting the web of skin between the toes and the soles of the feet. Symptoms typically include itching, burning, pain and scaling. People pick up these fungal infections when walking barefoot on contaminated floors and objects.

Why is it Called Athlete’s Foot?
Athletes historically used showers and locker rooms, which are breeding grounds for fungi because these wet, warm areas encourage the fungi to spread. The term "athlete's foot" became popular as a description for this troublesome condition.

But you don’t have to be an athlete to get athlete’s foot. This fungus also grows well because our feet are warm, dark, and often sweaty in our shoes - a perfect environment for fungus to thrive.

What are the Symptoms?
One or more of the following may be seen or experienced: dry skin, itching, scaling, inflammation, and blisters. If blisters are present and they break, then raw areas are exposed leading to pain and swelling.

Treatment Options
Podiatrists are trained to assess and treat all conditions of the feet and ankles. Our expertise at the Family Foot and Ankle Center practices in Niles and Berwyn, Illinois, allows for the best outcome for your condition.

With patients, I like to use something to help with excessive perspiration in the feet. I use a powder or a spray to help keep the feet dry. Then a topical medication to help kill the fungus on the skin. Sometimes, oral medication may be needed if the condition is severe.

Athlete’s foot is very contagious. Therefore, I also recommend that you use daily a hygienic spray to kill all the fungi and bacteria in your shoes. Furthermore, frequent cleaning of your shower or tub is critical to avoiding reinfection or cross-contamination with other family members. Special sprays designed to kill the fungi and bacteria are easy to use and will help keep the shower clean. Alternatively, you can clean with a mix of bleach and water (10%/90%).

Tips from the American Podiatric Medical Association:

  • Avoid walking barefoot; use shower shoes.
  • Wear light and airy, or “breathable” shoes.
  • Wear socks that keep your feet dry, and change them frequently if you perspire heavily.

Next Steps
Now that you know more about athlete’s foot, we encourage you make an appointment to speak with your podiatrist if you suspect you might have the condition. With your doctor, you can request specially formulated sprays, powders, and topical products specifically designed to help you.

About the Author—Dr. Parikh
Dr. Shermi Parikh, DPM, practices podiatry at the Family Foot and Ankle Center in Niles and Berwyn, Illinois. She has been in practice for over a decade and treats all aspects of foot and ankle pain using physical therapy, orthotics, minimally invasive surgical techniques, and laser treatment. More information about her practice and areas of specialization may be found at She believes that informed patients are best able to address podiatric conditions.