Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, is a fungal infection of the skin of the feet. It causes a red, itchy, scaly rash to develop on the feet. The skin may become flaky or peel off. Typically, athlete’s foot develops between the toes or on the soles of the feet.
Athlete’s foot is spread through contact with the tinea fungus. This fungus thrives in warm, moist environments, such as public swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms. If you frequent these places barefoot, the fungi can make its way into your skin. It can also be spread through contact with an infected person, which is why sharing personal items like shoes, socks, or towels should be avoided.
Your podiatrist will likely prescribe a topical antifungal treatment, such as a cream, spray, or powder. This type of treatment is applied directly to the skin to kill the fungi. Sometimes, oral antifungal medications, which are taken by mouth, may be needed.
Yes, athlete’s foot is contagious. It can spread from an infected surface to a person, and from one person to another. It can even spread to different areas on the same person. For example, athlete's foot can spread from the feet to the hands or groin of one person. The fungus can also infect the toenails.
Athlete’s foot can be prevented. When going to public places, especially those that are warm, moist, or humid, wear shoes to protect your feet. Never share shoes, socks, or towels with another person. Maintain proper foot hygiene by washing your feet daily and drying them thoroughly, particularly in between the toes. If you tend to sweat from your feet, wear shoes and socks made of breathable, moisture-wicking material. This will help make your feet a less hospitable environment for fungi to grow in.