Atheletes Foot

What is it?

Athletes' foot (tinea pedis) is a common condition where individuals develop itchy, cracked, peeling areas of skin typically over the toe webs. In it’s more severe form it can lead to painful fissures between the toes and foot malodor. The lesions are caused by fungal infection of the skin, development of the condition occurs due to both direct exposure/contact with the organism and the existence of a favourable environment for the fungus to thrive. 

What causes it?

The first process in the development of athletes' feet is exposure to the organism, typically this occurs due to the use of public changing rooms or sharing towels. Once this infective event occurs fungal proliferation is achieved by the presence of a favourable environment, this includes:


  1. Moisture: all fungal species favour warm and moist environments therefore excessive sweating, wearing synthetic footwear, poor hygiene and failing to dry feet after showering all act as risk factors.

  2. A compromised immune system due to other coexisting diseases (diabetes) or medications means the body is unable to effectively fight the infection.

  3. Excessive dead-skin and calluses provide food and nutrients for the fungus to consume, adding fuel to the fire.

How to treat it?

Treatment of fungal infections includes both:

  1. Using anti-fungal medicines to kill the organism

  2. Avoiding or minimising the favourable environment that has allowed the fungus to thrive.

    1. Dry feet carefully after washing

    2. Wearing loose fitting shoes or going barefoot whenever possible

    3. Maintaining calluses and reducing dead skin build up either manually or with keratolytic agents. 

    4. Avoiding direct contact with communal surfaces


Crucially, using just an antifungal medicine alone without removing the favourable environment creates a significant risk of recurrence or failure of treatment. It is important to regularly change towels during treatment periods to prevent re-infection.  


Fungal infections tend also to be stubborn. Prolonged courses of treatment are therefore often required.