Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal infection that usually begins between the toes. It occurs most commonly in people whose feet have become very sweaty while confined within tight-fitting shoes.
Signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot include a scaly rash that usually causes itching, stinging and burning. Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread via contaminated floors, towels or clothing.
Athlete’s foot is closely related to other fungal infections.It can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications, but the infection often recurs. Prescription medications also are available.
Athlete’s foot is caused by the same type of fungus that causes ringworm and jock itch. Damp socks and shoes and warm, humid conditions favor the organisms’ growth.
Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread by contact with an infected person or from contact with contaminated surfaces, such as towels, floors and shoes.
Athlete’s foot usually causes a scaly red rash that typically begins in between the toes. Itching is often the worst right after you take off your shoes and socks. Some types of athlete’s foot feature blisters or ulcers. The moccasin variety of athlete’s feet causes chronic dryness and scaling on the soles that extends up the sides of the feet. It can be mistaken for eczema or even as dry skin.
The infection can affect one or both feet and can spread to your hand — especially if you scratch or pick at the infected parts of your feet.
When to see a doctor
If you have a rash on your foot that doesn’t improve within a few weeks after self-treatment, see your doctor. Seek medical advice sooner if you have diabetes and suspect you have athlete’s foot or if you notice excessive redness, swelling, drainage or fever.