The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

The Ultimate Summer Guide to Athlete’s Foot: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Posted by on Tuesday, April 16th, 2013


Athlete’s foot sounds like such a romantic condition. It evokes images of the ancient Greeks competing unshod in vast arenas, or the strong and sinewy tendons of a marathoner propelled towards a record-breaking finish. Like with many poetically named medical conditions, the reality is slightly less glamorous than the dream. If you’re an athlete, you’ve probably had at least one case of athlete’s foot. You don’t have to be a shoe-wearing athlete to get it. Swimmers, wrestlers, and others whose bare feet come into contact with publicly trafficked surfaces are at risk too. It’s easy to get and sometimes not so easy to get rid of. Athlete’s foot is a huge problem in the summer, when feet are hot and sweaty breeding grounds for fungus.


Athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis or ringworm of the foot, is a fungal infection that typically develops in the warm, moist areas between the toes, though sometimes it spreads to other parts of the foot as well. It is the most common type of fungal infection, affecting about 1 in 5 people at any given time. The infection causes itching, burning, and stinging. Some people develop itchy blisters; cracking and peeling skin; excessive skin dryness; and thick, crumbly, discolored toenails. Athlete’s foot is contagious and, if left untreated, may spread to the hands, groin (jock itch), and rest of the body.

Onychomycosis, a fungal infection of the nail, is also often classified as athlete’s foot, though it may develop without any other athlete’s foot symptoms. This is tinea unguium or ringworm of the nail. About 10% of the US population has an active tinea unguium infection. Fungal nail infections are much harder to get rid of than athlete’s foot that affects the skin only, so early treatment of a skin infection is important. Adults are more likely to get athlete’s foot than children, and men suffer more commonly than women.


The prevalence of this fungus means treatment options are numerous and readily available, though some are much more effective (and less messy) than others. Most over-the-counter anti-fungal remedies marketed for athlete’s foot will be effective: the greater the percentage of active ingredient, the more potent the formula. Creams are significantly less messy than powders, and sprays are the easiest to apply (though beware the fumes in an enclosed space).


If you don’t see any improvement in 5 to 7 days, the skin on your feet becomes painful or begins to crack deeply, or you notice you also have a fungal nail infection, you may need more than the drug store has to offer. (In other words: it’s time to visit a podiatrist.) Try The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.