Athlete’s Foot is one of the more common issues when it comes to discussing foot hygiene and foot health, but many people don’t know exactly what it is or even that they might be at risk of developing it. In fact, anyone who wears socks or shoes most the day, anyone who frequently visits a pool or gym, or anyone with naturally sweaty feet are all at risk. We’re here to help sort things out.
Okay, so what is Athlete’s Foot, exactly?
Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis) is a very common fungal infection that is, in most cases, quite easily treated. Athlete’s Foot is caused by the same type of fungus that causes ringworm and jock itch, and this fungus tends to develop and thrive in areas that are both warm and moist. Athlete’s Foot commonly affects the toe region, but it can form anywhere on the skin where those warm and moist conditions exist. Approximately 70% of the population will be affected by Athlete’s Foot at some point during their lifetime, according to the American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics1.
Who’s at risk of getting Athlete’s Foot?
Anyone can develop Athlete’s Foot if the conditions are right for the fungus to grow. If you wear tight socks for long periods of time each day or wear tight-fitting footwear, you are at risk. In both cases, lack of good ventilation around the feet can provide the ideal warm, moist environment for Athlete’s Foot to take hold. Being barefoot in public places—most commonly swimming pools, locker rooms, or communal baths/showers—could also expose you to the fungus if someone else with the fungus also was barefoot there. The same goes at home, if you walk barefoot across carpeting, rugs, or expose your feet to other surfaces that a family member or housemate with Athlete’s Foot also touched with their feet.
How do I know if I have Athlete’s Foot?
Some of the more prevalent symptoms of Athlete’s Foot include:
• Itching, burning, or stinging of the skin in and around the affected area.
• Redness or rash formation in and around the affected area.
• Raw, inflamed skin.
• Dry skin that is cracked or scaly.
• Discoloration, thickening, or crumbling of the nails.
• (In severe cases) Blisters that ooze or crust over.
How do I prevent Athlete’s Foot in the first place?
Prevention largely involves keeping the feet dry as much as possible and avoiding communal areas while barefoot. Changing socks often is a good first step to preventing Athlete’s Foot. Wearing socks and other foot garments made of natural fibers, such as cotton and wool, will absorb moisture better than those made of synthetic fibers, helping further to keep your feet dry. Certain shoe insoles, including those from Superfeet, Sof Sole, and Spenco all include a moisture-wicking or absorbent top cloth and/or an anti-microbial top cloth to absorb moisture or reduce the likelihood of fungal bacteria growth. Anti-microbial and moisture-wicking/absorbent insoles are a great way to eliminate excess moisture, keeping feet dry and thereby reducing the chance for bacteria growth. If you suffer from sweaty feet, you might consider using insoles with built-in air chambers (such as the Sof Sole Airr Performance Insole or the Deo Fresh Insoles by Pedag), which will help to improve moisture wicking around the foot to keep your feet cool and dry.
How do I treat Athlete’s Foot?
Athletes Foot can be treated with anti-fungal medications as well as some home remedies. If the condition persists after initial treatment, it is recommended that you see a podiatrist or other foot care specialist for further advice and treatment. While Athlete’s Foot is easily treated in most cases, it can nevertheless be a bothersome and embarrassing issue, so it is important to take steps to reduce the chances of potential infection.
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References: 1. ACFAOM