Athlete's Foot

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideFungus Among Us: What to Know About Fungal Infections in Pictures

Fungus Among Us: What to Know About Fungal Infections in Pictures

What is the treatment for athlete's foot?

Since there is no single cause for athlete’s foot there is no single treatment. Nevertheless, all causes of this condition benefit by promoting a dry, clean, and friction-free environment for the feet.

Occlusive shoe materials, such as vinyl, which cause the feet to remain moist, provide an excellent area for the fungus to proliferate. Likewise, absorbent socks like cotton that wick water away from your feet may help. Some individuals who sweat excessively benefit from the application of antiperspirants like 20% aluminum chloride (Drysol). Powders can help keep your feet dry. Although counterintuitive, if your feet can be soaked in a solution of aluminum acetate (Burow's solution or Domeboro solution) and then air dried with a fan, this can be very helpful if performed three or four times within 30 minutes. A home remedy of dilute white vinegar soaks, using one part vinegar and roughly four parts water, once or twice a day (as 10-minute foot soaks) may aid in treatment followed by evaporation can be helpful.

For fungus infection, there are plenty of options. Many medications are available, including miconazole (Micatin, Zeasorb powder), econazole (Spectazole), clotrimazole (Lotrimin), terbinafine (Lamisil), naftifine (Naftin), butenafine (Mentax), ciclopirox (Loprox), ketoconazole (Nizoral), efinaconazole (Jublia), luliconazole (Luzu), sertaconazole (Ertaczo), sulconazole (Exelderm), and tolnaftate (Tinactin). Ask your health care professional or pharmacist for a recommendation. It is difficult to know which of these drugs is most effective since they have not been tested against each other. Cost is probably the most significant differentiating factor, and many are available without a prescription. Treatment for athlete's foot should generally be continued for four weeks or at least one week after all of the skin symptoms have cleared.

More advanced or resistant cases of athlete's foot may require a course of an oral (pill) antifungal like terbinafine (Lamisil), itraconazole (Sporanox), or fluconazole (Diflucan). Laboratory blood tests to make sure there is no liver disease may be required before taking these pills.

Topical corticosteroid creams can act as a fertilizer for fungus and may actually worsen fungal skin infections by suppressing the body's immune defenses. These topical steroid medications have no role in treating fungal foot infections but can be quite effective in treating noninfectious causes of athlete’s foot.

If the fungal infection has spread to the toenails, the nails must also be treated to avoid reinfection of the feet. Often, the nails are initially ignored only to find the athlete's foot keeps recurring. It is important to treat all of the visible fungus at the same time. Effective nail fungus treatment may be more intensive and require prolonged courses (three to four months) of oral antifungal medications.

Reviewed on 7/14/2017
References
REFERENCES:

Canavan, Theresa N., and Boni E. Elewski. "Identifying Signs of Tinea Pedis: A Key to Understanding Clinical Variables." Journal of Drugs in Dermatology 14.10 October 2015: s42-s47.

Lin, Jing-Yi, et al. "Foot Bacterial Intertrigo Mimicking Interdigital Tinea Pedis." Chang Gung Med J 34.1 January-February 2011: 44-49.

Tlougan, B.E., Mancini, A.J., Mandell, J.A., Cohen, D.E., and Sanchez, M.R. "Skin conditions in figure skaters, ice-hockey players and speed skaters: part II - cold-induced, infectious and inflammatory dermatoses." Sports Med 41.11 Nov. 1, 2011: 967-984.

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