What is athlete's foot and how can you prevent it?

Emma McConnachie, podiatrist and vice-president of the College of Podiatry, offers advice on athlete's foot...

Moisturising between your toes is NOT recommended as the damp, warm atmosphere it creates in there puts you at risk of developing athlete's foot
Abi Jackson

:: What is athlete's foot?

Also known, 'tinea pedis', athlete's foot is a contagious fungal infection picked up by coming into contact with infected tissue, such as skin. The symptoms are not always consistent and can look quite different. Your feet could be itchy, with little bubbles of fluid, or with red pin pricking in the skin, or it could look like very dry and flaky skin, on one or both feet.

Large, painful cracks can also develop, and the condition can spread to all toes or even the soles of the feet if untreated. Over months, it can spread into the toenails and cause permanent damage, so seek treatment early.

:: Who's likely to get it?

Not everyone who comes into contact with the infection will get it, but those with moist, sweaty feet, or very dry feet with breaks in the skin are most likely to develop it. It's called athlete's foot as people wearing sweaty trainers all day are also at a higher risk.

Another common way to get it is by walking barefoot in places that other people do, such as communal showers and changing rooms.

People who sweat more are at increased risk.

:: How can you prevent recurrence?

Regularly change which shoes you wear, to give them time to dry out properly.

Always dry between your toes after bathing and avoid applying creams in between your toes. It's easy for it to get too moist in there. However, do moisturise your feet regularly, especially the heels, as they can split from being too dry.

Wear flip-flops, pool shoes and Neoprene swim shoes at pools. The old-fashioned white 'verruca sock' has also had a makeover.

Make sure your toes aren't squeezed together in tight shoes – look for shoes which have room for your toes to move, preferably made from natural materials. Don't try on shoes barefoot in shops.

:: How do you treat it?

There are many effective over-the-counter treatments, including creams and sprays. Make sure to use these all over both feet, as the fungus can be in areas that don't look affected. For nail infections, consult a podiatrist (

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