Athlete's foot is an infection of the feet caused by fungus. The medical term is tinea pedis or ringworm of the foot.
Tinea pedis; Fungal infection - feet; Tinea of the foot; Infection - fungal - feet; Ringworm - foot
Athlete's foot occurs when a certain fungus grows on the skin of your feet. The same fungus may also grow on other parts of the body. However, the feet are most commonly affected, especially between the toes.
Athlete's foot is the most common type of tinea infection. The fungus thrives in warm, moist areas. Your risk for getting athlete's foot increases if you:
Athlete's foot is easily spread. It can be passed through direct contact or contact with items such as shoes, stockings, and shower or pool surfaces.
The most common symptom is cracked, flaking, peeling skin between the toes or on the side of the foot. Other symptoms can include:
If the fungus spreads to your nails, they can become discolored, thick, and even crumble.
Athlete's foot may occur at the same time as other fungal or yeast skin infections such as jock itch.
Over-the-counter antifungal powders or creams can help control the infection:
If athlete's foot does not get better in 2 to 4 weeks with self-care, or frequently returns, see your provider. Your provider may prescribe:
Athlete's foot almost always responds well to self-care, although it may come back. Long-term medicine and preventive measures may be needed. The infection can spread to the toenails.
Call your provider right away if:
Elewski BE, Hughey LC, Hunt KM, Hay RJ. Fungal diseases. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 77.
Hay RJ. Dermatophytosis (ringworm) and other superficial mycoses. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 266.