Athlete’s foot can literally stink. If you remove your shoe and take a nice whiff, you might just smell something funky (*warning: don’t try this on a date!). Indeed, athlete’s foot can give your feet a foul odor. However, my friend, please note that if your feet smell, this does not mean that you 100% have athlete’s foot (as bacteria can sometimes also cause this odor).
Now, before you discover what athlete’s foot is, here’s what it isn’t: Athlete’s foot is not about glorifying a famous athlete’s feet (insert the name of your favorite athlete here:__________). So what is athlete’s foot?
For starters, athlete’s foot is a condition that is not exclusive to athletes. It is a fungal skin infection that often begins between the toes and affects the top layer of skin on the feet. It is a common condition and is not typically a serious health concern, although it can be very uncomfortable. Athlete’s foot is most prevalent in people whose feet tend to be warm, damp, and sweaty: the perfect recipe for fungi. This is why athletes are at a much higher risk of infection; and to make matters worse, they often wear tight-fitting shoes for prolonged periods (as well as other contributing factors). It is no wonder that this condition earned its name from athletes, the athlete’s-foot-prone-population.
Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is contagious and can spread from places such as public pools, showers, saunas, and locker rooms. Athlete’s foot is most frequently acquired through direct contact with someone who is infected, or by walking barefoot on a floor that is contaminated with the fungus ( i.e. swimming pools, locker rooms, and shower rooms). Damaged skin on the feet can also be a portal of entry for these microbes and lead to infection. While athlete’s foot isn’t typically a serious health concern, it is certainly not “a walk in the park.”
There are three types of athlete’s foot: moccasin foot, vesicular type infection, and toe web infection. Each of these infections manifest somewhat differently. For example, moccasin foot often causes thickening and cracking on the underside of the foot and heel. And in serious cases, the infection can spread to the toenails and cause a toenail infection (onychomycosis). Toe web infections typically occur between the fourth and fifth toes. Vesicular type infections often start with a breakout of fluid-filled blisters beneath the skin on the foot. This kind of infection can be accompanied by a bacterial infection.
If you think you may have athlete’s foot, here are some signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Cracking and peeling skin on the feet
- Itchy blisters on feet
- Burning and itching on feet and skin between the toes
- Dry skin and scaling on soles or sides of feet
- Rash on feet that smells foul or gives off discharge
- Raw, red skin on feet
- Fluid-filled blisters, usually on bottom of feet (but can appear anywhere on feet)
- Crumbling toenails (*in serious cases)
Please note that this is not an exhaustive list of symptoms.
If you would like some tips on improving your foot hygiene, as well as some steps to avoid the condition, read these “SOS” (save our soles) tips for you:
- Make sure to give your feet a chance to breathe each day! (i.e. avoid wearing plastic shoes, walk around in flip flops at home)
- Change socks daily + more often if your feet sweat excessively
- Keep your feet dry. A dry environment is BORING for fungi. BORE THEM AWAY!
- Do not walk barefoot in public showers, swimming pool decks, and locker rooms! (*bring along a pair flip flops—your new best friends;))