Athlete's Foot (Tinea Pedis)

ByDenise M. Aaron, MD, Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine
Reviewed/Revised Sep 2023

Athlete’s foot is a dermatophyte (fungal) infection of the skin of the feet.

  • Symptoms of tinea pedis include a build up of scale on the feet and sometimes redness and itching.

  • Doctors base the diagnosis on an examination of the feet.

  • Treatment includes antifungal medications applied directly to the affected areas or occasionally taken by mouth and measures to keep the feet dry.

Tinea pedis is the most common dermatophytosis because foot sweating results in accumulation of moisture in the warm areas between the toes that allows fungi to grow. The infection may spread from person to person in communal showers and bathrooms or in other moist areas where infected people walk barefoot. People who wear tight shoes are also at risk. The infection is usually caused by the fungus Trichophyton.

(See also Overview of Fungal Skin Infections.)

Symptoms of Athlete's Foot

The fungus can cause mild scaling with or without redness and itching. The scaling may involve a small area (particularly between the toes) or the entire sole of the foot. Sometimes scaling is severe, with breakdown and painful cracking (fissuring) of the skin. Fluid-filled blisters can also form. Over time, the skin on the soles may thicken.

Because the fungus may cause the skin to crack, tinea pedis can lead to bacterial infections, especially in older adults and in people with inadequate blood flow to the feet.

Diagnosis of Athlete's Foot

  • A doctor's examination of the feet

  • Sometimes examination of a skin scraping

The diagnosis of tinea pedis is usually obvious to doctors based on symptoms and the appearance of the affected area.

If the diagnosis is not obvious, doctors do a skin scraping and examine it under a microscope.

Treatment of Athlete's Foot

  • Antifungal medications applied to the skin or occasionally taken by mouth

  • Measures to keep the feet dry

Some Antifungal Medications Applied to the Skin (Topical Medications).)

Drugs Mentioned In This Article
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