Itchy or Burning in-between your Toes? It Might be Athlete’s Foot.

Athlete’s foot, often referred to as tinea pedis, is a fungal infection of the skin that appears fairly commonly (but not exclusive to) in the feet of active people. The infection causes irritation and itching or the skin, often resulting in people scratching the area which can cause pain or the fungus to spread. The fungus species commonly implicated in the infection is the Trichophyton family. The fungus itself thrives in warm, humid environments such as in shoes and sweaty socks/feet. The fungus is pesky and able to survive on a number of different surfaces, which is the reason why some people get their infection from walking around barefoot on floors such as communal showers, changing rooms and pools.

What are some symptoms of Athlete’s foot?

The general symptoms of athlete’s foot are pretty characteristic and a present a classic case of infection. Identifying these symptoms often helps with making a firm diagnosis and establishing an effective treatment paradigm for patients. Some symptoms include:

  • Itching around or in-between the toes (usually occurs in-between the 4th and the 5th digits).
  • Cracked or scaly skin appearance.
  • An obvious red rash developing.
  • Moist skin developing interdigitally. This can appear white (macerated) or red (inflamed).
  • May cause blisters to arise.
  • Will exhibit an unpleasant foot odour

Whilst most of these symptoms are mild and may not precipitate bigger problems, there is always a risk that secondary, more serious, infections can arise from the breakdown of the skin caused by the fungus. This highlights the importance of correct diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Factors that lead to increase risk of Athlete’s foot

  • Excessive sweating of feet.
  • Ineffective drying of the feet and in-between toes.
  • Constant use of enclosed shoes.
  • Walking around barefoot in public areas.
  • Gender and age. Men are more likely to develop infection as are adults generally.
  • Using dirty socks/not changing socks regularly.

Often a Podiatrist will examine the affected sites to ascertain whether an infection is indeed present but this may involve skin scrapings or further referral for specialist advice. Whatever the case, there are a number of steps that can be taken to start the body off on to recovery. Treatment of Athlete’s foot includes the following:

  • Dry feet well (particularly in-between toes)
  • Wash your feet daily, especially at the end of the day as your feet are sweaty.
  • Use a pair of clean socks each day and wash separately to remaining laundry with extra detergent and hot water.
  • Keep your shoes dry. The preferable method is to leave them out in direct sunlight to dry and ventilate. We sell a prodcut call ‘Sterishoe’ that emits UV light to clean shoes.
  • Wear sandals/thongs where possible especially when in public showers or pools to offer a barrier between the surface and your skin whilst also allowing the skin to breathe.
  • Applying talcum or baby powder to feet to assist in controlling sweaty feet. Tea tree oil powder application inside the shoe, is also a good step at avoiding build-up of fungus inside shoes.
  • Using over the counter antifungal creams or gels to alleviate itching and burning sensations.

There is no quick or easy fix. The reality of matters is, the fungus involved in the infection is resilient and may take a while to clear, however if you do have concerns or suspect that the infection is not alleviating, contact our podiatrists for an assessment and chat about how we can help you get your feet in tip-top shape.


Dr Anel Kapur (Podiatrist)