Red, itchy, scaly skin on your feet can cause discomfort as well as embarrassment. Commonly known as athlete’s foot, this kind of rash is caused by a fungus which thrives in warm, moist spots like the area between your toes. Although this is usually not a serious condition, left untreated the infection can spread to your toenails. And what’s worse is, if you touch infected feet and then touch other areas, the infection could spread there too. This fungus is also spread by touching surfaces contaminated by it. And in some cases, skin damaged by this fungal infection can also pick up a bacterial infection.1
Athlete’s foot is usually treated with topical antifungal medications that can be bought without a doctor’s prescription. But if your foot swells up and feels warm, or has red streaks or pus, you may have a bacterial infection which needs to be looked at by a doctor. Also seek medical attention if you have a weakened immune system or diabetes or your symptoms don’t go away after 2 to 4 weeks of home treatment.2
Home Remedies To Treat Athlete’s Foot
Here are some natural remedies that can help you deal with athlete’s foot.
1. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil has potent antifungal properties. One study found that most participants with athlete’s foot felt considerable improvement when they applied tea tree oil at a 50 or 25% concentration twice daily for four weeks.3
What to do: Mix tea tree oil and a carrier oil like almond or grapeseed oil in equal quantities and apply twice a day to affected parts.
Another effective cure for athlete’s foot that might be sitting right on your kitchen counter – garlic! Ajoene, an organosulfur compound present in this pungent condiment, can kill fungus which infects your feet. According to one study, when 1% ajoene was applied twice a day for a week, it resulted in complete cure for 100% of the participants suffering from athlete’s foot.4
What to do: Throw a few cloves of diced and crushed garlic into a basin of warm water and add a little rubbing alcohol. Soak your feet in this healing foot bath for about half an hour.5
3. Ozonized Sunflower Oil
Ozonized sunflower oil, which is prepared by infusing sunflower oil with ozone, has exceptional germicidal properties. When researchers treated people with athlete’s foot topically with ozonized sunflower oil twice a day for a period of 6 weeks, 75% of the participants were completely cured. Moreover, when the participants were evaluated 6 months after the treatment, it was found that they did not experience any recurrence of the fungal infection.6
What to do: Apply ozonized sunflower oil, which can be bought online or from stores, twice a day to affected parts.
4. Walnut Hulls
Did you know that the juice of macerated unripe black walnut hulls has been used for ages in folk medicine for treating fungal skin infections? A compound known as juglone is thought to account for the antifungal activity of walnut hulls.7
How to use: Chuck black walnut hulls into a tub of water and let it soak overnight. Strain out the hull and you have a potent antifungal solution which can be used as a foot bath. To further strengthen the fungicidal properties of this solution, add a few cloves of crush garlic. Soak infected feet for around 15 to 30 minutes.8
Cinnamon has potent antifungal properties which can help treat athlete’s foot. Compounds like cinnamaldehyde and eugenol present in cinnamon oil are thought to be responsible for these effects.9
What to do: Prepare a cinnamon foot bath by boiling 8 to 10 broken cinnamon sticks in 4 cups of water. Now let it simmer for 5 minutes and steep for around 45 minutes. Soaking infected feet in this mixture can be helpful.10 Alternatively, you could also add a few drops of cinnamon essential oil to a warm foot bath.
6. Copper Socks
Copper oxide is known to exhibit strong antifungal and antimicrobial properties. This property of copper oxide can be used effectively for treating the symptoms of athlete’s foot. When copper oxide-impregnated fibers were woven into socks and worn by patients with athlete’s foot daily, they showed an improvement in symptoms like erythema, fissuring, scaling, burning, and itching within 9 days.11
What to do: Swap your regular socks for socks made with copper oxide-impregnated fibers.
Vinegar is a popular home remedy for athlete’s foot. Although there’s no scientific research on its efficacy, it’s worth noting that vinegar is acetic acid and fungi find it difficult to survive in an acidic environment.12
What to do: Dilute vinegar with an equal quantity of water and soak your feet in it. You could also dab undiluted vinegar on the affected area for relief.
How To Prevent Athlete’s Foot
Here are a few measures that can help keep your feet free of fungal infections.
Keep Your Feet Clean
Make sure your feet are clean and dry and pay particular attention to the area between your toes. It’s a good idea to wash your feet twice a day with soapy water. Also, make sure you change your socks before they become sweaty and damp. Wearing flip-flops or sandals at public pools and showers which tend to be contaminated with fungi will protect your feet from picking up an infection.
Use Antifungal Powders
Dusting your feet with antifungal drying powders can help keep your feet dry and prevent a fungal infection. They’re particularly useful if you’re prone to athlete’s foot.
Wear Appropriate Shoes
Wear well-ventilated shoes. Using shoes made of natural materials like leather that breathe can be helpful. Also, remember to let your shoes completely dry out before you wear them again. Alternating between two pairs of shoes will give them time to do this.13
|↑1||Athlete’s foot. National Health Service.|
|↑2, ↑13||Athlete’s foot. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑3||Satchell, Andrew C., Anne Saurajen, Craig Bell, and Ross StC Barnetson. “Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: A randomized, placebo‐controlled, blinded study.” Australasian journal of dermatology 43, no. 3 (2002): 175-178.|
|↑4||Ledezma, Eliades, Katiuska Marcano, Alicia Jorquera, Leonardo De Sousa, Maria Padilla, Mireya Pulgar, and Rafael Apitz-Castro. “Efficacy of ajoene in the treatment of tinea pedis: a double-blind and comparative study with terbinafine.” Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 43, no. 5 (2000): 829-832.|
|↑5, ↑8||Duke, James A. The green pharmacy guide to healing foods: proven natural remedies to treat and prevent more than 80 common health concerns. Rodale, 2009.|
|↑6||Menendez, S., L. Falcon, D. R. Simon, and N. Landa. “Efficacy of ozonized sunflower oil in the treatment of tinea pedis.” Mycoses 45, no. 7‐8 (2002): 329-332.|
|↑7||Clark, Alice M., Tannis M. Jurgens, and Charles D. Hufford. “Antimicrobial activity of juglone.” Phytotherapy Research 4, no. 1 (1990): 11-14.|
|↑9||Cinnamon. University of Michigan.|
|↑10||Longe, Jacqueline L. The Gale encyclopedia of alternative medicine. Gale Cengage, 2005.|
|↑11||Zatcoff, Richard C., Michael S. Smith, and Gadi Borkow. “Treatment of tinea pedis with socks containing copper-oxide impregnated fibers.” The foot 18, no. 3 (2008): 136-141.|
|↑12||Graedon, Joe, and Teresa Graedon. Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy: What You Need to Know Before Your Next Visit to the Doctor Or Drugstore. Rodale, 2006.|