Bothered by itchy, scaly, or blistered skin between your toes or on the bottom of your feet? Athlete’s foot may sound like something that makes you fast and nimble, but, sadly, it does exactly the opposite. This ringworm infection, also called tinea pedis, affects the feet and is most commonly caused by the Trichophyton rubrum fungus. This fairly common condition may not be serious but it can spread rapidly to other parts of the body and to other people, too. Which is why you need to spot the signs in time and treat the condition promptly.1
Common Symptoms Of Athlete’s Foot: Peeling, Itching, And Blisters
Common symptoms of athlete’s foot include:
Symptoms of athlete’s foot are generally first noticed in the space between the little toe and the one next to it. The heel and sole of the foot may also be affected.
- Soft, moist, easy-to-peel-off skin
- Red and cracked skin
- A scaly or flaky appearance
- Soreness because of split skin
- White and thickened skin, with slight swelling
- Blisters2 3 4
The symptoms can be further classified depending on which form of athlete’s foot you have – intertriginous, moccasin, and vesiculobullous.
Symptoms Of Intertriginous (Interdigital) Athlete’s Foot: Between The Toes
Intertriginous areas in the body are those where the skin of two parts rubs or touches each other – for instance, the areas between your fingers or between your toes. Intertriginous or interdigital athlete’s foot shows up most commonly in the areas between your toes and is, in fact, the most common type of the infection.
The most common form of athlete’s foot, the interdigital form shows up between the toes.
- Redness and scaling in the cleft between the toes
- Fissuring and peeling
- Interdigital maceration, when the tissues between your toes become soft and start disintegrating, resulting in erosion of the outermost layer of your skin (your stratum corneum)
Symptoms Of Moccasin Athlete’s Foot: Along The Sides And Sole Of The Feet
You may know moccasin as a type of footwear but it is also a form of athlete’s foot!
Look out for scaly, itchy, and red skin along the sole and sides of your feet, like its encased in a moccasin
Its symptoms include:
- Scaly, dry, and itchy skin along the soles and sides of your feet in a clear moccasin-type pattern (now you see the connection to your favorite footwear!)
- Erythema or redness on the affected parts
- Onychomycosis, a fungal infection in the nailbeds that often spreads to all the nails on the affected foot and results in discolored nails.
If the infection has spread to the hands, you may see:
Symptoms Of Vesiculobullous Athlete’s Foot: Pus-Filled Blisters
If your infection is vesiculobullous, you are likely to have:
Vesiculobullous athlete’s foot will mean itchy and painful blisters on your feet. These may burst and form scales as well.
- Itchy or painful vesicles (fluid-filled sacs) between your toes, arch of the foot or the instep. They can grow big and form blisters.
- Burst blisters leave you with scales.9
Athlete’s Foot Is Contagious
Scratching an infected spot and then touching other parts of your body can result in the fungal infection spreading to wherever it finds a weak spot. The fungi could spread to other people as well through direct physical contact or through shared items such as towels, socks, and shoes. The fungi especially thrive in moist and warm environments, as in shoes and in shared changing or shower areas. This is why the most common way of getting infected is by walking barefoot on wet floors in swimming pools, gyms, and changing rooms.10
Some People At High Risk Of Developing Athlete’s Foot
People particularly prone to the infection are those with:
Athlete’s foot usually affects adults only, with men being more prone to it than women.
- A weakened immune system
- Circulation problems in the legs because of conditions such as narrowed blood vessels or diabetes
- Dermatitis and allergies
- Very sweaty feet
- A genetic predisposition to develop athlete’s foot
- An active interest in swimming and running that results in sweaty feet or frequent use of locker or changing rooms
- A work environment that requires wearing military or heavy industrial footwear for long hours11 12
|↑1||Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot). US National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2||Athlete’s foot. NHS Choices.|
|↑3, ↑11||Athlete’s foot: Overview. US National Library of Medicine.|
|↑4||Management of Tinea Pedis. The International Foundation for Dermatology (IFD).|
|↑5, ↑8, ↑9, ↑10, ↑12||Management of Tinea Pedis. IFD.|
|↑6||Maceration. University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).|
|↑7||Learning module: Adult fungal infections. American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).|