Feet aren't the prettiest, or the sweetest-smelling parts of the human anatomy. Suffocated inside shoes and socks all day, feet become sweaty, stinky, and the perfect vehicles for all sorts of tiny germs. Some of those germs lie in wait on the floors of locker rooms and pool changing areas. When they invade susceptible feet, they can cause a red, itchy condition called athlete's foot.
If you think athlete's foot is only for athletes, or that it just afflicts men, read on to learn why these and other ideas about athlete's foot are just myths.
Myth 1: Only athletes can get athlete's foot
You could argue that athlete's foot is one small payback for pro athletes' seven-figure salaries and luxury lifestyles. Only, you don't need to be a professional athlete -- or even an athlete at all -- to get this foot infection. Athlete's foot got its name because the fungus that causes it likes to hang out in places athletes frequent, like showers and locker rooms. Yet anyone who's exposed to that fungus can get infected -- including women.
Myth 2: Athlete's foot isn't the same as jock itch
Actually, athlete's foot and jock itch are caused by the same fungus (called tinea), which leaves scaly patches on the skin. The conditions are named by the part of the body where they occur. On the feet, tinea infection is called athlete's foot. In the groin area, it's called jock itch.
Myth 3: Showering regularly can prevent athlete's foot
Showering is actually one of the ways you can get athlete's foot. Step into a locker room or pool shower with bare feet and you can pick up the condition. Showering alone won't clear up the fungus that causes athlete's foot -- no matter how carefully you wash between your toes. But keeping your feet clean and dry can help prevent this fungus from returning.
Myth 4: Only people with poor hygiene get athlete's foot
Athlete's foot has nothing to do with cleanliness. Even if you wash your feet with soap and water several times a day, you can get athlete's foot -- especially if you don't dry your feet completely after each washing.
Myth 5: You can only get athlete's foot by walking barefoot in areas where the fungus lives
Walking barefoot in a locker room or public shower is one way to get athlete's foot, but it's not the only way. You can also become infected if you share a towel, socks, or shoes with someone who has athlete's foot.
Myth 6: If you don't have peeling skin between your toes, it's not athlete's foot
Athlete's foot can look different in each person. Some people do get peeling or cracking skin between their toes. Others have redness or dryness on the bottom of their feet that looks just like dry skin. If you're not sure what's going on with your feet, see a podiatrist or doctor.