Athlete's Foot - Topic Overview
Athlete's foot is a rash
on the skin of the foot. It is the most common
fungal skin infection. There are three main types of
athlete's foot. Each type affects different parts of the foot and may look
Athlete's foot is
caused by a
fungus that grows on or in the top layer of skin.
Fungi (plural of fungus) grow best in warm, wet places, such as the area
between the toes.
Athlete's foot spreads easily. You can get it
by touching the toes or feet of a person who has it. But most often, people get
it by walking barefoot on contaminated surfaces near swimming pools or in
locker rooms. The fungi then grow in your shoes, especially if your shoes are
so tight that air cannot move around your feet.
If you touch
something that has fungi on it, you can spread athlete's foot to other
people—even if you don't get the infection yourself. Some people are more
likely than others to get athlete's foot. Experts don't know why this is. After
you have had athlete's foot, you are more likely to get it again.
Athlete's foot can make
your feet and the skin between your toes burn and itch. The skin may peel and
crack. Your symptoms can depend on the type of athlete's foot you have.
Toe web infectionToe web infection
usually occurs between the fourth and fifth toes. The skin becomes scaly,
peels, and cracks. Some people also may have an infection with bacteria. This
can make the skin break down even more.
Moccasin type infectionMoccasin type infection
may start with a little soreness on
your foot. Then the skin on the bottom or heel of your foot can become thick
and crack. In bad cases, the toenails get infected and can thicken, crumble,
and even fall out. Fungal infection in toenails needs separate
Vesicular type infectionVesicular type infection
begins with a sudden outbreak of fluid-filled blisters under the skin.
The blisters are usually on the bottom of the foot. But they can appear
anywhere on your foot. You also can get a bacterial infection with this type of
Most of the time,
a doctor can tell that you have athlete's foot by looking at your feet. He or
she will also ask about your symptoms and any past fungal infections you may
have had. If your athlete's foot looks unusual, or if treatment did not help
you before, your doctor may take a skin or nail sample to test for
Not all skin problems on the foot are athlete's foot. If
you think you have athlete's foot but have never had it before, it's a good
idea to have your doctor look at it.