What Are the Types of Athlete’s Foot?

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on December 20, 2022
2 min read

If your feet are burning or itchy all the time, and if you see what looks like a rash on the skin, you could have athlete’s foot. But did you know that there’s more than one type?

A fungus causes this infection. One of the most common ways to pick it up is to walk barefoot in places where germs hang out, like public pools or gym locker rooms. You can also get it if you share socks, bath towels, or bed sheets with someone who already has it.

The exact symptoms of athlete’s foot depend on which specific type of infection you have. Some types cause rashes that are red and blistery. With others, your skin may seem thick and scaly. So which one might you have?

Your doctor may call this an interdigital infection. That just means it’s between the fingers or toes.

It usually starts on the skin between your fourth and fifth (i.e. pinkie) toes. Sometimes bacteria take hold and make the fungal infection worse.

Symptoms: You may feel a burning sensation between your toes. The skin may be red, peeling, or scaly, and the rash may smell or give off discharge. In very bad cases, your skin may take on a green color.

If the fungus covers the sole of your foot, it’s called a moccasin infection. You may see the rash spread along your heel and up the side of your foot as well.

Symptoms: At first, your feet may just feel sore, dry, or slightly itchy. After a while, the skin thickens, cracks, or peels.

If the infection advances to your nails, your toenails may also get thick and crumbly. Sometimes the nails even come out.

You might not be able to use a treatment that goes on your skin. Sometimes a combination of different medications works best for this, including a separate one for your nails.

Vesicles are the medical term for blisters, and that’s exactly what marks this type of infection. If the blisters burst, you could get a bacterial infection and need antibiotics.

Symptoms: Vesicular infections happen anywhere on your foot. But the small, red blisters usually pop up on your soles or between your toes. The rash may feel itchy or painful. It can be worse in the summer.

It’s unusual, but sometimes feet develop open sores, or ulcers. Those ulcers are also open to an infection by bacteria. You’ll need antibiotics to treat this.

Symptoms: In addition to sores that may ooze discharge, your skin gets very inflamed and discolored. This type of infection is usually very painful.

If your symptoms don’t improve over time, or if they get worse, you’ll need to get a prescription for an antibiotic, so see your doctor.