What Are the Symptoms of Athlete's Foot?

Medically Reviewed by Stephanie S. Gardner, MD on November 25, 2022
2 min read

That itchy red rash between your toes might be athlete’s foot. It can spread to your toenails, your soles, and up the sides of your feet. And if you handle your feet, it can also infect your hands.

Athlete’s foot can happen on one or both feet, and there are different types. But with any kind you have, you’ll probably see:

  • Itchy, scaly red rash between your toes
  • Small, red blisters (usually on your soles or between your toes)
  • Ongoing dryness and scaling on the soles and up the sides of your foot
  • Ulcers or sores that leak fluid, smell bad, and look red

The fungus that causes ringworm and jock itch is usually the one to blame for athlete’s foot. It loves damp shoes, socks, and all warm, moist areas where it can grow like crazy. It’s very contagious.

If you spend much time at a gym or public swimming pool, you’re more likely to get it. It spreads easily from person to person through contact with contaminated surfaces like floors, shoes, and towels.

You should treat athlete’s foot as soon as you notice even minor symptoms. It’s fine to try over-the-counter products such as the antifungal terbinafine cream (Lamisil) or antifungal powder for your socks and shoes. You may have a home remedy you like to use, such as vinegar-water soaks to dry out your feet. You should avoid wearing the same shoes two days in a row.

If these treatments don't work, talk to your doctor.


You may need prescription-strength medicine to kill the athlete’s foot fungus if:

  • You have diabetes and the rash looks infected
  • The scaly rash has turned into sores or ulcers that leak fluid
  • It’s spread to your hands or groin
  • You think your toenails are infected
  • The rash just won’t disappear