What is Athlete’s Foot?

You don’t have to be an athlete to catch it! Athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis or alipunga, is a highly contagious fungal infection that affects the skin on your feet but can spread to your toenails and even hands.

It starts with an itchy foot and is easily caught through direct contact with an infected person, sharing bedlinens, touching towels or clothing infected with the fungus or walking barefoot in common areas, like gyms, swimming pools, communal showers and changing rooms. You are more likely to get foot diseases like this if the skin on your feet is damaged or if you have wet or sweaty feet. The fungi thrives in warm, moist conditions, so you should avoid wearing damp socks and shoes. That’s why it’s most commonly found in athletes!

Athlete’s foot often occurs between your toes, but it can also affect the soles and sides of your feet. Athlete’s foot usually starts on one or both of your feet, but you can unwittingly spread it to your hands or other areas of your body simply by scratching or picking at the infected parts of your feet.

Athlete’s foot symptoms

Athlete’s foot prevention

If you think you might be at risk of catching an athlete's foot, follow simple rules that can help you avoid catching the infection in the first place or stop it from returning.

You should:

  • Always dry your feet carefully, especially between your toes. Dab them dry rather than rubbing them.

  • Wear clean socks every day and change them if it’s hot or after playing sports. Cotton socks are the best.

  • Take your shoes off at home to let your feet “breathe”.

  • Use a separate towel for your feet and wash it regularly.

  • Wear sandals when you can. 5

You should avoid:

  • Scratching affected skin. This can spread the infection to other parts of your body.

  • Walking around barefoot especially in the locker rooms, swimming pools and communal showers.

  • Sharing towels, socks or shoes with other people

  • Wearing the same pair of shoes for two days in the row.

  • Wearing shoes that make your feet hot and sweaty. 6


  1. Check if you have athlete's foot, in: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/athletes-foot/
  2. Tinea Pedis, in: Hainer, B.L., Dermatophyte Infections, in: American Family Physician 2003, vol. 67, Number 1
  3. A pharmacist can help with athlete's foot, in: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/athletes-foot/
  4. See a GP if…, in: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/athletes-foot/
  5. How you can help treat and prevent athlete's foot yourself, in: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/athletes-foot/
  6. Ibid.