Itchy, Burning Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a highly contagious fungal skin infection that develops on the top outer layer of skin on the foot. The rash most commonly crops up in moist, dark areas between the toes (webbing) where air can’t promote healing.

Gym showers, swimming pools, locker rooms, and any environment where you’re prone to walking barefoot are hot spots for athlete’s foot exposure, as fungus transfers from infected foot to contaminated surface and lies in wait of bare feet.

Here are the most common symptoms of athlete’s foot…

Thickening of the Skin

Athlete’s foot tends to develop as one of these three types of infection. The first type is known as a moccasin type infection, and causes the skin of your bottom heel, and sides of the feet, to become thick, cracked, and painful.

This thickening of the skin will also quickly infect the toenails, causing them to thicken, discolor (yellow or opaque), until they start to disintegrate and crumble, eventually falling off and leaving the toes prone to greater infection.

Scaly Rash

Athlete’s foot most often affects the webbing between the toes. This type of athlete’s foot will cause a telltale scaly, peeling rash between the webbing of the toes.

This type is difficult to clear up as the infection focuses on the dark, moist areas of the foot that get little air, but can also quickly spread up the sides of your feet. The infection can worsen if you wear tight shoes, and is particularly painful right after you remove sweaty shoes.

However, eczema can also commonly present on the feet, very itchy and scaly. See your doctor if the rash does not resolve with over the counter athletes foot treatment.

Itchy Feet

The red, scaly rash that’s so indicative of athlete’s foot usually causes extreme itchiness—particularly right between the webbing of the toes. As mentioned, the infection worsens due to too tight shoes and sweaty socks that are left on too long.

This is why itching is at its worst right after shoes and socks are removed. Don’t be tempted to scratch areas infected with Athlete’s foot as the fungal infection can easily spread from foot to hand and to other areas of the body.

Foot Blisters

Another type of Athlete’s foot, a type of vesicular infection, causes painful fluid-filled blisters or ulcers to develop on the bottoms of the feet, under the skin. These blisters often become red and inflamed, and eventually erupt. Unfortunately, the swelling and eruption of ulcers can happen several times following the initial infection.

A bacterial, long-term infection is more common to vesicular infection type athlete’s foot, and can quickly cause a bacterial infection. Don’t pick at blisters as they can easily spread to the palms, the side of the fingers, and other areas with contact.

Discoloration and Toenail Loss

A moccasin type of athlete’s foot infection affects the skin on the bottoms of your feet (cracking and peeling of the sole) as well as your toenails. You will often notice pain and burning under the toenails first as well as slight discoloration of the nails themselves.

When athlete’s foot infection sets into the toe nails, the affected toenails will thicken, crack, and begin to disintegrate (or crumble away in thick pieces). Eventually the affected nails will break down so much that they will fall away from the nail bed.

Protection from Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is highly contagious, which is why you should always wear waterproof flip flops or shower shoes when walking barefoot on communal surfaces—such as swimming pools or shower/locker rooms.

You are also risking a bout of athlete’s foot if you wear tight fitting shoes or leave your feet wet often; if you share socks, shoes, or towels with an infected individual, or if you’ve suffered a foot or nail injury; and are prone leaving your feet moist and sweaty for long periods of time.

Treatment of Athlete’s Foot

If you are the unlucky recipient of athlete’s foot, you can treat the infection quite safely at home with a topical antifungal cream (i.e., clotrimazole or miconazole) that can be purchased over the counter at your drugstore. Remember, those who’ve been infected once, are more likely to get repetitive athlete’s foot infections so use medications as directed by your pharmacist or doctor.

Your doctor may also recommend soaking infected feet in a salt water, tea tree oil (melaleuca alternifolia) and diluted vinegar bath help dry out blisters and quicken healing. For severe cases, a topical steroid may be prescribed to reduce pain and an oral antibiotic may be given to treat bacterial infections.


Emily Lockhart

Emily Lockhart is a weight loss expert who specializes in healthy living. She is dedicated to providing health-conscious individuals with the information they need to make great lifestyle choices that will make them look and feel better. In her spare time, Emily teaches Pilates at a local studio and enjoys activities like hiking, rowing and biking.