Please Don’t Tell Anyone, Doc: The Embarrassment of Athlete’s Foot

Feet trapped inside shoes tend to be out of sight, out of mind. So it’s no surprise that the idea of discussing these under-appreciated body parts has many patients feeling a little squeamish. No one wants to admit their imperfections, especially when it involves something as icky as foot fungus. Having a fungal foot infection does not mean you are a “dirty” or “unhygienic” person, but a lot of people feel that way. This is our second article in a series about embarrassing foot problems you may not want to discuss with your doctor, let alone anyone else.

athlete's foot

You don’t have to be an athlete to develop athlete’s foot, although it is commonly picked up from locker room floors.
Image Source: Josh Hallett via

Embarrassing Foot Problem #2: Athlete’s Foot

What it is: Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal infection of the upper layer of skin on the feet, usually between the toes. When this type of fungus is found on other parts of the body, it may be called “ringworm” or “jock itch.”

Where it comes from: The Trichophyton fungus that causes the infection is commonly found on floors and in clothing. Yet, it requires a warm, damp environment to grow. It is estimated that only 0.75% of people who walk around barefoot are affected.

What it looks like: The earliest stages of athlete’s foot may just look like dry patches of skin. Soon, a red scaly rash forms in between the toes or along the soles of the feet. The skin may flake off and oozing sores or blisters may form. You can click here to see pictures of athlete’s foot in various stages.

What it feels like:  “Usually people experience a hot, burning type of foot that itches,” explains Louisville KY Podiatrist Dr. Alan K. Mauser, DPM. Patients have described it as a “stinging” sensation, coupled with intense, unbearable itching.

Why you should treat it: Complications of athlete’s foot include: toenail fungus, ringworm, jock itch, scaly patches on the scalp, infection of the hands, bacterial infections, and cellulitis. This condition will not go away on its own, but the good news is that it’s relatively easy to treat.

How it’s treated: You can use an over-the-counter cream such as clotrimazole, ketoconazole, miconazole, tolnaftate, or terbinafine. You will need to apply it to the affected area twice daily after washing and drying the feet, taking special care to dry between the toes. You will also need to sanitize your footwear of all fungal spores and wash all towels, bedsheets, and socks thoroughly to avoid re-contamination.

When it goes away: Your infection should clear up within two weeks. Be sure to finish the course of treatment, as indicated.

The good news: Athlete’s foot is relatively quick and easy to treat!

The Problem of Recurring Athlete’s Foot

People often find it difficult to treat foot fungus like tinea pedis because little fungal spores spread easily. They forget to treat their shoes, sheets, towels, and shower floor, so — despite treatment — the fungus persists. In addition to sanitizing your environment of spores, you will also want to eliminate the sort of environment that fungi prefers — in other words: moist, damp, dark, confined spaces. Wearing sandals rather than closed-toe shoes can help, as can drying thoroughly between the toes after showering. Oral medication may be needed for patients with a propensity to develop foot infections time and time again.

How to Treat Chronic Athlete’s Foot with SteriShoe UV Shoe Sanitizer

The SteriShoe UV shoe sanitizer is a product designed to help people prevent athlete’s foot recurrences and practice better foot hygiene. In just 45 minutes, you can have shoes that are free from bacteria, fungus and viruses. You simply stick a UV device into each shoe, place your shoes inside the shoe bags provided, and click the “on” switch. The devices will automatically shut off when the cycle is finished. Try our podiatrist-recommended UV shoe sanitizer for 30 days, risk-free!