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How to get rid of athlete’s foot for good

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Getting rid of itPreventionWhat is it?CausesSummary
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that can cause itching, burning, and cracking. There are plenty of ways to treat it and curb the itch. An expert explains how, alongside ways to help prevent it.
Medically reviewed by Bukky Aremu, APRN
Written by Lily Frew
Updated on

If you’ve ever forgotten your shower shoes at the gym, you might worry you’ll get athlete’s foot — a common fungal infection people often link with public showers.

But, despite its name, this uncomfortable infection isn’t exclusive to gymgoers. It’s very common and can affect anyone.

Patrick McEneaney, DPM, a board certified podiatrist and owner and CEO of Northern Illinois Foot & Ankle Specialists in Crystal Lake, Illinois, discusses how to handle the itch.

How do I get rid of athlete’s foot?

A person wearing sandals in a public shower, a way to get rid of athlete's foot.
Danil Rudenko/Stocksy United

Before you seek treatment, you may first want to make sure you have athlete’s foot. That’s especially true if you have redness or discoloration, particularly on the top of your foot. It may be a sign of a bacterial skin infection. Either way, a healthcare professional can help confirm your suspicions — and help you treat it.

Athlete’s foot is unlikely to go away on its own, so seeking treatment is very important to ease your symptoms and help prevent it from passing to other people.

OTC creams

Dr. McEneaney says over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal creams can usually clear up an infection. The most common examples of these include: clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF) and miconazole (Micatin).

These medications come in topical form. This means they are a cream that you apply to the affected area. Treatment generally lasts 4 weeks.

With clotrimazole, for example, you apply it twice per day: once in the morning and then at night.

Prescription options

If you’ve been using a topical cream for a month without improvement, a doctor may recommend trying a prescription medication to help clear the infection. These may include a stronger topical cream or even an oral medication. Examples include:

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What can I do to prevent athlete’s foot?

According to Dr. McEneaney, the fungus that causes athlete’s foot, known as dermatophytes, is not visible. So, the best way to prevent it is to limit your risk of exposure.

Some of the strategies that can reduce your chances of developing athlete’s foot include:

Limiting barefoot walking, especially in public areas

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can wear shower shoes, sandals, or flip-flops any time you’re around public pools, showers or locker areas, or hotel rooms. You may even want to consider it when visiting relatives or friends, especially if you have an active infection.

Keeping your feet dry

The fungus that causes athlete’s foot thrives in moist, warm places, so keeping your feet dry is a good way to prevent it.

Aim to change your socks at least once a day. If you can, alternate shoes to help them dry before putting them back on. If it’s hot outside, choose breathable footwear if you can. Sandals or flip-flops may be suitable options — it’s best to avoid shoes made from plastic or rubber that can make your feet sweat.

Using your own shoes and towels

If you borrow a towel or a pair of shoes from someone with athlete’s foot, you have a high chance of developing it yourself. Making sure you use your own shoes, socks, and towels can help prevent athlete’s foot.

What’s more, if you’ve already had athlete’s foot, thoroughly washing these items can also help keep it away.

Disinfecting your shower

If someone in your house has athlete’s foot, you can spray the bottom of your shower with a disinfectant to kill any lingering bacteria or fungus.

What is athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is the common name for the condition medically known as “tinea pedis.” It’s very common, affecting around 10% of adults at some point.

Dr. McEneaney says that it’s a fungal infection on the skin of your feet. It can affect just one foot or both. Common symptoms include:

  • itching
  • burning
  • cracked or scaly skin

You may also notice inflamed skin, such as a rash, or blisters.

Symptoms are especially noticeable on the bottoms of the feet, between the toes, and on the toenails. When people have fungal toenails, it’s often the same type of fungus that causes athlete’s foot.

How do you get athlete’s foot?

Dr. McEneaney says you must first be exposed to the fungus for it to take up residence on your feet. But it’s very easily passed from one person to another.

That means you could acquire it walking barefoot in the same area where a person with the infection has stepped. You could also develop it by using the same towel, shoes, or socks as someone with the condition.

The fungus is also more likely to stay if you often have hot, sweaty feet or cracked skin.


Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection you can get by using the same shower as someone with the condition. Its symptoms can be uncomfortable, and it won’t go away by itself, so it’s important to seek treatment as soon as possible.

Treatment usually includes a topical cream. Many of these are available OTC. But if these don’t seem to be working, you can speak with a doctor about finding a stronger prescription medication.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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