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Leaflet: A Guide to Athlete’s Foot and Fungal Toenails

Podiatry Services

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Last updated: April 2020
Next review: April 2022

Do I have to treat my fungal infection?

It is not always necessary to treat fungal infections. People tend to choose treatment if the condition is uncomfortable or if they are concerned with the way it looks.  You can discuss this with your podiatrist.

What is Athlete’s Foot?

This is a fungal infection of the skin. Footwear creates the necessary conditions of moisture and warmth between the toes, and communal activity permits the spread of infection.

What are the symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

  • Itching between the toes
  • Red, raw looking skin, which is often itchy
  • Skin that flakes, peels or cracks
  • A sore, pus-filled, weeping rash
  • Small spot like blisters on one or both feet appearing like a rash
  • Dry, red and scaly skin on the soles of feet

Skin gets damp when:

  1. It has not been properly dried after washing
  2. Footwear is worn that does not allow the passage of air through e.g. synthetic materials
  3. Tight footwear holds the toes together, preventing air getting in between the toes
  4. There is excessive sweating
  5. Footwear is worn far too long

How can I prevent Athlete’s Foot?

  • Wash your feet daily with soap and tepid water
  • Dry feet thoroughly/gently between toes
  • Choose hosiery made from predominantly natural fibres, preferably cotton or wool
  • Wear well-fitting shoes or sandals where ever possible which allow the air to circulate
  • Change socks or stockings every day
  • Choose shoes made of material such as leather; this will let your skin breath. Changes shoes regularly to allow them to dry out between use.
  • Paint surgical spirit in between your toes with a cotton bud and allow it to evaporate dry

Preventing the spread of fungal infection

  1. Never wear shoes or slippers belonging to others, or allow others to wear yours
  2. Use your own towel
  3. Wear ‘flip flops’ (or similar) when changing in communal changing places
  4. Thoroughly rinse the bath or shower after use



There are many creams and powders on the market. Consult your local Pharmacist/Podiatrist for advice on the most suitable product.


Toenails may also be infected, with the nail becoming thickened, brittle and yellowish brown in colour.

Toenail infections are most difficult to clear totally because the nails are often thickened.

Alternative treatment may be made available to you by your GP, if they consider it necessary.