What Is Athlete's Foot?

Athlete's foot is a contagious fungal infection. It's caused by a certain kind of foot fungus that thrives in warm, moist conditions such as in your boots or shoes.

Here's what you need to know about athlete's foot:

  • Everyone is susceptible to athlete's foot, not just athletes.
  • Athlete's foot causes itchy, dry and scaly skin between your toes and on your feet.
  • Athlete's foot is contagious and around one in five people have athlete's foot at any one time.
  • Athlete's foot is caused by a foot fungus and can be treated with antifungal creams and sprays.

How Do You Get Athlete's Foot?

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You can get athlete's foot by touching another person's infected skin or through contact with contaminated surfaces such as towels, showers or locker room floors and around public pools.

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Closed-toe shoes such as sneakers make feet sweat, providing the heat and moisture that foot fungus needs to grow. Damp socks may allow the athlete's foot fungus to multply by preventing air from circulating.

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Athlete's foot can be spread by direct skin-to-skin contact to different parts of your body including your hands, toenails or groin area. Prompt antifungal treatment is important.

Athlete's Foot Causes

Anyone can get athlete's foot. Around one in five people have athlete's foot at any one time. Athlete's foot is a cutaneous fungal infection and is mainly caused by a mold-like fungus called dermatophytes that feeds on keratin — a protein found in hair, nails and skin. Left untreated, athlete's foot can cause itching, flaking and cracking of the skin.

The foot fungus exists harmlessly on dry, clean skin but multiplies rapidly in damp and warm conditions such as between your toes. Athlete's foot thrives in moist environments such as damp floors in gyms, locker rooms, communal showers and on the walkways around swimming pools. Walking barefoot in these areas can increase the chance of developing a foot fungus infection by transferring it to your skin.

Athlete's foot is contagious. It can be spread by directly touching infected skin, or indirectly through contaminated objects such as towels, bed sheets, clothing, shoes and other surfaces.

Hygiene-Related Diseases. (2009, December 24). Retrieved November 10, 2016, from



Athlete's foot. (BMJ Clin Evid. 2009). Retrieved May 2, 2019, from


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Find Out If You Have Athlete's Foot

Athlete's Foot Symptoms

Learn How to Treat Athlete's Foot

Athlete's Foot Treatment

Learn How to Prevent Athlete's Foot

Athlete's Foot Prevention

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Test Your Knowledge About Athlete's Foot

Click to find out if the statement below is true or false.

#1: Athlete's foot doesn't need treatment.



FALSE: In most cases, athlete's foot will not disappear on its own—in fact, it could spread. Simple contact could spread the fungus to your groin, hands, or other people. Use LamisilAT products, which are proven to cure most athlete’s foot.

Next Question

#2: Only athletes get athlete's foot.



FALSE: Athlete's foot is spread by contact, so anyone can get it. Athletes are more likely to get it because of their lifestyle. However, people who wear protective footwear (like military personnel), people who live in warm climates, and people with diabetes are all at higher risk.

Next Question

#3: Moisturizer is a good treatment for athlete's foot.



FALSE: NEVER use moisturizer as the only treatment for athlete's foot! The itch is not from dry skin. Your skin may look dry and cracked because it has a fungal infection. Use the proper treatment that is proven to cure.

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#4: As soon as my symptoms are gone, my athlete's foot is cured.



FALSE: To cure your infection, continue treatment for the entire suggested number of days. Stopping treatment too early can lead to recurring infection.

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#5: Nonmedicated powders do not cure athlete's foot.



TRUE: While nonmedicated foot powders can keep your feet dry and ease some of the itching of athlete's foot, these products do not cure the infection.

Find out more about how to treat athlete's foot.

Athelte's Foot Treatment