The Science Behind Foot Fungus

Not all foot fungus is the same. Find out the different causes and what they mean for your feet.

Whether you call it athlete's foot, foot fungus, or the fancier sounding tinea pedis, when your feet are itching, burning, and cracking, something’s wrong. How does it happen and what exactly causes it? The fungi that cause athlete’s foot are called dermaphytes, but there are different kinds of dermaphytes that could impact the way athlete’s foot affects you.1

  • T. Rubrum - The Fungus for All of Us

    T. rubrum – Feet’s favorite fungus

    The most common of the three species of dermaphytes that cause athlete’s foot is t. rubrum. Some studies suggest that it’s responsible for over 2/3’s of the cases of foot fungus. It’s the athlete’s foot that’s easy to catch, even if you’re not an athlete. It’s extremely common in damp areas like showers. Generally, t. rubrum creates a moccasin type athlete’s foot which affects the sole and heel of the foot.1

  • T. Mentagrophytes - The Sporting Spores

    T. Mentagrophytes – Putting the athlete in athlete’s foot

    It’s never fun to find out that you’ve got athlete’s foot, but if you’ve gotten it from the strain of fungus known as t. mentagrophytes, there’s a good chance you’ve earned it through hard work. This is the kind of fungus that usually affects athletes.2 It commonly appears as a toe web and is caused by damp sneakers or socks3. Unfortunately, the saying “no pain, no gain” doesn’t ring true when it comes to cracked and burning feet.

  • E. Floccosum - The Unicorn of Foot Fungus

    E. Floccosum – Uncommon but still unbearable

    The rarest strain of dermaphytes that causes athlete's foot is e. floccosum. Like the other two stains, it can be picked up in warm, damp places, but unlike the much the more common t. rubrum and t. mentagrophytes, e. floccosum only accounts for about 5% of the reported cases of athlete's foot.4  That being said, just because it's a rarer strain doesn't necessarily mean that it's a collector's item.

How to Fight Your Dermaphytes

No matter which type of dermaphyte has caused your foot fungus, it’s usually easily treatable.And if you have Athlete’s Foot caused by one of the three common strains above, then over-the-counter treatments like LamisilAT® can knock it out quickly. After the condition has cleared up, take precautionary measures like keeping your socks and sneakers dry, wearing rubber flip-flops in the locker room and shower, and using a powder, like LamisilAF Defense® Powder Spray, to stay ahead of foot fungus and keep your feet happy.

1. SARA L. NOBLE, PHARM.D., and ROBERT C. FORBES, M.D., University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson, Mississippi, & PAMELA L. STAMM, PHARM.D, Auburn University School of Pharmacy, Auburn, Alabama. (n.d.). Diagnosis and Management of Common Tinea Infections. Retrieved December 01, 2016, from

2. Adams, B. B. (2006). Sports dermatology. New York: Springer

3. University Health Service. (n.d.). Retrieved December 01, 2016, from

4. Hasan, M. A., Fitzgerald, S. M., Saoudian, M., & Krishnaswamy, G. (2004). Dermatology for the practicing allergist: Tinea pedis and its complications. Retrieved December 01, 2016, from

5. Nordqvis, C. (n.d.). Athlete's Foot: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments. Retrieved December 01, 2016, from