What Causes Athlete’s Foot?

athletes foot Brooklyn, New York Progressive Podiatry

There a good chance you’ve experienced it before — your toes and the bottom of your feet begin to itch. The itchiness won’t go away and is only relieved for the few seconds that you scratch it. You’ve got athlete’s foot. Unfortunately, this fungal infection and its symptoms are nearly universal, as 70 percent of people get athlete’s foot at some point in their life. At its best, it’s an annoying itch; at its worst, it’s a painful infection that burns and stings with every step. What’s causing all of this?

If you have athlete’s foot that doesn’t seem to stop or a nasty, stinging feeling every time you walk, don’t just endure the pain. Come see the feet specialists at Progressive Podiatry. We can confirm that you’re suffering from athlete’s foot and prescribe a treatment plan to have your feet feeling great in no time!

What is athlete’s foot?

As stated above, athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that impacts the skin on your feet, primarily the toes and the bottom of your feet. The particular fungi group that causes athlete’s foot, dermatophytes, feeds on keratin. Keratin is the protective protein found in hair, nails, and skin; it’s what makes the skin on the bottom of your feet more resilient than the skin on your forearm.

Those same dermatophytes thrive in closed, warm, damp environments. The people who are most impacted by athlete’s foot spend a lot of time in wet socks or in warm, wet places like locker rooms and public pools. Athlete’s foot is highly contagious; once it takes root, it spreads quickly.


The telltale sign of athlete’s foot is that itchy feeling between your toes and on the bottom of your feet. This feeling can also be accompanied by a burning or stinging sensation. Physically, the affected skin may become dry, flaky, red, scaly, or cracked. If left untreated, the affected skin may blister or begin to ooze from the cracks.

Always wash your hands immediately after touching the impacted area — you risk spreading the fungi to others and in rare cases may spread the fungi to your hands.

Preventing athlete’s foot

Our ancient ancestors probably didn’t have to deal with athlete’s foot as much as we do today. Although public baths were common in ancient times, socks and closed shoes weren’t yet popular. Studies show that only 0.75 percent of people who primarily walk around barefoot are impacted by athlete’s foot.

The majority of people who contract athlete’s foot get it from wearing sweaty socks. You should take your socks off as soon as possible after working out or playing a sport. If you know that it will be a while until you can get showered and clean, bring a change of socks. The fresh socks should make your feet feel better regardless.

If your feet sweat in socks even without physical activity, make sure you spend as much time as possible barefoot. While this may not be possible at work or social events, take your socks off as soon as you get home. The key is letting your feet breathe — even though your feet may feel damp, you can still deprive the fungi a closed, warm environment.

When in a locker room or public pool, keep your sandals on. Shower shoes really do make a difference. Also make sure to use your own towel when drying your feet — the fungi can travel on surfaces with ease.

At Progressive Podiatry, we know athlete’s foot. We can help you deal with your athlete’s foot whether it’s your first time or you’ve had this infection before. In addition to diagnosing and treating athlete’s foot, we can also examine the total health of your feet and determine if the source of your itching and burning is something more serious, like psoriasis or ringworm. To stop your athlete’s foot today, give us a call or make an appointment online at one of our four convenient Brooklyn, New York, clinics.

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