Athlete's foot

Athlete’s foot is a very common fungal infection that affects the feet.

You can get athlete’s foot from swimming pools, gym changing rooms and showers. Shoes and socks can cause fungal infections. This is more likely if you have sweaty feet.

If you are concerned about a fungal nail infection, read our information about fungal nail infections.

Symptoms of athlete’s foot

Symptoms of athlete’s foot include:

  • moist, white areas between the toes
  • white itchy rash on the bottom of your feet, or between your toes
  • red skin, but this may be less noticeable on brown or black skin
  • dry, flaky skin that might peel or crack
  • small blisters, that might look like spots
  • a musty smell

Tests to confirm athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot can be confirmed by the symptoms you have. Sometimes the podiatrist (foot specialist) might take a small amount of skin to send to the laboratory. This will confirm the type of fungal infection you have.

Treatment for athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot does not usually get better on its own. You can buy treatments for athlete’s foot from your local pharmacy. Ask for an antifungal treatment containing terbinafine, such as Lamisil® cream, sprays or powders.

Use the antifungal treatment until the symptoms have gone, and for 2 weeks afterwards. This is important to help stop the infection coming back.

Every time you use the antifungal cream, wash your hands with soap and water afterwards. Wash your socks and bed sheets at 60C until the symptoms have gone, and for 2 weeks afterwards. This will help stop the infection spreading or coming back. 

Speak to a pharmacist if:

  • you’re pregnant
  • you’re breastfeeding
  • the treatment is for someone under 16 years old

How you can treat yourself


  • wash your feet every day with soap
  • dry between your toes using a clean towel
  • use a cotton bud or cotton wool and surgical spirit to clean between your toes
  • wear clean socks every day made from natural fibres, such as cotton
  • wear shoes with leather or Gore-Tex® uppers (the part that is over your foot)
  • use antifungal powder in your shoes

Do not

  • do not scratch athlete’s foot, this can spread it to other parts of your body
  • do not put moisturiser between your toes
  • do not walk around barefoot (wear flip-flops in places like changing rooms and showers)
  • do not share towels, socks or shoes with other people
  • do not wear the same pair of shoes for more than 2 days in a row

Useful information

The Royal College of Podiatry have information on foot conditions and procedures.

Resource number: 4899/VER2
Last reviewed: May 2023
Next review due: May 2026

Trusted Information Creator. Patient Information Forum

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the community podiatry team.

Phone 020 3049 7900, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

If you need emergency help outside of these hours please contact your nearest emergency department (A&E).

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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