What is Athlete's Foot?
Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection of the skin also known as tinea pedis. The fungus thrives in warm, damp environments, such as the locker rooms, health clubs, public showers, and indoor swimming pools.
Athlete's Foot Symptoms
- Itching, burning, or stinging between the toes or on the soles of the feet.
- Scales, cracks, cuts, peeling skin or blisters between the toes or on the soles of the feet.
- Skin dryness on the sides or bottoms of the feet
If the infection spreads to under the toenails, causing thick, crumbly, discolored, or separated toenails, it is called onchomycosis and it can be very difficult to treat.
Home Remedies for Athlete's Foot
Although home remedies are widely used for athlete's foot, it's important to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis, because your symptoms may caused by another condition. See a doctor immediately if you notice swelling in your foot or leg, fever, or pus in the blisters or cracks in your skin.
1) Tea Tree Oil
The most common home remedy for athlete's foot is tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia). Tea tree oil has a long history of traditional use in Australia as a remedy for skin infections.
Studies have found tea tree oil is an antiseptic and has the ability to kill many bacteria and fungi. Two clinical trials suggest it may help people with athlete's foot.
One study examined the effectiveness of 10 percent tea tree oil cream compared with 1 percent tolnaftate (a medicated topical anti-fungal) and placebo creams in 104 people with athlete's foot.
The tea tree oil and tolnaftate groups showed improvement in scaling, inflammation, itching, and burning compared to the placebo group, however, only the tolnaftate eradicated the fungi more effectively than a placebo.
A second study used a stronger tea tree oil solution. The study compared the effectiveness and safety of a 25 percent tea tree oil solution, a 50 percent tea tree oil solution, and a placebo solution in 158 people with athlete's foot. People applied the solution twice daily to affected areas for four weeks.
There was a marked clinical improvement in 68 percent of people using the 50 percent tea tree oil solution and 72 percent in people using the 25 percent tea tree oil solution, compared to 39 percent in the placebo group. The fungi was eradicated in 64 percent in the 50 percent tea tree oil group, compared to 31 percent in the placebo group. Four people using tea tree oil developed moderate to severe dermatitis that improved when the tea tree oil was discontinued.
Tea tree oil can be found at the health food store. For more information about tea tree oil, read the Tea Tree Oil Fact Sheet.
The herb sosa (Solanum chrysotrichum) is used in Mexico as a remedy for athlete's foot. Although preliminary studies are promising, well-designed studies are needed.
These are some tips on how to prevent reinfection:
- Keep your feet thoroughly dry, especially between your toes.
- Wear cotton socks. Be sure to wear a fresh pair each day.
- Avoid tight, closed-toe shoes. Moisture and heat cause the athlete's foot fungus to thrive.
- Don't go barefoot in public places. Wear flip-flops.
- Use a foot powder to keep feet dry.
- Wash socks in the hot water setting of the washing machine.
Lozoya X, Navarro V, Garcia M, Zurita M. Solanum chrysotrichum (Schldl.) a plant used in Mexico for the treatment of skin mycosis. J Ethnopharmacol. 36.2 (1992): 127-132.
Satchell AC, Saurajen A, Bell C, Barnetson RS. Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: a randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study. Australas J Dermatol. 43.3 (2002): 175-178.
Tong MM, Altman PM, Barnetson RS. Tea tree oil in the treatment of tinea pedis. Australas J Dermatol. 33.3 (1992): 145-149.