Foot Fungus

"It is important to keep in mind that treating foot fungus can be a lengthy process that will require follow-up by a dermatologist."


What is foot fungus?

Foot fungus, also known as athlete's foot, is a fungal infection that primarily affects the toes. This condition can cause itching, scaling and burning in the affected area.

There are different factors that contribute to its appearance, such as the use of inadequate footwear, walking barefoot in public places or not drying the feet properly after showering.

It is important to take preventive measures, such as washing and drying the feet properly, wearing appropriate footwear and socks, and avoiding contact with contaminated surfaces. If symptoms are detected, it is recommended to seek appropriate treatment to prevent its spread.

What are the symptoms of foot fungus?

Foot fungus, or athlete's foot, can manifest itself through different symptoms that can be annoying and uncomfortable. 

Intense itching

One of the first symptoms usually experienced is intense itching in the affected area. This itching may become persistent and trigger the need to scratch constantly.

Peeling of the skin

Peeling of the skin may be observed in the area affected by foot fungus. This scaling is in the form of fine flakes and may cause skin sensitivity.

Burning and redness

Another characteristic sign of foot fungus is the appearance of burning and redness in the affected area. This inflammation can cause sensations of heat and discomfort.

Cracked skin or fissures

In more advanced cases, foot fungus may cause cracks or fissures in the skin. These cracks are often painful and may make it difficult to walk or put on shoes.

Unpleasant odor

The presence of foot fungus can also lead to an unpleasant odor. This is due to the proliferation of bacteria that feed on the components of the infection and produce unpleasant odors.

It is important to note that symptoms may vary from individual to individual and depending on the severity of the infection.

In the presence of any of these symptoms, it is recommended to seek appropriate treatment to prevent complications and ensure a speedy recovery.

Do you have any of these symptoms?

You may have foot fungus

Why do feet get fungus?

Foot fungus can be caused by several factors. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Wearing inappropriate footwear or socks: wearing shoes or socks that do not allow adequate breathability can create an environment conducive to the growth of foot fungus. It is important to opt for shoes and socks made of materials that allow the feet to breathe.
  • Lack of hygiene and care: Failure to dry feet properly after showering or swimming can leave the area damp and encourage the development of fungus. In addition, walking barefoot in public places without proper protection also increases the risk of infection.
  • Hot, humid environments: Places with high humidity and high temperatures create ideal conditions for fungal growth. Spaces such as locker rooms, saunas and swimming pools are prone to the presence of these organisms.
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces: Foot fungus can be contracted by direct contact with infected people or by touching contaminated objects or surfaces, such as towels, floors and shoes.
  • Sharing personal items: Sharing items such as shoes, socks or towels with someone who has foot fungus increases the risk of infection.

It is important to be aware of these causes and take preventive measures to avoid the appearance of foot fungus.

Maintaining good hygiene, wearing appropriate footwear and not sharing unwashed personal items are some of the actions that can reduce the risk of contracting this fungal infection.

Different types of foot fungus

Foot fungus is not limited to athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis. There are other types of fungal infections that can affect the skin and nails in this area.

Tinea pedis and other skin mycoses

Tinea pedis, or tinea pedis, is the most common form of foot fungus. It usually manifests between the toes, causing itching, redness, scaling and burning. However, there are also other skin mycoses that can affect the feet, such as tinea vesicolor and tinea cruris.

  • Tinea vesicolor is characterized by white or brown spots on the skin of the feet. These spots may be scaly and itchy.
  • Tinea cruris, also known as jock itch, affects the region between the thighs and genitals, occasionally extending to the foot area. It usually causes redness, itching and flaking of the skin.

It is important to recognize these different types of skin mycosis on the feet, as each may require specific treatment to eliminate the fungus and alleviate symptoms.

Onychomycosis: Nail infection

In addition to affecting the skin, fungi can also infect the toenails, in a case known as onychomycosis. This infection can cause the nails to become thick, brittle, discolored and detached from the nail bed.

  • Distal subungual onychomycosis primarily affects the end of the nail and is characterized by thickening, yellowish or whitish coloration, and possible nail deformities.
  • Proximal onychomycosis, on the other hand, affects the base of the nail and can occur in people with low immunity, such as those with HIV or diabetes.

Onychomycosis can be difficult to treat and requires a prolonged and consistent approach to completely eliminate the fungus and achieve a successful recovery.

How is foot fungus diagnosed?

Imagen de un dermatólogo tomando una muestra de la piel del pie. Clínica Universidad de Navarra

If foot fungus is suspected, it is important to see a medical professional specializing in podiatry or dermatology.

Accurate diagnosis of foot fungus is crucial to ensure effective treatment. A medical specialist will be able to visually examine the affected area and, if necessary, perform additional tests such as analysis of a skin or nail sample. This will confirm the presence of fungus and rule out other similar conditions.

In addition, the medical professional will be able to assess whether there are additional complications such as secondary infections or nail damage.

How is foot fungus treated?

Athlete's foot is a common condition that requires proper diagnosis and prompt treatment

Treatment of foot fungus

Once the diagnosis has been made, treatment of foot fungus can proceed. The therapeutic approach may vary depending on the severity of the infection and the individual characteristics of each patient.

Common treatments include the use of topical antifungal medications (terbinafine), such as creams, lotions or sprays, which should be applied as directed by the physician. These products help eliminate the fungus and alleviate associated symptoms.

It is important to keep in mind that treating foot fungus can be a lengthy process. The physician will indicate the duration of treatment and recommend regular follow-up to evaluate the effectiveness of the therapy. During this period, it is essential to maintain good foot hygiene, cleaning and drying them properly every day.

In addition, preventive measures should be taken to avoid relapse of the infection. This involves wearing appropriate footwear and socks that allow perspiration, avoiding walking barefoot in public places and not sharing personal items without proper hygiene.

It is also advisable to keep feet dry and use antifungal powders or sprays as an additional preventive measure.

How to prevent foot fungus

Sweat and moisture control

Sweat and moisture can create an environment conducive to the growth of foot fungus. To control perspiration, it is recommended:

  • Choose breathable footwear, preferably made of materials such as leather or cotton.
  • Wear cotton socks that absorb moisture.
  • Avoid excessive use of closed shoes and let your feet breathe periodically.
  • Apply talcum powder or antiperspirant powder to your feet to keep them dry.
  • It is also important to dry feet thoroughly after washing, especially between the toes, where moisture can accumulate.

Proper use of public showers and locker rooms

Humid environments, such as public showers and locker rooms, can be a source of foot fungus. To prevent their appearance, it is suggested:

  • Wear sandals or flip-flops when walking in common areas and public showers.
  • Do not share towels or footwear with other people.
  • Avoid walking barefoot on potentially contaminated surfaces.
  • Always carry a personal towel to dry your feet.

Recommendations for physical activity

Those who engage in physical activity, such as sports or intense exercise, should take extra precautions to prevent foot fungus. Some recommendations include:

  • Change shoes and socks after physical activity and properly wash feet.
  • Do not wear the same pair of shoes every day, allowing them to dry properly before wearing them again.
  • Choose athletic footwear that allows perspiration and absorbs moisture.
  • Ensure that common exercise areas, such as gyms, are clean and well ventilated.

Following these tips will help reduce the chances of getting foot fungus and maintain good podiatric health.

Where do we treat it?


The Department of Dermatology
of the Clínica Universidad de Navarra

The Department of Dermatology of the Clinica Universidad de Navarra has extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of dermatological diseases.

We have extensive experience in highly precise surgical treatments, such as Mohs surgery. This procedure requires highly specialized personnel. 

We have the latest technology for the dermo-aesthetic treatment of skin lesions, with the aim of achieving the best results for our patients.

Imagen de la fachada de consultas de la sede en Pamplona de la Clínica Universidad de Navarra

Why at the Clinica?

  • Experts in Mohs Surgery for the treatment of skin cancer.
  • We have the best technology for dermo-aesthetic treatments.
  • Safety and quality assurance of the best private hospital in Spain.

Frequently asked questions about foot fungus

Athlete's foot is caused by a type of fungus called a dermatophyte. This fungus is commonly found in warm, moist environments, such as swimming pools, showers and locker rooms. When they come in contact with the skin, dermatophytes can penetrate the surface layers and cause the fungal infection.

It is important to be aware of these risk factors and to know the type of fungus that causes athlete's foot in order to prevent its occurrence and take the necessary precautions in your daily foot care routine.

Foot fungus can appear due to several risk factors.

  1. Wearing shoes or socks that do not allow adequate perspiration.
  2. Not drying feet properly after showering or swimming.
  3. Walking barefoot in public spaces, such as gyms or community showers.
  4. Being in a hot and humid environment, which favors the growth of fungi.
  5. Wearing shoes or socks that are too tight, which hinder ventilation.
  6. Sharing personal items, such as towels or shoes, with someone who is infected.

Foot fungus can persist for various durations, depending on the severity of the infection and the treatment implemented. In mild cases, with proper treatment, it is possible to eradicate the fungus in a few weeks.

However, more severe or inadequately treated infections can last for months.

It is crucial to begin treatment at the first sign of symptoms to avoid complications and speed the healing process.

A foot fungus remains contagious as long as symptoms and fungal spores are present.

The fungus is no longer contagious after treatment has taken effect and the infected skin has been renewed. This may take several weeks depending on the type and extent of the infection.

Practicing good hygiene, wearing appropriate footwear and avoiding direct contact with contaminated surfaces are essential to prevent the spread of infection during this period.

Home remedies such as foot baths with vinegar or the use of tea tree oil are neither indicated nor effective in killing foot fungus.

Fungi are exceptionally resistant microorganisms that can cause persistent and uncomfortable foot infections, and fighting them effectively requires a proven antifungal treatment.

It is important to consult a pharmacist or healthcare professional for recommendations on the most appropriate and effective product, depending on the type and severity of the fungal infection, to ensure the fastest and longest lasting recovery.