Athletes Foot

Athletes Foot: Overview

Athlete's foot, caused by the fungus Tinea pedis, is that reddish, crackled, flaky skin seen usually between the toes.  It thrives in warm, moist places and is contagious.  It can be contracted through contact with infected skin particles at home in the bathroom or in public places like locker rooms, showers or around public swimming pools.

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Incidence; Causes and Development; Contributing Risk Factors

Athlete's foot is most common in men from the teenage years to the early 50s.

It is a common, persistent infection of the foot caused by a dermatophyte – a microscopic fungus that lives on dead tissue of the hair, toenails and outer skin layers.  These fungi thrive in warm, moist environments such as shoes, stockings, and the floors of public showers, locker rooms, and swimming pools.  Athlete's foot is transmitted through contact with a cut or abrasion on the bottom surface of the foot.  In rare cases, the fungus is transmitted from infected animals to humans.  There are at least four dermatophytes that can cause tineas pedis.  The most common is Trichophyton rubrum.

Prevalence is affected by personal hygiene and daily activity.  People with compromised immune systems are at greater risk.

Signs and Symptoms

There are four common forms of athlete's foot.  The most common is an annoying, persistent itching of the skin on the sole of the foot or between the toes (often the fourth and fifth toes).  As the infection progresses, the skin grows soft.  The center of the infection is inflamed and sensitive to the touch.  Gradually, the edges of the infected area become milky white and the skin begins to peel.  There may also be a slight watery discharge.

In the ulcerative type, the peeling skin becomes worse.  Large cracks develop in the skin, making the patient susceptible to secondary bacterial infections.  The infection can be transmitted to other parts of the body by scratching, or contamination of clothing or bedding.

The third type of tinea infection is often called "moccasin foot."  In this type, a red rash spreads across the lower portion of the foot in the pattern of a moccasin.  The skin in this region gradually becomes dense, white, and scaly.

The fourth form of tinea pedis is inflammatory or vesicular, in which a series of raised bumps or ridges develops under the skin on the bottom of the foot, typically in the region of the metatarsal heads.  Itching is intense and there is less peeling of the skin.

People with acute tinea infections may develop similar outbreaks on their hands, typically on the palms.  This trichophyde reaction, also known as tineas manuum, is an immune system response to fungal antigens (antibodies that fight the fungal infection).

Treatment and Prevention

Antifungal drugs may be used to fight the infection.

Natural remedies not mentioned elsewhere
Soak your feet in a basin of warm water to which you have added some rubbing alcohol and several cloves of peeled, crushed garlic.

Goldenseal/thyme.  Make an herbal tea foot bath of goldenseal and thyme, or a half and half mixture of thyme and chamomile teas.  Soak once a day.

Molkosan, a product derived from concentrated whey, the by-product of cheese manufacture, has been used effectively against fungal infections.  The suggested use is to soak an absorbent cotton pad or cloth in Molkosan, attach it to the affected area, and leave it on overnight.  Also recommended is an African plant remedy, Spilanthes, alternated with Molkosan.  Bioforce Cream is recommended for use during the day.  The good results may be from the lactic acid and lactic enzymes.

Undesine ointment.  Apply this ointment daily.  You can usually find it wherever herbs and natural remedies are sold.


Tinea infections may disappear spontaneously or persist for years.  They are difficult to eliminate and often recur.  Best results usually are obtained with early treatment before the fungal infection establishes itself firmly.

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Athletes Foot:

Recommendations for Athletes Foot:



Raw honey rubbed on the infected areas before bedtime and left overnight has also been found to be effective.  Cover the feet with an old sock.

Botanical / Herbal

Tea Tree oil

Tea tree oil contains antiseptic compounds that are a very effective skin disinfectant.  Tea tree oil has been successfully applied to a number of fungal infections and is particularly good for relieving the symptoms of athlete's foot.  Tea tree oil will eradicate or improve the symptoms of athlete's foot with continuous daily use.  Apply 2-3 drops of 100% tea tree oil to the infection sites twice daily.

If 100% tea tree oil is too strong, then depending on severity use 5-15% solutions daily, diluting the tea tree oil with olive oil.  Rubbing some on the affected area with a cotton ball several times a day for three to five days should eliminate the problem.

Dr. Klinghardt, MD found that a mixture of 13 DMSO, 13 tree oil and 13 tincture of cilantro was effective in eradicating athletes foot.  Adding DMSO to tea tree oil provides greater skin and nail penetration of the tea tree oil.


Garlic is an excellent antibiotic and studies have shown that its compounds can very effectively kill the fungus that causes athlete's foot.  There are several possible methods of application:

  • Place some freshly crushed garlic on the affected area once per day and leave it there for half an hour; wash with water
  • Rub a broken clove of raw garlic on the fungus, leaving only the juice behind
  • Dust your feet twice daily with garlic powder.

Caution is advised if the skin is badly broken as garlic may produce a significant burning sensation; even if the skin is not broken, blistering may occur.  Aside from the pain, this is not a problem – it shows that the garlic is going its work!  Should the pain prove unbearable, remove any pieces and wash with water.  You may try again later with diluted garlic juice.  If this does not work for you, consider using a different approach.

Grapefruit Seed Extract

This extract is a powerful all-around antimicrobial product and is an excellent disinfectant.  Make a solution of 100 drops in two ounces of water and apply to the affected areas with a cotton ball two or three times a day.

Ginger Root

Ginger is a strong antifungalBoil a cup of water, add one ounce of chopped fresh ginger, and simmer for twenty minutes.  Let it cool and apply to your feet twice a day.

Aloe Vera

Apply aloe vera gel twice daily.


Apply onion juice twice daily.


An effective herbal remedy uses chaparral.  Mix six tablespoons of dried chaparral to one quart of boiling cheap whiskey or wine; reduce and simmer for 20 minutes; remove and steep for 8 hours.  DO NOT use aluminum cookware!  Soak your feet in this solution.


Rub juice from this plant on the infected area.


Another kitchen medicinal remedy uses cinnamon.  Bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add 8-10 broken sticks of cinnamon, reduce heat to low and simmer for five minutes; remove and steep, covered, for 45 minutes.  Use as a foot bath.  Cinnamon effectively combats both yeast and fungal infections.

Oil of Oregano

Rubbing a drop or two of oregano oil into an area that is itching from athlete's foot may help resolve the problem, but caution is advised when using it topically as it can burn the skin when too concentrated.

Chemical / Extract

Boric Acid

Boric acid is an extremely effective fungicide and often cures athlete's foot in cases where creams have failed.  Mix boric acid and rubbing alcohol in the ratio 2 tsp boric acid to 1 cup of rubbing alcohol (a drying agent), or water.  Apply with cotton swabs (or 'Q-tips').  Alternatively, put the dry powder into the ends of socks or stockings to treat or prevent athlete's foot.

Chlorine Bleach

Make a solution of two tablespoons up to half a cup of laundry bleach to a gallon of warm water and soak your feet for 10-15 minutes twice a day.  This should clear up athlete's foot in a week or ten days.

Rubbing Alcohol

Diluted rubbing alcohol can be dabbed on the affected area with cotton balls and allowed to dry.

Baking Soda

Soak the feet in a solution of baking soda and water for about 30 minutes daily.  This will change the pH of the skin.  Also sprinkle baking soda on the feet and in your shoes and socks.  It will soak up some of the perspiration and help neutralize the skin at the same time.


A mixture of two teaspoons of salt to a pint of warm water is another good soaking solution.  Soak your feet for 10-15 minutes and dry thoroughly.  The salt kills the fungus and reduces perspiration.



Soak your feet in a 5050 mixture of apple cider vinegar and water for ten minutes daily up to ten days or until symptoms disappear.  This will relieve the itching and peeling of athlete's foot.  Or, soak a cotton ball in vinegar, coat the fungus and let dry.  Apple cider vinegar has antifungal properties.

Or, try rubbing it on the affected area with cotton balls.  Let dry for 30 minutes.  Rinse off.  It's very effective.

Another apple cider remedy is similar to the white vinegar one mentioned below: put a cup of vinegar in several quarts of very warm water and soak the foot for 15-20 minutes; repeat twice a day.  This remedy will also kill fungus that has gotten under the toenails.  Vinegar is effective because it makes the pH slightly more acidic.

White Vinegar: If you don't like the idea of bleach, try adding half a cup of white vinegar to a gallon of water, and soak for 10-15 minutes twice a day.  Let your feet air dry.  The acidity of the vinegar will kill the fungus.


Personal Hygiene Changes

One of the important things you can do to combat athlete's foot is to keep the feet dry at all times since the fungus needs moisture to grow.  Here are some suggestions to help prevent and treat athletes foot:

  • Wear absorbent socks, preferably cotton, and wash them in hot water with bleach
  • Keep your shoes well-ventilated, and give them ample time to dry before wearing again
  • Open-toed sandals are good to wear as they allow the feet to dry
  • Before applying any medication, wash and dry your feet, removing any loose skin to allow better penetration of the agent into the infected area
  • To avoid reinfection, wipe white vinegar or spray a disinfectant on the inside of your shoes
  • Antiperspirants may also be used, if needed, on your feet to reduce sweating
  • Dry your feet thoroughly after a shower either with a towel or even a hair dryer.


Oxygen/Oxidative Therapies

Ozone / Oxidative Therapy

Ozonated olive oil is used against fungal infections in general, including athlete's foot.

Skin / Topical

DMSO Topically

This is a very effective fungicide for athlete's foot.  Use twice daily at half strength or stronger.


Vitamin E

Apply Vitamin E twice daily.

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