Athlete's Foot and Walking
Just about anybody can catch Athlete's Foot and it is not as the name suggests limited to the athletic ones amongst us. It has been estimated that 10% to 20% of the general UK adult population is affected by Athlete's Foot at any one time.
When you consider that Athlete's Foot is caused by a fungus that thrives in warm and moist conditions, it's not surprising that the average walking or hiking boot is a splendid incubator.
The good news is that there are 'steps' you can take to reduce the likelihood of it becoming a problem and the infection - whilst extremely irritating - is relatively harmless.
However, if you do get Athlete's foot the condition does need attention.
How can I catch Athlete's Foot?
Our bodies are quite capable of fighting off fungal infections, but occasionally under certain conditions the fungus can attack our skin causing Athlete's Foot.
You are more likely to catch an infection from floors of changing rooms or bathrooms or when using shared towels.
In hot, damp and enclosed environments like training shoes or walking boots the fungus finds it easier to grow and begins to penetrate into the skin.
What are the signs and symptoms of Athlete's Foot?
Athlete's foot can have the following symptoms:
- Intense itching between the toes (usually 3rd, 4th and 5th toes). This is known as Interdigital Athlete's Foot.
- Painful stinging feeling when the itching is scratched.
- Skin peeling and cracking between the toes.
- Red and inflamed skin where it's itching.
- Patchy scaling over the soles of one or both feet. This is known as Moccasin or Plantar Athlete's Foot.
NB These symptoms are not exclusive to athlete's foot and may be caused by other dermatological conditions. If in doubt you should seek qualified medical advice. For more information, visit the NHS Direct site.
Left untreated, the skin can crack further and bacteria can take hold increasing the discomfort and causing an unpleasant smell. One of the most common complications of Athlete's Foot is the spread of the fungus to the toenails, which may occur if the problem is not tackled. This is called a fungal nail infection. If your toenail is yellow and has become thickened you should seek advice from your doctor or podiatrist.
How do I prevent Athlete's Foot?
- Wash your feet every day, particularly if they are sweaty.
- Dry feet carefully after washing, paying particular attention between the toes. Help the process along by blasting your feet with air from a hair dryer.
- Don't share towels, shoes or socks with anyone else.
- Change socks daily and wash them thoroughly
- Consider investing in socks based on synthetic/cotton/wool mixes that can deliver some 'moisture-management' to draw moisture away from your feet.
- Don't wear the same boots every day and avoid boots made of synthetic materials.
- Avoid walking bare foot in changing rooms. Wear plastic sandals in public showers and locker rooms to avoid picking up the infection.
- Check your feet regularly and treat Athlete's Foot as soon as possible to prevent it spreading.
- Whenever you put on or take off a sock, rub it up and down the skin in between your toes to dry the area between your toes.
- Use a hair dryer to dry out the inside of walking boots after use.
- Occasionally kill off any fungal 'spores' that may be lurking inside your walking boots by rubbing the inside with paper towel that has a dab of disinfectant on it. Then dry the inside of the boot with your hair-dryer