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Battling Athlete's Foot

Updated on July 15, 2014
relache profile image

Raye gardens organically, harvests rainwater, strives to eat locally, and honors the gods from her home in the Pacific Northwest.


It's not just for athletes...

Did you know that as many as 75% of people at some point in their lives wind up with the fungal infection Tenia Pedis, which is more commonly known as Athlete's Foot? I'd had bouts with athlete's foot on and off over my adult years. It started in college, and I'm sure was not helped by my love of combat boots and junk food. Most often it would crop up between my toes and I'd battle it back if it got uncomfortable. It was a laisse-faire attitude that let it get a literal foothold in my toenails.

Once the fungus is in the nails, it's almost impossible to get rid of without specific, prescription medication which comes with side effects. So I resigned myself to some ugly toenails and for the most part didn't have trouble with my feet. And things just went that way for a few decades.

Chronic Athlete's Foot

From Bad To Worse

In September 2008, all that changed and my feet went from bad to worse. Now I was living in the Pacific Northwest which is much moister than many places I've lived. And I had a super nasty housemate situation going on, with evictions and threats of violence attached. How your immune system is working can have a lot to do with how your body deals or doesn't deal with a fungal infection, and stress can really suppress your immune functions. Right in the middle of that whole ugly situation I had some friends come to visit from out-of-state, and we went for a day hike around town. It was a great day and the walk wasn't longer than anything I might ordinarily do, but by the end of the day, I could just feel my feet burning in my shoes. When I took off my shoes and socks at home that night, my feet had erupted in a huge, blistered rash that wrapped up the instep and spread across the tops of my feet and up onto my ankles. Yikes!

A bit of research and it was apparent my fungal infection had changed from an acute infection into a chronic infection. I had weeping blisters, it was spreading steadily upwards and if my feet got the slightest bit warm, I would experience the most intense and awful itching sensation. Supposedly, the only way to cure this would be to see a doctor, but I decided I didn't like the side effects of the prescription medication and that there had to be a way to tackle this myself.

What I'm saying here is not the end-all, be-all of athlete's foot treatments. It's just what really worked for me, and it didn't take health insurance or scary medication. I do have to say, it does take time and you have to stick with it. But if you aren't happy with how your feet feel and look, it's not difficult to do, nor too expensive to try.

My Preferred OTC Treatment

I have tried a lot of over-the-counter (OTC) treatments for athlete's foot and the one that worked the best for me turned out to be Lamisil AT Gel. Not the cream, the gel. Just about anything worked for between my toes, but once my athlete's foot condition went chronic and spread to the instep and tops of my feet, it seemed like nothing worked.

And then I read that gels had better absorption on the areas of the feet that weren't the sole. I gave it a try to noticed a difference within 48 hours. I also found I got the best results applying it twice a day, not just once. I used a cotton swab to smear the gel around instead of my fingers. This was beneficial in that 1) I wound up using less gel as my hands weren't absorbing it during the application and 2) it meant I didn't have to wash it off my hands afterward. I would gel my feet in the morning, right before I put my shoes and socks on and in the evening right before I got into bed.

After getting Lamisil AT gel at my local drugstores, I wound up going to eBay, where I could get much better price deals. The two warnings I have about buying this stuff from eBay is to make absolutely sure of the size of the tube before you order and be rigorous about checking the expiration dates of what you are about to buy from the sellers. Overall, I was able to save between 40% and 50% of retail prices by buying online.

The Sock Soak

Another angle I took in the athlete's foot battle was treating my socks. If you don't wear socks, you need to get rid of your present shoes, buy new ones and start wearing socks. Otherwise the fungus will just live on in your shoes and keep reinfecting your feet.

First I set up a five gallon bucket into which I put all my dirty socks at the end of the day. This made the next part easy and saved me having to fish in my giant hamper for lone socks.

Once a week, I would pour a gallon of white vinegar over the dirty socks, letting them soak in it all day. Halfway through the day, I'd turn the socks so that ones on top got a good dunking and ones on the bottom moved to the top to drip down their excess vinegar.

After a day-long vinegar soak, I'd run a small load of just socks in the washing machine, set on hot water. The soaking and hot washing was to make a better effort to kill any foot fungus that was in or on the sock fibers.

The Results and Some Tips for Keeping Your Feet Healthy

Well, it all worked. It took about nine months for the entire chronic outbreak to completely disappear. However it only took about three days for me to notice immediate relief from the worst of the sensation symptoms. If I slacked off at all, my feet would become uncomfortably itchy in just short amount of time. That went away after about two months. And I made sure to keep up with the treatment for a month after my feet looked completely clear.

Making changes in your overall lifestyle can also have a huge impact on how quickly or even if you can cure an athlete's foot infection. Here are a few things to remember:

Drying Between The Toes After Bathing - Don't be cursory. Really dry between those toes after you take a bath or shower. Try not to jump right into shoes and socks too.

Wear Natural Fiber Socks - Stick to natural fibers for socks. They are more cooling to the feet. And if your feet get really warm, think about changing socks halfway through the day.

Eat Less Sugar - A fungal infection can literally be fed if you have diet that is high in sugars. Cutting back on junk food and eating more organically can help make your body chemistry less helpful to the fungus.

Wear Natural Material Shoes - Shoes that are fabric or leather will breathe more than synthetic materials. Also, you want to wear a variety of different shoes, and not just wear the same pair all day every day.

Have You Battled Athlete's Foot?

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    • relache profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago from Seattle, WA

      What I found works for me is all written down here. But really you have to look at your overall foot environment and make that healthier too.

    • peachpurple profile image


      4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      I have cracked soles and tried different creams, any ideas what elae work?

    • Green Bard profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      7 years ago from Tenerife

      Voted up and useful for this. I had this horrible condition some years ago when I was mainly wearing trainers. I finally got rid of it by using diluted hydrogen peroxide.

    • profile image

      Pierre Richard Lafond 

      8 years ago

      I have this problem in my feet about 12 years, I will follow your recommendation to see if I can get better.

      Thank you in advance.

    • Austinstar profile image


      8 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

      You can douse your feet with white vinegar after showering and it will kill the fungus eventually.

      I use a cotton ball soaked in white vinegar and make sure all my toenails get treated.

      One podiatrist recommended a foot soak of vinegar and crushed aspirin. Nightly. If the smell of straight vinegar is too strong, mix one part vinegar with two parts water. You can also add epsom salts or yellow listerine. Soak for 20 minutes, then air dry thoroughly before wearing shoes. Best to do it at night before bed.

    • SportsAgencyblog profile image


      8 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Athletes foot is also my problem since then. My foot skin is peeling and the smell...hmmmmmm... very bad. It usually gets wet that makes more smelly when I took off my shoes. I think I'll give it try for some of your treatment suggestions.

    • Joe Macho profile image


      8 years ago from Colorado

      It's not the most appealing topic, but you're information is definitely very valid. During the summer months, I normally get a mild flare up of athletes foot from my feet getting sweaty. I don't like medicines or any topical treatments, so my solution was to just quite wearing socks altogether. I know it sounds wrong to wear shoes without socks, but it has helped my feet greatly. The extra little bit of breathing room makes a big difference. Voted up and useful.

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 

      8 years ago from New York City

      I'm not sure how you are able to organize you hub like this, but I love the display and layout of each portion a great deal. Maybe you can assist me on mine. Awesome technique here.

    • Naomi's Banner profile image

      Naomi's Banner 

      8 years ago from United States

      This is great advice! I had my husband soak in peroxide the other day and that also helped heal his feet. I wonder if he soaked his feet in the vinegar? I will definitely soak the socks in the vinegar! Nice Hub!

    • Alladream74 profile image

      Victor Mavedzenge 

      8 years ago from Oakland, California

      I used scholl to get rid of mine.Wrote about it on my hubpages too. Thanks for the info,just incase I have a relapse

    • Bard of Ely profile image

      Steve Andrews 

      8 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

      I had it once here in Tenerife and I got rid of it eventually with diluted hydrogen peroxide and it hasn't come back!

    • profile image

      Cher B 

      8 years ago

      I have one middle toenail that has bothered me for a couple years. I am going to try your method. I have already started doing foot soaks.

    • cameciob profile image


      9 years ago

      Hi Relache, I've never had athele's foot, thanks God but if i do get it at least I know where to find good info and a piece of advice. Rated and voted up.

    • SteveoMc profile image


      9 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      I have battled athletes feet off and on my whole life. Lamisil does nothing for me, it may as well be hand cream. The ingredient that works for me is Chlortimazole. I use a small amount daily and it keeps the fungus at bay.

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 

      9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Relache: wildly helpful information as always. I once had a athlete's foot, but I returned it to him as soon as I saw his ad in the paper: 'Lost. One athlete's foot. Right foot wearing Nike. Last seen running for congress...;)

    • DzyMsLizzy profile image

      Liz Elias 

      9 years ago from Oakley, CA

      Interesting hub with good information!

      I've had trouble with minor outbreaks from time to time, but I usually manage to nip it in the bud with Tinactin spray or some Dr. Scholl's foot powder in my socks.

      It's almost impossible to fully dry with a towel, especially in warm weather, so a good daily dose of powder in the socks helps chase any lingering moisture.

      I usually wear sandals all summer, so my feet are not confined in shoes. In the winter, however, I do wear the same pair of tennis shoes day in and day out. I can't afford multiple pairs of shoes.

      Tennies, however, can be tossed in the that helps, too.

      Thanks for sharing these great tips!

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      My hubby gets mild flares of AF. Is difficult to conquer as he has to wear shoes and socks in warm climate. He ended up getting medical cert to allow him to wear non-uniform socks that weren't as irritating/stuffy

    • relache profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Marisa, so far I've not won the battle of the toenails, but I'm working on it. I've got a cool herbal soak I'm trying but that may take a few months too. Tea tree oil didn't do it for my toenails but does do well for between my toes. It seemed to help my chronic outbreak on the foot tops a little, but didn't make it truly start healing.

    • Marisa Wright profile image

      Kate Swanson 

      9 years ago from Sydney

      Relache, did you have the infection in your toenails too and did the gel fix that? Girly_girl mentioned tea tree oil - that's also a good thing to wash your socks in because it's a very strong fungicide indeed. I found painting tea tree oil on my nails helped, but it's very strong and made the skin around the nail die off!

    • relache profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      The main thing with shoes is not to let your skin come into direct contact with the inside of the shoe. You could try wiping down the inside of the shoes with rubbing alcohol and vinegar, but to really tackle the problem, you have to treat your feet. And that means every single day (and then a few more weeks) until you've conquered the fungus.

    • girly_girl09 profile image


      9 years ago from United States

      Are you aware of any products (spray or powder?) that can be used inside of shoes? I would hate to throw out my shoes as I purchase expensive pairs that are meant to last for years.

      I think I have been having a very mild case of this for the last few years. It seemed to start after I did a lot of traveling and would walk around in hotel rooms barefoot. I don't have itching or burning, but my heels are very dry and gross and my toenails aren't exactly normal looking. I do use tea tree oil once in a while, so I think that has been keeping it at bay.

    • Deborah Demander profile image

      Deborah Demander 

      9 years ago from First Wyoming, then THE WORLD

      Lovely feet, in the end.

      I have heard that peeing in the shower prevents athletes foot. I have never had athletes foot..... :)


    • FCEtier profile image


      9 years ago from Cold Mountain

      I've always recommended "Tinactin" (pharmacist here) so now I'll have to consider Lamisil.

      And you're right, it takes a few weeks to kill that fungus. Nice article!

    • spikeage profile image


      9 years ago from the Dark Side of the Moon, naturally

      The ball of my foot now speaks very highly of you. The toes have a fan club in your honor. The arch unfortunately couldn't be bothered to comment at press time. ;-)

    • thesailor profile image


      9 years ago from Seven Seas

      Been there and that with athlete's foot. It's recurring; if you frequently wear shoes, even though with foot powder in it...expect that the itch will still be there. Hmmn..and the smell. Thanks for this hub, relache. It's a great relief to know something about it. :D

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      9 years ago from London, UK

      No not yet and your advice will come in handy.. Thank you for your good tips.

    • bojanglesk8 profile image


      9 years ago

      Good, informative Hub.


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