Athlete’s Foot

Learn about symptoms and causes of athelete's foot, self help treatment options, medication and when to seek medical help.

What is Athlete’s Foot?

Tinea pedis is commonly known as athlete’s foot. It refers to a fungal infection on the foot. It is one of the most common types of fungal skin infection.

What are the possible causes of Athlete’s Foot? 

Fungi grow in warm and moist conditions. You can get athlete’s foot by coming into contact with infected skin, infected animals or the fungi that causes it, especially in damp environments.

You are more likely to get athlete’s foot if you:

  • Are an adult
  • Are male
  • Have a weakened immune system including those with poorly-controlled diabetes mellitus, poor blood circulation, taking medications such as oral steroids or immunosuppressants
  • Share footwear
  • Sweat a lot
  • Walk barefoot at public areas such as swimming pools, public toilets/showers/changing rooms and gyms
  • Wear closed shoes, tight shoes or damp socks for long hours
  • Wear the same pair of shoes daily

What are the symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

Symptoms can include:

  • White, flaky and itchy patches between your toes
  • Red, scaly, cracked or blistered skin all over your feet      
  • Fluid-filled blisters on the bottom or sides of your feet

What can I do to treat Athlete’s Foot?

It is important to treat athlete’s foot as soon as possible to stop it from spreading. Athlete’s foot can be treated using topical antifungal creams or powders. Most are available over the counter or through a pharmacist’s recommendation. They contain antifungals such as Clotrimazole, Miconazole, Ketoconazole, Terbinafine, Bifonazole and Sertaconazole. You may need to apply it for two to three weeks to see any improvement and for at least one more week after symptoms resolve to completely clear the fungal infection.  

When do I need to see a doctor?

Although athlete’s foot can be self-treated, there are times where the condition might be more serious. 

You should see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Symptoms do not get better in 3 weeks with self-treatment
  • Symptoms recur after initial episode was treated
  • Symptoms worsen with or without treatment

What else can I do to manage this condition?

The following are some suggestions to prevent athlete’s foot:

  • Avoid sharing personal napkins, towels and footwear as they may be infected, and these fungal infections can spread from person to person
  • Avoid wearing damp shoes. Have an extra pair of shoes as a back up.      
  • Avoid wearing nylon socks and covered shoes. Instead, wear cotton socks to absorb sweat or open-toe sandals if you have sweaty feet. Change your socks at least once daily.
  • Keep your feet as clean and dry as possible
  • Keep your toenails short and clean
  • Sprinkle antifungal powder inside shoes and socks
  • Wear slippers and avoid walking around barefoot in public areas (such as common showers, changing rooms, gyms, public toilets and swimming pools) where the floor is wet as fungi may be present




"This article is jointly developed by members of the National Medication Information workgroup. The workgroup consists of cluster partners (National Healthcare Group, National University Health System and SingHealth), community pharmacies (Guardian, Unity and Watsons) and Pharmaceutical Society of Singapore. The content does not reflect drug availability and supply information in pharmacies and healthcare institutions. You are advised to check with the respective institutions for such information.


The content above is solely for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Always speak with your physician, pharmacist or other healthcare professional before taking any medication or supplement, or adopting any treatment for a health problem.

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