Tinea pedi, or Athlete’s Foot, is not the only common foot fungus. There are many different types of foot fungus that affect people, but the causes and remedies are all relatively the same. In this article, we’re going to look at the common causes of foot fungus and the universal foot fungus treatment that can improve them all.
What is Foot Fungus?
On MoldBlogger, our articles tend to cover the more dangerous fungal infections that are centered around fungal overgrowth within the body, but foot fungus is a superficial fungal infection on the skin of the foot—usually between the toes where moisture and microbes tend to accumulate. Superficial means it is an infection you can treat topically—not internally with diet.
What Causes Foot Fungus?
Like any mold or yeast infestation within a space, a foot fungus stems from excess moisture and available nutrition for the fungi to colonize and grow. In the case of foot fungus, the excess moisture is generally from sweat, but it is possible to have fungal growth from damp conditions caused by socks or shoes staying moist from weather-related incidents, such as snow, rain, or mud, puddles, or general humidity. The nutrition is any organic material that could build up on the foot or within the socks and shoes, but in most cases it is the bacteria and dead skin cells on the foot itself that feeds and proliferates the fungus.
Common Causes of Foot Fungus
improper or infrequent cleaning of feet
not allowing feet to dry fully after a shower before wearing shoes
wearing wet socks and shoes too long
improper maintenance of shoes
carpets that have not been properly or frequently cleaned
What are the Symptoms of Foot Fungus?
At the start, the first sign of a developing fungal infection of the foot is either a strong or a subtle pungent smell when shoes are removed. While no other symptoms may be visible or felt, this is the beginning stage of a fungal infection and is when you have the easiest opportunity to stop it from progressing further.
Once the infection has set in, however, you will see and feel these symptoms:
• scaly, peeling, or cracked skin between the toes
• itchiness, especially right after taking off socks and/or shoes
• inflamed skin that might appear reddish, purplish, or grayish, depending on your skin color
• burning or stinging
• strange blisters
• dry, scaly skin on the bottom of the foot that extends up the side
Solutions to Stop Foot Fungus Growth and Minimize Risk
Your first action should be to minimize the risk of chronic exposure and recurrence.
Socks and Shoes
Start by ensuring you are using fresh, clean socks and clean, dry shoes every time you wear them. Your socks should be made from cotton, wool, or acrylic, which allows for greater “breathability” and will keep your feet dry.
If the insides of your shoes still have a pungent odor to them after cleaning and drying fully, you will need to replace them. Please keep in mind that most shoes these days are made from plastic and synthetic materials that trap in moisture and bacteria, which is the perfect environment for fungus.
If you have to replace your shoes, consider purchasing open-toed shoes to allow a constant flow of fresh air. If you need closed shoes, however, be sure they are made from natural, “breathable” materials such as leather or canvas.
If your shoes don’t seem to be the problem, then your next action is to ensure that your environment is clean, especially your carpets or rugs. You can hire a carpet-cleaning service or rent a carpet shampooer (if you don’t already own one). An anti-fungal carpet cleaning solution should be used in the carpet shampooer, too. After that, the home will need constant fresh air and possibly even a fan or two to help the carpet dry faster and more thoroughly, so open your doors and windows for a few hours. You’ll want to repeat this type of carpet maintenance every 6 months.
Another good piece of advice regarding your environment, is to never go barefoot in public spaces that are man-made, such as pools, dorm or pool showers, etc. This means that, unless it is grass, dirt, or sand, you’ll need to be wearing some type of shoe.
Proper Cleaning of the Feet
You need to clean your feet at least once a day. Once in the shower is fine if you remain home and un-shoed for the day, but if you have exercised or worn shoes, you’ll need to wash them again afterward before bed.
The type of soap is not always important, but you do want to avoid any soap that leaves an oily residue—unless it is an oil based on anti-fungal properties. Many of the soaps you might want to avoid will be the bar soaps, such as Dove. Dr. Bronner’s soaps, however, are some of the best to use because they incorporate naturally anti-fungal essential oils from plants that will have a lasting effect on the foot fungus even after rinsing.
Whatever soap you use, be sure to scrub and exfoliate the feet vigorously, getting between the toes and rinsing thoroughly. Then, pat-dry your feet and allow them to fully air-dry before putting on socks and/or shoes.
DO NOT use the same washcloth, sponge, or loofah on any other part of your body, as the fungal infection can easily be spread to places such as the groin, armpits, and face. Apply this same advice to the towel you use for drying your feet.
Because all plants are anti-fungal, plant-based lotions are fine to use after washing, especially hemp, but wait until you’ve read about the actual foot fungus treatment before considering applying lotion while the foot fungus is still a problem. After all, we want to minimize moisture accumulation until the fungal infection is healed.
Foot Fungus Treatment at Home
Now that you’ve read some of the risk-minimizing and preventative strategies, it’s time to tackle the actual foot fungus treatment.
You have several natural, inexpensive options, and they all revolve around the idea of not only killing the fungus, but also offering the skin something that can ward off fungal growth in the future.
If you are an athlete or your work causes you to sweat profusely in your shoes, you may want to try some of these options once a week to prevent any fungal growth.
Before we start, let’s see what items you might already have on hand. Here is a list of many of the ingredients you can use alone or mix-and-match for an at-home foot fungus treatment:
• tea tree (melaleuca)
• winter savory
Carrier Oils or Cooking Oils—
Rinses or Soaks—
• hydrogen peroxide
• apple cider vinegar—rinse or soak
• baking soda (added to water)—rinse or soak
• raw, freshly-chopped garlic (added to water)—soak
• raw honey
• manuka honey
• unrefined coconut oil
• beeswax (even Burt’s Bees chapstick will work)—cut a portion off/do not use on lips if applied directly to infected areas
• raw shea butter
There are a number of ways to go about this and several different combinations, but the main protocol is to first use one of the rinses, such as hydrogen peroxide, apple cider vinegar, or baking soda (with water added) to cleanse and disinfect the area. You can spray or pour over your feet any of the rinses or you can immerse them and allow them to soak for a few minutes in the apple cider vinegar or the baking soda water. Do not rinse with water. Pat dry before moving on to the next step.
The second course of action is a choice between massaging a blend of essential oils and a carrier oil (i.e. tea tree oil and coconut oil) into the affected areas or liberally applying one of the creams or ointments. (It is not necessary to apply both an ointment from that list and a blend of essential oil and a carrier oil, but you are welcome to do both if it relieves the itching and pain.) Afterward, you want to put on clean, dry socks.
This should be repeated morning and night.
As stated earlier, any plant-based product is going to be anti-fungal and offer some improvement and relief. The ideal, however, is to use an essential oil, but be mindful that this will only require about 1 drop per 3-6 drops of carrier oil (or 1 drop per ½ teaspoon of a thicker cooking oil from that list, depending on how large the affected area is). It doesn’t take much because essential oils are very potent, so please use caution.
NEVER use an essential oil by itself. ALWAYS use a carrier oil.
Do I Need to Know the Foot Fungus Types to Treat Them?
No. All topical fungal infections of the foot require the same foot fungus treatments unless you have allowed the infection to go beyond the scope of self-treatment at home.
When Should I See a Doctor for My Foot Fungus?
Any at-home foot fungus treatment you perform should clear up the condition in far less than two weeks. If you see no improvement in that time with consistent home treatment, then make an appointment with your doctor.
The truth is, even if all you have is hydrogen peroxide or apple cider vinegar and unrefined coconut oil or raw honey, you can noticeably improve the condition of your feet overnight, which is why we’ve provided a list of some very common household ingredients. It’s our hope that you don’t have to spend an extra dime to get well.
Remember, should you take any of the advice here on MoldBlogger, you are doing so of your own free will. The advice given here is not a substitute for your doctor’s.
For more information regarding mold, mold prevention, and mold solutions, please check out the rest of MoldBlogger.com.
Article by Amanda Demsky from the MoldBlogger team.