You might be surprised to learn there isn't just one kind of athlete's foot. That's because athlete's foot is caused by several different kinds of fungi known as dermatophytes. The dermatophytes begin to grow on your skin, infecting the epidermis and causing the deeper layer of skin to overproduce cells. As the cells build up, you begin to see the scaly appearance that is typical in athlete's foot [source: Mayo Clinic].
Athlete's foot is most often found on the sole of the foot and in between the toes [source: WebMD]. But because athlete's foot is caused by different types of fungi, and because no two feet are alike, you can see variants in its appearance, location and treatability.
Before you can get athlete's foot, you have to come into contact with the fungi in the first place. You might encounter fungi when you have direct contact with another person or with an object or surface that an infected person has touched. That means that floors, bath mats, bathtubs, shoes -- anything a person is likely to touch with bare feet -- might be contaminated. The most common places for you to pick up an athlete's foot fungus are locations where lots of people walk around barefoot, such as public pools, public bathrooms and locker rooms [source: Mayo Clinic].
Once you've come into contact with the fungus, it needs a place to grow. That means a moist, warm place such as a sweaty foot or toes with no wiggle room.
If the idea of foot fungi makes you shudder, don't despair. Read on to learn what you can do to prevent athlete's foot.