Athlete's foot is a fungal infection of the foot that causes itching, stinging and burning. It usually develops between the toes, but it also can show up on other parts of the foot. Cracking and peeling skin, excessive dryness or thick, ragged, discolored toenails are some additional symptoms.
Although you can't protect yourself completely from the risk of athlete's foot, you can greatly reduce your chances of contracting it. Wear flip-flops in locker rooms or other public places with damp surfaces. Wash your feet daily and make sure you dry them well, paying particular attention to the areas between your toes. Wear clean socks every day and change them more often if your feet tend to sweat a lot. Talcum powder can also help keep sweaty feet dry.
It's wise to wear a different pair of shoes every day so the shoes can dry out. It's also a good idea to go barefoot at home regularly to give your tootsies a good airing.
If, despite your precautions, you end up with a case of athlete's foot, you can often treat it at home. An over-the-counter antifungal cream, spray, powder or ointment may clear up the problem in about four weeks. Use a medication with clotrimazole, miconazole, terbinafine or tolnaftate [source: Mayo Athlete's Foot].
Athlete's foot might seem to disappear after treatment, only to reappear later. You must use your over-the-counter medication as directed for as long as the instructions specify. [source: Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists].
If home treatment doesn't clear up your athlete's foot, a doctor can prescribe a topical medication. Sometimes, if it still won't go away, an oral medication might be necessary. However, oral medications can have a number of side effects. Steroid ointments, compresses or soaking your feet in vinegar are other possible treatments that your doctor may prescribe [source: Mayo Athlete's Foot].
Fortunately, you can do many things to help keep your feet happy. See the next page for more links on keeping the skin on your feet healthy.