What’s the smell in your shoes? ~ Athletes’ foot

Aug 07, 12 What’s the smell in your shoes? ~ Athletes’ foot

Like all enthusiasted Malaysian, I also had a weekend full of Dato’ Lee Chong Wei. I had a good time waiting for his match, a good time day dreaming of him winning the medal for Malaysia and a good time dreaming of the free Baskin Robbin ice-cream that was promised to all Malaysian from the match. Then, I had a good time watching the match and a good time feeling the pinch for Dato’ Lee Chong Wei. Yes, Dato’, you did a good job and did us proud.

So I thought, what topic should I write for my blog? I felt that I should write something related to sports in this issue. And the first thing that came into my mind was- Athletes’ foot.

What is athletes’ foot?

Wikipedia defined athelets’ foot as a fungal infection of the skin that causes scaling, flaking, and itch of affected areas. To be more specific, it means fungal infection of the foot. It is a very common problem yet often undiagnosed and untreated.

What are the types of athletes’ foot?

There are basically 4 types of athletes’ foot, namely the interdigital, moccasin, vesiculobullous and ulcerative types.

Interdigital type basically involves the web spaces in between the toes. Commonly, it tends to involve the last or the second last web space before the rest.

Tinea pedis

Mocassin type of athlete’s foot involves the bottom (plantar) surface of the foot, mimicking moccasin shoes (the sole of the shoes). It can be thickened, red and scaly. Occasionally, it may extend to the sides of the foot.

Tinea pedis


Vesiculobullous type are those that blisters and may cause erosions.They often involve the instep of the front of the plantar aspect of the foot. Occasionally, the patient may also get concurrent blistering of the hands although the fungal infection is clearly over the foot.

Tinea pedis


Lastly, these fungal infection may ulcerate and cause the ulcerative type of athelete’s foot.

Why should atheletes’ foot be treated?

Apart from the stench associated with it, atheletes’ foot can spread just like any other infection. Firstly, the area infected by fungus may expand to cover a larger area of the foot. It can also spread to other areas i.e toe-nails or other part of the foot or body.

As foot is often a neglected part of the body, areas affected by athelete’s foot may be infected by bacterias. In fact, this bacterial infection can ascends and spreads to involve the whole foot or even up to the leg. If you have recurrent skin infections over your lower limbs, always look for athelete’s foot as the source of the ascending infection.

Who are more prone to get atheletes’ foot?

People who has condition that impairs their immune system are more prone for this fungal infection. This includes people with diabetes, cancer, HIV , those who consume medication such as steroids and immunosuppresants as well as those who has poor circulation to their foot.

People who wears occlusive shoes for long time, such as athletes are also more prone for this infection. Athletes also tend to sweat a lot during the game. With the occlusive shoe wear and sweats, this provides the moisture that promotes the growth of fungus. Some people have the habit of not changing their socks frequently, this has also be proven to be one of the factors that promote the growth of fungus.

Hyperhidrosis is a condition whereby patient can swear excessively over their palms and soles. When it affects the soles, the moistened  area promotes this infection.

What should I do with my atheletes’ foot?

A lot of people hide it and wear occlusive shoes to conceal it. It is certainly not advisable to do that as it will worsen the existing issue and may lead to more problems.

Treatment of tinea pedis is often difficult as it is often at an area that is difficult to reach and the structure of the foot tend to accumulates moisture in between the toes. Hence, medical treatment of the condition should be also coupled with some measures or lifestyle changes by the sufferer.

Firstly, ensure that the web space is dry and aerated. Try to wear open shoes or sandals as much as possible. Easy measures like driving barefoot or with an open shoes for office workers can shortened the period of foot occlusion. You can even put on pedicure spacer while you are at home watching TV or while you are sleeping to separate those toes.

Socks should be changed as least on a daily basis. If your athletes’ foot seems difficult to treat, it may also be worthwhile to change your shoes if it had been serving you for a long time. Fungal spores can survive in the shoes and it can be the cause of frequent re-infection of your foot.

When you apply cream, always leave the toes spaced out and let the cream get absorbed leaving dry interdigital web space before moving on to apply on other web spaces.

What are the usual medical treatment for tinea pedis?

Medical treatment for tinea pedis has to be customised to the severity and nature of the infection. In weepy infection, the physician may use astringent or anti-septics to dry up the area first before initiating treatment.

When its very mild, antifungal cream with lifestyle modification may be all that is needed to treat the area. However, in most cases, creams are seldom enough to treat this condition. In these conditions, tablet antifungal may be needed.

More importantlly, look into why did you develop atheletes’ foot and deal with it. Treatment of other concurrent fungal infection is also needed to prevent re-infection of your foot.

Always seek medical consultation for a proper assessment of your condition and a tailored made treatment for your condition.


Leave those stinking foots behind and start afresh with a fresh and healthy foot.




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