Proper footwear if you've got (or want to prevent!) Athlete’s Foot

Written by Brendan Levy

Put those cotton socks back in the drawer

Athlete's foot 101

Athlete’s Foot is a contagious fungal infection that can itching or burning between the toes and on the soles of the foot; cracking, peeling, or scaly skin on the feet; itchy blisters on the feet; thick, discolored toenails; or toenails that are pulling away from the nailbed.The infection can also be spread from your feet to other areas of your body, especially the hands, groin, and nails, as the fungus can travel via your hands or bath towel.

The fungus that is responsible for Athlete’s Foot (the same fungus that causes ringworm and jock itch) thrives in damp, dark places. While Athlete’s Foot should be treated with medications - like antifungal pills or foot creams - you can also help clear up the infection (or prevent a reemergence) by paying attention to what you’re already putting on your feet every day: socks and shoes.

So what kind of socks are the best when you’ve got Athlete’s Foot? Spoiler alert: the answer is tight-fitting synthetic socks - and sometimes, no socks at all! Keep reading to find out more.

Synthetic socks help keep feet dry

While it may seem counterintuitive, socks made of synthetic materials are actually best at wicking away excess moisture and keeping your feet dry. Tight-fitting or compression socks made of synthetic material are even better because they fit tightly against your skin and can wick away moisture as soon as your feet start to sweat.

Socks made of wool or cotton actually tend to trap in excess moisture, creating the perfect environment for the fungus to grow and spread. If your feet sweat during the day or otherwise get wet, you can change into dry socks midway through the day.

Wear light, breathable shoes

What you put on over your socks can be just as important. Try to wear light, breathable shoes that won’t overheat your feet or lock in moisture. If you can, alternate what shoes you wear to give each pair a chance to fully dry out between uses.

When you’re hanging out at home or running errands in the neighborhood, the best choice for your feet might be no socks at all. While you may not be able to get away with this at work, you can give your feet some extra room to breath by wearing flip flops or sandals without socks. The extra light and airflow will keep your feet and toes drier, which will help keep the fungus at bay.

It's contagious

Remember that Athlete's Foot is contagious, and can be spread through direct contact with an infected person or surface (think: bathmats, towels, locker room floors, or borrowed shoes). If you share a bathroom or locker room, it might be wise for everyone to take some extra precautions like wearing flip flops in the shower and bathroom and keeping your towels separate until the infection clears up.

The views expressed in this article intend to highlight alternative studies and induce conversation. They are the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of HeyDoctor, and are for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that this article features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.