Home Remedies for Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot
Image Source/Getty Images

Athlete's foot (also known as tinea pedis) is a common fungal infection involving the skin of the feet. The fungus thrives in warm, damp environments, such as the floors of locker rooms, health clubs, showers, and around swimming pools and can be spread by touching surfaces that are contaminated with the fungus.

Symptoms of Athlete's Foot

  • Itching, burning, or stinging between the toes or on the soles of the feet
  • Scales, cracks, cuts, peeling skin, or blisters between the toes or on the soles of the feet
  • Dry skin on the sides or bottoms of the feet

If the infection spreads to the toenails, it can cause thick, crumbly, discolored, or separated toenails.

Home Remedies for Athlete's Foot

Here are several home remedies that are sometimes said to help athlete's foot:

Tea Tree Oil

Said to have antiseptic, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) is an essential oil that has a long history of use in Australia as a topical remedy for skin conditions.

Topical tea tree oil may be as effective as tolnaftate (a topical antifungal medication), according to a study published in The Australasian Journal of Dermatology. The study compared 10 percent tea tree oil cream, 1 percent tolnaftate cream, and a placebo cream in 104 people with athlete's foot.

Those using the tea tree oil and tolnaftate had an improvement in scaling, inflammation, itching, and burning compared to those using the placebo cream, however, only those using the tolnaftate cream eradicated the fungi effectively.

In a study published in the Australian Journal of Dermatology, researchers compared the effectiveness and safety of a 25 percent tea tree oil solution, a 50 percent tea tree oil solution, and a placebo solution in 158 people with athlete's foot. The solution was applied twice daily to the affected areas for four weeks.

There was marked improvement in 68 percent of people using the 50 percent tea tree oil solution and in 72 percent of people using the 25 percent tea tree oil solution, compared to 39 percent in the placebo group. The fungi were eradicated in 64 percent of participants using the 50 percent tea tree oil, compared to 31 percent using the placebo. Four people using tea tree oil developed moderate to severe contact dermatitis that improved when the tea tree oil was discontinued.

Sosa

Sosa (Solanum chrysotrichum) is an herb used in Mexico as a remedy for athlete's foot and related fungal skin infections. One of the only clinical trials testing the effects of the herb is a small, older study published in Planta Medica in 2003. For the study, people with athlete's foot applied either sosa or ketoconazole (a prescription antifungal cream) to the skin for four weeks. At the study's end, the therapeutic success was 74.5 percent with the sosa and 69.4 percent with the ketoconazole.

Foot Soak

Soaking your feet in a vinegar solution may help to ease athlete's foot. The acetic acid in vinegar is said to have antifungal properties. Typically, people use 1 cup of vinegar mixed with 2 cups of water.

Prevention

These are some tips on how to prevent reinfection:

  • Keep your feet clean and completely dry, especially in between your toes.
  • Wear cotton socks. Be sure to wear a fresh pair each day.
  • Avoid tight, closed-toe shoes. Moisture and heat promote the growth of the athlete's foot fungus.
  • Wear sandals in locker and shower rooms and other public places.
  • Wash socks in the hot water setting of the washing machine. Don't share socks or shoes with someone who has athlete's foot.

The Takeaway

While it may be tempting to try a natural approach, there has been very little research done on tea tree oil and other remedies for athlete's foot. Using natural remedies (and delaying standard care) may not eradicate the fungus.

If you think you may have athlete's foot, it's important to consult your doctor. If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system (or have swelling in the foot or leg, fever, cracks in the skin, ulcers, or pus in the blisters), you should see your doctor right away. There is a greater risk of secondary bacterial infections and serious complications.

Sources:

Herrera-Arellano A, Rodríguez-Soberanes A, de los Angeles Martínez-Rivera M, et al. Effectiveness and tolerability of a standardized phytodrug derived from Solanum chrysotrichum on Tinea pedis: a controlled and randomized clinical trial. Planta Med. 2003 May;69(5):390-5.

Satchell AC, Saurajen A, Bell C, Barnetson RS. Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: a randomized, placebo-controlled, blinded study. Australas J Dermatol. 43.3 (2002): 175-178.

Tong MM, Altman PM, Barnetson RS. Tea tree oil in the treatment of tinea pedis. Australas J Dermatol. 33.3 (1992): 145-149.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading