How to Care for Your Shoes After Getting Athlete’s Foot

The Athlete’s foot condition (tinea pedis) is a contagious fungal infection that begins between the toes and can quickly spread to the toenails and hands too. It commonly occurs when moisture, say after a bath, gets trapped between toes then confined in tight-fitting shoes.

The condition got its name—Athlete’s foot—because it is commonly (but not exclusively related to) persons keen on people with very physically active lives.

Below is what we’ll cover:

  • What Are the Standard Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?
  • Do You Need to Throw Away Your Shoes?
  • The Best Ways to Eliminate Fungus From Your Shoes.
  • How to Treat Athlete’s Foot.
  • How to Prevent Athlete’s Foot From Spreading to Your Shoes.
  • Frequently Asked Questions.
Do I Need to Throw Away My Shoes If I Have Athlete's Foot infographic

What Are the Standard Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

Before delving into the dos and don’ts of dealing with the Athlete’s foot condition, it’s best first to understand the symptoms to watch out for.

  • A scaly red rash situated between your toes is the first symptom one may notice. The rash may be very itchy and cause slight discomfort.
  • What you might consider as extremely dry skin or scaling of the soles that extends up the side of the foot might actually be blisters or ulcers. This is often extremely painful and is commonly observed in advanced infections.
  • Thick and discolored toenails.
  • Toenails that look like they’re about to fall off from their nailbed.
  • Though not a guaranteed symptom, you can also get smelly feet.

Do You Need to Throw Away Your Shoes?

No, you don’t. There are various ways to disinfect your shoes if you have an athlete’s foot condition or all fungi with the potential to reoccur.

Our shoes trap moisture from the sweat our feet produce. These spaces are dark and warm, making the perfect breeding ground for fungal infections thus, increasing chances of reinfection. Athlete’s foot disease can recur if you are not careful in moist environments, like swimming pools, gyms, and showers.

The Best Ways to Eliminate Fungus From Your Shoes

Although you can do away with your shoes completely, it is not cost-effective. There are far more practical ways to take care of your footwear once you are diagnosed with the condition.

Baking Soda and Vinegar

This is perhaps the most common and easiest way to kill fungus in your footwear. Pouring baking soda into each shoe slows down the activity of fungal spores and absorbs any odor.

Also, filling a spray bottle with apple cider vinegar and spraying it into your shoes when you’re not wearing them will have the same effect as baking soda. Using both simultaneously keeps the fungi under control.

Over-the-Counter Antifungal Foot Powder

Miconazole foot powder is effective because it weakens the cell membranes of the fungi so they cannot replicate. It should be prescribed by a medical professional and can be used twice a day.

Sprinkle this antifungal powder in your shoes and socks. You should also regularly wash shoes after this treatment, as fungal infections are known to be incessant and stubborn, especially in hot weather.

Wet feet

A Shoe Sanitizer Device

A shoe sanitizer device is a small gadget that destroys bacteria and fungi within 25 minutes. It comes in handy for people with recurring Athlete’s foot or other fungal infections. Shoe sanitizers are common and popular amongst athletes, especially those who prefer to train without socks.

Bleaching or Disinfecting the Shoes

Soaking your shoes in these chemicals will kill foot fungi quickly. However, these chemicals tend to be strong and may ruin your shoes through discoloration and damage. Prolonged exposure to your skin may also be highly damaging.

How to Treat Athlete’s Foot

If your fungal infection is mild, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter antifungal cream, ointment, spray, or powder that should clear your infection in about two weeks or so.

If it does not respond to the medicine, you may need prescription-strength medication as per your doctor’s recommendation. Severe infections may require antifungal pills taken orally.

How to Prevent Athlete’s Foot From Spreading to Your Shoes 

Fungal infections, just like Athlete’s foot, are typically stubborn and recur. Therefore, the best remedy is always prevention, and the segment below highlights this.

Trapped moisture in your feet is one of the leading causes of athlete’s foot disease. So, if you suffer from particularly sweaty feet, a preventative measure would be to apply baby powder between your toes and the soles of your feet to absorb all the moisture. 

Ensure you dry your feet thoroughly, especially between your toes, after coming into contact with water. Doing this eliminates the moisture trapped between them. It is also essential to remove shoes when you’re done with any sports, exercise, and strenuous activity.

While walking around wet areas such as swimming pools, changing rooms, and communal bathrooms, it is imperative to wear slippers or a form of protective non-absorbent footwear. Similarly, it is important to avoid sharing footwear to eliminate the risk of contracting and spreading fungal infections.

Another hygienic measure is to ensure you don’t wear the same pair of socks every day. It’s also best to wash your bedding regularly as the infection can quickly spread through rubbing and scratching.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can Athlete’s Foot Condition Clear on Its Own?

No. Like most fungal infections, the Athlete’s foot condition will fester and will only get worse. Without treatment, your feet will get itchier, your toes will get redder, and the pain will be persistent. It may lead to severe infection if you don’t address the issue early on.

Woman running in sneakers

How Long Does Athlete’s Foot Last?

Most Athlete’s foot infections cases last between two weeks from the commencement of treatment. This, of course, depends on the severity of the case. In rare cases, however, treatment can last several weeks if the infection spread to the sole of your feet.

Is Athlete’s Foot Contagious?

Yes, it is. It thrives in warm and moist areas. If you walk barefoot on a dirty bathroom floor, the fungus can easily be transferred onto your skin. You can also pick it up by using towels, socks, shoes, or clothing used by someone with the infection.

It can also spread to different parts of your own body. If you touch your infected foot with your hand and touch another part of your body, it can transfer quickly, especially if the area is warm or moist.

Is Athlete’s Foot Painful? 

While it is not a life or death matter, the Athlete’s foot condition is uncomfortable, thanks to the constant itchiness. If it is persistent, it’s best to seek treatment from your doctor as soon as possible.


Athlete’s foot disease is a common fungal infection occurring in the foot primarily caused by trapped moisture between your toes. Some telltale signs of the disease are raw, sensitive, reddish skin that may initially be slightly uncomfortable and itchy. 

However, if allowed to fester, it may lead to painful blisters and scaly and cracking soles and skin.

You don’t need to throw away your shoes after being diagnosed with the disease. However, athletes are advised to replace their shoes as soon as they are infected. 

There are several ways to treat and disinfect your footwear from fungi. For starters, using antifungal foot powder periodically is highly recommended. An at-home remedy would be a baking soda and apple cider vinegar mixture. Another option to consider is bleaching. 

However, this may damage your shoes and skin and cause discoloration over time.

For treatment, over-the-counter drugs should suffice; the medication comes in the form of cream, ointment, and sprays. The problem should typically clear in about two weeks. Additionally, it is crucial to take your medication as recommended.

If your infection festers and becomes painful, we recommend you to visit your doctor for stronger medication.

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