The 4 best methods to eliminate athlete’s foot

And these may be perhaps the only ways

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Photo by Larry Ferreira on Unsplash

Full disclosure: I am not a medical professional. This article describes my experiences of what works and doesn’t work for athlete’s foot. If you decide to use any of these approaches, first consult a competent medical professional.


If you have ever had a bad case of athlete’s foot, the itching and burning can drive you crazy. While many cases of athlete’s foot can be cured with over-the-counter antifungal products and following proper hygiene techniques, many cases will require more aggressive treatments.

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal infection that usually begins between the toes. It commonly occurs in people whose feet have become very sweaty while confined within tightfitting shoes.

Signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot include a scaly rash that usually causes itching, stinging, and burning. Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread via contaminated floors, towels, or clothing.

When that description from the Mayo clinic says itching, it can be an incredibly intense itch. It often presents itself at the worst time — like at the start of a 2-hour meeting. Now in the Zoom era, there is a relief to scratch off-camera during a meeting. But that is not one of the methods I’ll describe here.

Organic is great, have a nice day

Google athlete’s foot remedy, and you’ll be inundated with ads for it on Facebook and Instagram. And the first rule of athlete’s foot club — don’t click on them and waste your money.

To which my highly unscientific response is: most of these don’t work. In fact, many health and beauty aids advertised on Facebook and Instagram likely won’t work. Especially those that come with a money-back guarantee.

Money-back guarantees are an ingenious advertising method given the confidence it inspires. The marketeers also know that most people will not go to the effort of returning these products.

And if the products were shipped from and must be returned to China; that $29.95 cream that cost them under a dollar to the US, may end of charging you $49 in postage to return it. The companies know that and build that into their profit margins.

Finally, when it comes to many of these expensive natural products, they will often reference 101.93. That is not a radio station; instead, it is part of the Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 from the FDA, section 101.93 stating: This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. They know these products likely won’t work, and they make it eminently clear. Money-back guarantee and all.

So, what works? Keep reading.

The 4 best methods to eliminate athlete’s foot

Here is my list of a battle-tested method for eliminating athlete’s foot, in order of most invasive and aggressive.

#1 — Lamisil tablets — part of the issue with athlete’s foot is that if the fungus gets under the nail, creams, no matter how effective, can’t fully penetrate the nail to eliminate the fungus.

Lamisil tablets, taken orally, is an antifungal used to stop the growth of fungus. This prescription medication works by stopping the growth of fungus, both at the skin layer and under the nails. A full course of treatment is about 6 weeks, but it can take several months after you finish taking the pills to see the full benefit of this drug. It takes time for your new healthy nails to grow out and replace the infected nails. That underscores the challenge of entirely eradicating the nasty fungus.

As noted, it may take up to 12 months to fully see the benefit of a completely fungus-free nail, as it takes that long for it to work and a healthy nail to grow back.

Lamisil is a powerful drug, and your doctor or podiatrist will likely order regular liver function tests, as in rare cases, it has resulted in elevated liver enzymes, liver failure, and some leading to liver transplant or death.

In the majority of liver cases reported in association with the use of Lamisil Tablets, the patients had previous serious underlying systemic conditions. The severity of hepatic events or their outcome may be worse in patients with active or chronic liver disease.

But for those with severe and long-term athlete’s foot that is affecting their skin and nail bed, Lamisil is a method that can make that burning itching a thing of the past.

#2 — Ciclopirox — Dr. Oz likes to call everything a miracle drug. I’ve found Ciclopirox cream to be a miracle for athlete’s foot.

While Lamisil tablets work from the inside out, Ciclopirox is an antifungal prescription creme that prevents fungus from growing on the skin.

While the official protocol is to use Ciclopirox for 2–4 weeks for full treatment, I found that it stopped the itching in one day.

Ciclopirox is highly effective and works quickly. You can try every natural approach advertised on Instagram or YouTube. After they all fail, ask your doctor about Ciclopirox.

#3 — Vinegar — a podiatry specialist in New Square, NY, suggests using a vinegar foot soak. He says that:

“for many of my patients, doing this can put the kibosh on their athlete’s foot.”

Vinegar is a diluted form of acetic acid, and it has been noted that the antifungal capabilities of vinegar can be quite effective. It can slow and even stop the growth of some (but not all) types of foot fungus.

He suggests soaking your feet in undiluted vinegar for an hour. Once done, many of his patients find immediate relief. For severe cases, doing this overnight with a vinegar-soaked sock covered with a plastic bag. Do not do this if there are any cracks in the skin that can burn. For those with acute cases of athlete’s foot, doing this weekly may be necessary to fully eradicate the fungus.

And at under $4.00 a gallon, this is certainly the most cost-effective method.

#4 — Disinfecting wipes — Last but not least, my podiatrist Sean Rosenblum, DPM, had some sage advice, and that is not to forget about the fungus that lingers in your shoes.

Taking something as simple as a wet disinfecting wipe and regularly wiping out your shoes is an effective way to ensure that residual fungus in your footwear does not get back on your feet, which creates a recurrence of athlete’s foot.

No more fungus among us

Lamisil is one of many tablets, and Ciclopirox one of many creams that work.

If you are serious about athlete’s foot, consider such an approach. And supplement them with vinegar and disinfecting wipes.

Why? These drugs have been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration, and the products are intended to diagnose, treat, cure, and prevent disease.

I work in information security at Tapad. Write book reviews for the RSA blog, & a Founding member of the Cloud Security Alliance and Cybersecurity Canon.

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