What Type of Foot Rash Do I Have? (How to Know the Difference!)

A foot rash is just plain annoying. Due to the discomfort, whether it’s from your skin being inflamed, discolored and red, itchy, dry, or irritating, it’s something you just can’t ignore.1 Rashes can occur anywhere you have skin, but rashes on the feet can be especially annoying, since shoes can exacerbate the problem.

Many health conditions can cause rashes on the feet. Here are some of the most common causes of foot rashes – and what they mean.

athletes' footAthlete’s Foot

An estimated 15 to 25 percent of the population are affected by athlete’s foot, and around 70 percent of people will develop athlete’s foot at some point in their lives.2 Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection characterized by a dry, scaly rash that usually starts between the toes. Athlete’s foot is contagious, and is often passed from person to person by sharing towels and footwear, or by walking on a moist floor.3

To get rid of athlete’s foot, most people use an over-the-counter antifungal remedies. While your feet are recovering from athlete’s foot, it is important to keep them dry. Moisture helps the fungal infection to grow. Wash your feet twice a day, and dry them thoroughly.

Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an allergic reaction of the skin. When your skin touches certain substances, an itchy, red rash can occur.4 Most people react when their skin encounters plants, such as poison ivy or poison oak. Walking barefoot outside may expose your feet to other plant allergens. Aside from plants, additional substances that can cause contact dermatitis of the feet include laundry detergent, fabric softener, and lotions.5

If you know what caused your allergic reaction, avoid contact between the allergen and your bare skin. Contact dermatitis rashes can take 14 to 28 days to completely go away.6

eczema on feetEczema

Eczema is a skin condition that causes a red, scaly rash and brown or red patches of skin. This rash most often appears on the face, neck, and elbows or knees, but it can occur anywhere on the body, including the feet.7

According to the National Eczema Association, more than 30 million Americans have some form of eczema.8 It’s common to have your first eczema outbreak as a child, but adults can develop eczema too. It is not contagious. The cause of eczema is not known, but the condition is thought to be related to genetics, asthma, stress, immune system, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, allergies, and environment.

Keeping a regular skin-care routine of cleaning and moisturizing can help control eczema. Good stress management techniques may also help keep eczema from flaring up.


psoriasis on footPsoriasis is an immune system disease that causes skin cells to grow faster than they’re needed. There are several types of psoriasis, the most common of which is plaque psoriasis. Symptoms of psoriasis normally include scales on the skin and red, itchy patches. These patches can occur anywhere on the skin, including the feet. Psoriasis is not contagious.10

Doctors aren’t sure why some people get psoriasis and others do not. It most often affects people between 15 and 30 years of age, and also between the ages of 50 and 60.11 Heredity may play a part, as one in three people with psoriasis are related to someone with the condition.12

Psoriasis has no known cure. At-home treatments, such as daily bathing, exposure to the sun, and moisturization may help control the itching associated with psoriasis. 13

Hand-Foot-Mouth Disease

A foot rash accompanied by mouth sores and blisters could be hand-foot-mouth disease, a condition that affects mainly babies and young children. It’s a contagious virus that also includes symptoms such as fever and sore throat. The rash is red and usually doesn’t itch. Hand-foot-mouth disease normally goes away on its own when the virus has passed, but contact your doctor if this condition lasts more than a few days, or if it gets worse.


neurodermatitisNeurodermatitis, also known as lichen simplex chronicus, is caused by repeatedly scratching the skin.15 (When you scratch your skin over and over, the skin becomes thick and leathery.) This can also cause even more itching. Neurodermatitis is often associated with other skin conditions, such as eczema and psoriasis. The initial itching is also often caused by clothing or bug bites. Neurodermatitis occurs anywhere on the skin that can be easily scratched, including the ankles. Doctors usually prescribe antihistamines and lotions to stop neurodermatitis. It’s important to prevent scratching so the condition does not become worse. 14

The Takeaway

Contact your doctor if you have a rash that won’t go away on its own, or if you’re concerned about the severity of your symptoms. Foot rashes are usually not serious, but they should be dealt with quickly to avoid discomfort.

Learn More:
Purple Toe Syndrome (or trash foot): What’s Causing This?

The Tendons of Your Feet and What They Do

1. https://medlineplus.gov/rashes.html
2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261244.php, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2907807/
3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072733/
4. https://acaai.org/allergies/types/skin-allergies/contact-dermatitis
5. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/skin-allergy
6. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/at-a-glance/allergic-skin-conditions
7. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/14417.php
8. https://nationaleczema.org/eczema/
10. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/scaly-skin/psoriasis
11. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/52457.php
12. https://www.psoriasis.com/psoriasis-causes
13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072631/
14. https://www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/about/signs-symptoms.html
15. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000872.htm