Itchy, red, irritated feet – if you have athlete’s foot, you’ll want to find a way to get rid of it ASAP! Athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis, is a type of fungal infection of the feet. It usually starts between toes. Symptoms include scaling skin, redness, itching, and irritation. If the infection becomes severe, cracking, and blistering may occur.1
You can get athlete’s foot by sharing towels or walking barefoot on a damp floor. And you’re not immune if you’re not an athlete – people whose feet sweat while wearing too-tight shoes are also at risk.
Doctors often recommend antifungal medicines for people with athlete’s foot. Unfortunately, it can take a long time for these medications to work, and the infection frequently comes back.2 Oral prescriptions are sometimes given, but these can have side effects.
The Best Home Remedies for Athlete’s Foot
So, what can you do to relieve your athlete’s foot without antifungal creams or prescription medicine? Here are some natural ways to deal with athlete’s foot.
Essential Oils: Tea Tree and Lavender
Essential oils, the concentrated extract from medicinal plants, have been used for generations to heal a variety of health problems. Scientific studies have shown that two essential oils can help athlete’s foot: tea tree oil and lavender oil. In a 1992 study, tea tree oil was shown to be effective for managing athlete’s foot as the antifungal cream tolnaftate.3 A study from Portugal also demonstrated the effectiveness of lavender oil for fungal infections.4
To use essential oils, dilute them in water or vegetable oils. The dilution should be no more than 3-5 percent, which is about three drops of essential oil to one teaspoon of water or vegetable oil.5 Soak a cotton ball in the diluted solution, then rub it on your feet daily.
Cinnamon has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Scientists are just beginning to discover the amazing power of this common spice. Cinnamon has been found to have antibacterial and disinfectant properties.6 It has also been used to kill off E. coli bacteria.7
To use cinnamon for athlete’s foot, measure 1 tablespoon of freshly grated cinnamon into four cups o warm water. Mix it together, then soak your feet in the water for 15 minutes. Repeat daily.
Common household vinegar can help relieve a case of athlete’s foot. You can use white or apple cider vinegar; both contain acetic acid as an active ingredient. A study conducted by the University of Birmingham found that acetic acid killed bacteria and infections in burn wounds, so it stands to reason that it can be effective at fixing athlete’s foot.8
Make a solution of one part vinegar to four parts water, and soak your feet twice a day for around 10 minutes.9 Many people describe a burning feeling as the vinegar fights the infection.
It sounds more like a superstition for keeping vampires away, but there is scientific evidence that garlic can be effective against athlete’s foot. A compound found in garlic called ajoene was found to effectively diminish athlete’s foot by a study conducted on soldiers in the Venezuelan Armed Forces.10 The compound was applied topically to the feet.
To use this home remedy, mix crushed garlic with olive oil. Rub the mixture into your feet. Garlic can also be added to a daily foot bath.11
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have long touted the medicinal value of licorice root. Scientists have found that licorice, a potent antifungal, is so effective it can fight the bacteria that cause tooth decay.
To use dried licorice root for treating athlete’s foot, mix six or seven teaspoons of licorice into a cup of boiling water. When the water cools, apply the mixture to your feet with a cotton ball. Repeat this routine daily.
Baking Soda and Cornstarch
Dusting baking soda or cornstarch into your shoes can help get rid of excess moisture. The athlete’s foot infection needs a moist environment to survive, so this method could help deter it. However, this is more of a preventative or complementary measure than a cure – you will still need to use some sort of anti-fungal. A baking soda and water paste can also relieve itching caused by athlete’s foot.
Good Hygiene for Preventative Maintenance
To keep your feet from becoming re-infected with athlete’s foot, you need to keep them clean and dry. Change your socks and shoes often. Allow your feet to “breathe” by wearing sandals or socks alone when you are at home. Dry your feet – especially the areas between your toes – right after bathing. The Center for Disease Control recommends keeping toenails clipped short and wearing sandals in locker rooms and other damp public areas where people walk barefoot to prevent the infection.
Athlete’s foot can be a nuisance to deal with. Try these natural remedies to get your feet back to normal, and practice good hygiene to keep them that way.