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The FootSmart Health Resource Center

Itchy Feet

FootSmart Health Facts from The Podiatry Institute
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If your feet itch, you're most likely suffering from either athlete's foot or dry skin. While these two conditions both result in some serious scratching, and can produce red, flaky patches as well as peeling, cracked skin, treatment options drastically differ. Sufferers must therefore learn to distinguish between these two ailments to find relief.



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As the name suggests, the most common cause of athlete's foot is perspiration, meaning everyone – not just athletes – are susceptible.
Wet feet trapped in closed-in shoes, socks and hosiery provide the perfect environment for the athlete's foot fungus, which thrives in warm, dark, moist climates.

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If you're displaying any of the above mentioned symptoms, yet also show signs of blistering, you most likely have the fungal infection commonly referred to as athlete's foot. Commonly found between the fourth and fifth toes, athlete's foot can appear anywhere on the foot, and is contagious.

Also called tinea pedis, athlete's foot can result in red, burning, scaly, itchy feet, and usually appears as a scaling rash, making your feet feel like they're "on fire."

Treatment and Prevention:
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The best way to prevent against athlete's foot is to keep your feet dry. If you do get athlete's foot, however, careful hygiene and the regular use of anti-fungal creams and powders should alleviate symptoms.

Practice the following to guard against athlete's foot:

  • Wash feet with an anti-bacterial soap.
  • Dry feet well after showering or bathing.
  • Apply anti-fungal powders and creams to absorb
    excess moisture.
  • Change your socks often, especially after exercising
    or perspiring.
  • Wear rubber sandals when using public showers or pools,
    or when you go to the gym.



While dry skin is not a dangerous condition, it can become painful,
and if the cracking starts to bleed, it can lead to infection – an especially serious problem for anyone with a chronic disease such as diabetes, or a lowered immune system due to age or illness.

Dry skin can result from a variety of reasons:

  • Age
  • Improperly fitting shoes
  • Athlete's foot
  • Psoriasis
  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • Certain skin conditions
  • Household heat that reduces humidity and dries out the skin

Dry skin, usually the culprit behind cracked heels, commonly appears on such areas of the feet as the souls and heels. As explained above, you most likely have dry skin if your feet display the following symptoms:

  • Red or flaky patches
  • Peeling and cracked skin
  • Itchy skin
Relief and Prevention:

The best way to treat and also prevent dry, cracked skin on your feet is to use good therapeutic ointments and creams. Avoid using lotions, as these often contain alcohol, which actually dries the skin out more.

Additional therapies include the following:

  • Use a pumice stone or sand stone to file the hard dry skin, allowing the moisturizers to better penetrate the skin.
  • Use creams especially designed for nighttime use,
    and wear socks to help the cream better absorb into your
    skin while you sleep.
  • Check your shoes for tight spots and areas that rub.
    Use insoles and other corrective devices to eliminate
    points of friction.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.

Make sure you avoid getting cream and ointment between your toes, as the additional moisture can lead to bacterial infections such as athlete's foot. If the dry skin and cracking worsen, or bleeding occurs, consult
a physician.

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