5 Effective Natural Ways to Remedy Athlete’s Foot for Good

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Natural remedies for athletes foot
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It’s no secret that we’re all about natural remedies around here. Every mom should have a few tricks up her sleeve for remedying minor ailments at home without resorting to harmful chemicals. Here are five natural remedies for a pesky problem that has ailed many of us from time to time… icky, peeling athlete’s foot!

What Is Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot is the skin condition most often associated with stinky, sweaty feet and gym locker rooms. However, it doesn’t just affect athletes. From your husband to your kids to — yep, you — athlete’s foot can strike anyone.

How Does Athlete’s Foot Occur?

It may be surprising to learn that athlete’s foot isn’t just something that teenage boys catch. In fact, there is more to the root cause of athlete’s foot than infected showers or towels.

The body’s microbiome may actually have a lot to do with susceptibility to any infection, including athlete’s foot. Let’s first look at what really causes athlete’s foot.

What Leads to Athlete’s Foot

  • Coming into contact with infected people or items, like towels, a shower floor, or a swimming pool
  • Wearing tight, damp shoes
  • Overall bodily microbiome imbalance
  • Poor immune system function

So, while exposure to the fungus responsible for athlete’s foot (called tinea) promotes the spread of the infection, your own personal health may have a lot to do with how your body handles an exposure. When we have an overgrowth of harmful bacteria and fungi, we are more susceptible to infections of all kinds.

We have more bacterial cells than human cells, and it truly is all about the bacterial balance. I talk a lot about gut health and the importance of supporting the skin microbiome. The idea is that when your inner ecosystem is balanced, your whole body microbiome will be balanced, including the bacteria on and under the surface of your skin.

Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot can actually mimic bad eczema or dermatitis, so it can be hard to differentiate between the two. Symptoms include:

  • Thick, red, scaly, or cracking skin
  • Itchy rash
  • Symptoms concentrated between the toes, where fungus is more likely to grow
  • Blisters
  • Discolored toenails

How to Avoid Athlete’s Foot in the First Place

The best remedy is often avoiding the problem in the first place. Here are some ways to reduce the chances of athlete’s foot:

  • Wear foot coverings in wet public places, when possible.
  • Dry feet well when getting out of water, whether at home or in public places.
  • Wash towels if you suspect infection or if they’ve been used in a public place.
  • Mind your microbiome by eating a healthy diet, supplementing probiotics, and avoiding good bacteria-killing products like antibacterial soaps. (Read about how to mind your gut and overall health here.)

Five Natural Remedies for Athlete’s Foot

In the unfortunate event of getting this dreaded fungal foot infection, there are some great natural remedies that may help get it under control:

1. Internal Probiotic Remedy

Gut health affects so many aspects of overall health! Ramp up probiotics, avoid sugar and excessively starchy foods, and focus on nourishing foods like bone broth and sauerkraut.

Those who frequently battle infections, whether athlete’s foot or the common cold, may have an underlying gut issue. Our immune systems are responsible for fighting off infections, and while the occasional cold or flu gives them the workout they need to stay strong, fungal infections are more a symptom of imbalance. When our guts are imbalanced, our immune systems become weakened, and we become susceptible to infections.

Candida is a type of fungal yeast and is often at the root of lots of health conditions like eczema, arthritis, and allergies. While it is a natural strain that is found in everyone’s guts, problems arise when it becomes overgrown due to lack of beneficial bacteria. Doing a diet like the GAPS diet can help to eliminate harmful fungi and bring the gut back into balance.

Likewise, tinea fungus (the fungus responsible for athlete’s foot) is normal to have on the skin. However if our skin bacteria is out of balance, then our skin is more susceptible to infections.

Not only is it necessary to bring the gut bacteria into balance, but it may also be beneficial to balance the bacteria (microbiome) on the skin. (To learn more about nurturing the skin’s microbiome, check out this podcast.)

2. Topical Probiotic Remedy

While oral probiotics are beneficial to your gut and overall health, in the event of an acute athlete’s foot infection, you may find topical application of probiotics helpful.

Let’s take the same idea as this recipe for my probiotic face mask and make it the base for a natural remedy for athlete’s foot.

Mix together:

  • 1 TBSP plain organic yogurt (full fat preferred)
  • 1 capsule of saccharomyces boulardii (a beneficial yeast that has been shown to battle pathogenic species of fungi)

Use a cotton ball to spread the mixture onto the infected areas and allow to sit for about half an hour. Increase or double the amounts if necessary.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar Remedy

The sour, tangy crunchy mama favorite that helps with everything from heartburn to dandruff can also be one of the best natural remedies for mild athlete’s foot.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV for those familiar with this crushed, fermented apple product) has been used since the times of Hippocrates, when it was prized for its medicinal properties. It’s known to be especially beneficial against yeast and fungus, and many people take it internally to keep candida in balance.

To use ACV to remedy athlete’s foot, make sure you’ve got a good, high-quality, unpasteurized version (the ones still containing the “mother” are better, and you can even make your own!). Of course, you can also buy in stores or online through Amazon. I also love and use this brand.

In a foot bath container, mix together:

  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar

Soak your feet for around half an hour. You can also apply plain ACV directly to the infection with a cotton ball. Apple cider vinegar will likely sting, so be aware and dilute more if necessary.

4. Essential Oil Remedies

There are a few essential oils that can be used to battle fungal infections, and skin conditions are one of my favorite uses of essential oils.

Anti-fungal essential oils include:

  • tea tree
  • lavender
  • oregano
  • thyme
  • geranium
  • clove

There are several ways you can use essential oils as natural remedies for athlete’s foot.

How to make your own salve:

Use this simple recipe for homemade healing salve to create your own anti-fungal salve by adding anti-fungal essential oils.

Important Note: Apply neat or diluted. Whether or not you use essential oils directly on the skin or dilute them is a personal and sometimes hotly debated choice. Because essential oils are highly concentrated, it is generally not suggested to use them directly on the skin.

However, some essential oils may be ok to apply neat, or directly on the skin, including lavender. The biggest concern in this case is applying the oil to broken skin, which would be painful and could cause further irritation. You can always check with a certified aromatherapist if you’re interested in using essential oils undiluted.

Otherwise, a good rule of thumb is 3-5 drops of essential oils per teaspoon of oil. Coconut oil is an excellent choice because it is also anti-fungal. Just combine any of the above anti-fungal essential oils with some coconut oil and apply to the infected areas.

Make an anti-fungal spray:

Combine anti-fungal essential oils with witch hazel to create a cleansing, healing astringent. Combine oils of choice in a spray bottle with witch hazel, keeping in mind dilution ratios, spritz on clean, dry feet, and then allow to dry. You could also kill two birds with one stone and add a little ACV to the spray.

Try neem oil

A 2011 study found neem extracts to be effective at killing off different forms of candida, fungi, and mold, which are possible root causes of Athlete’s foot. However, this study was done in Petri dishes, not on animals or humans. Since I already use neem oil as an essential oil carrier oil, I’m comfortable adding some to this remedy.

5. Remedies for Footwear and Towels

It turns out sticking your sneakers in the freezer for about 24 hours may kill the fungus and prevent it from growing further. Additionally, you could use an anti-fungal essential oil spray like the one suggested above to spritz your sneakers and kill the fungus.

In addition to disinfecting your shoes, it is also a good idea to toss or disinfect any socks worn while infected, plus disinfect towels used.

To disinfect towels, wash on the hottest setting on the washing machine. Add anti-fungal essential oils, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide to kill germs. In cases of persistent or recurrent athlete’s foot infections, consider throwing away items that may have come in contact with the fungus.

You Can Remedy Athlete’s Foot Naturally!

Most minor infections can be remedied at home without using harmful or toxic over-the-counter or prescription drugs. Athlete’s foot is no exception, and with these natural remedies for athlete’s foot, you’ll be fungus-free in no time!

This article was medically reviewed by Cynthia Thurlow, NP, the CEO and founder of the Everyday Wellness Project, nurse practitioner, international speaker, and globally recognized expert in intermittent fasting and nutritional health. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.

Have you tried any of these natural remedies for athlete’s foot? Which has worked?

No one likes athlete's foot. Learn 5 effective natural remedies that are easy to make with ingredients you probably already have at home.

Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


58 responses to “5 Effective Natural Ways to Remedy Athlete’s Foot for Good”

  1. Amanda Avatar

    Please help! I have been able to keep the AF at bay using tea tree essential oil but the other day I wore an old pair of socks and now I have itchy blisters all over my foot. The tea tree oil is not helping. I soaked my foot the past two days for at least 20-30 minutes in water with white vinegar, ACV, and EOs: rosemary, eucalyptus, tea tree, peppermint and still the blisters are presistent and itching like crazy.

    I am now soaking in an epsom salt bath and going to rub castor oil all over my foot and sleep with a bag around it all night.

    I need relief. This is horrible!

    1. Deidre Avatar

      I have been struggling with AF for almost a year! it goes away and comes back (even after brand new shoes). I am finally seeing some healthy feet! i wash my feet with “head and shoulders” shampoo. let them completely air dry before putting on 100% cotton socks. I use talcum or baby powder to keep my feet dry in my shoes. (it is very important to keep your feet clean and dry while trying to treat or get rid of AF) after coconut oil, lavender oil and meleluca oils didn’t work i finally went to the dr’s for some cream and it cleared up!

  2. Sue Avatar

    I tried the ACV soak, and at first this seemed to help. But now I feel it is making it worse. Even though it’s acidic, a soak brings moisture to your feet and that’s actually a nono I think. So I bought a shoe dryer to make sure my shoes are dry and have been trying the topical yogurt solution three times now. I think it is helping. I ordered some saccaromyces boulardii to help me even more. I am also going to try other suggestions internally like probiotica. I hope I can beat this thing. My foot is totally swollen. We are having a crazy hot autumn here in my country so the weather is still really warm which doesn’t help. I hope winter sets in soon, the cold will definitely help my condition.

    1. Sue Avatar

      Update: I seemed to have an infection along with the dungus, which is actually pretty common. Also, I am still not sure if rubber or plastic inserts make my problem worse. Anyway, I eventually beat this thing with conventional medicine, but the thing that seems to work best when I get an itchy spot again is Molkosan. Molkosan is rich in lactic acid. I think it prevents the fungus from growing. If I apply it, I see immediate results. I also have leather inserts in all my shoes now. Good luck beating this thing!

  3. Theresa Roush Avatar
    Theresa Roush

    I’ve been using a combo of tea tree, oregano & clove essential oils for about 2 months. Initially I had some relief from the burning itch, but lately nothing. I tried the yogurt & probiotic today for the first time. (The coolness of the yogurt felt wonderful!) I’m wondering how often I can or should use this combo. OTC & prescription creams did nothing.

  4. Anna Avatar

    I’m using tea tree oil and something called Kerasal to try and get rid of my nail fungus.

  5. Alisandra Avatar

    Vick’s Vaporub will cure toenail fungus, quickly too I might add.

  6. Venus Avatar

    Omg! I’m a professional dancer, it’s hot in LA, so obviously my feet stay sweating and I caught some fungal bacteria. I was desperate last night with some skin breaking on my foot and no athletes foot cream, so I googled “homeopathic remedies for athlete’s foot” and found this blog. It was late, but I just happened to have coconut oil and lavender essential oil, so in desperation, I just put some coconut oil on my hand, a few drops of lavender essential oil and rubbed it on my foot. I put a sock over it, drank some hot tea and went to bed. When I woke up this morning, the sock was gone, the itch was gone and my foot completely healed. Thank you so so much for posting this. I would have never thought healing would happen so quickly with natural products. Thanks to this post, I got a night of sleep instead of restless itching. Now I’m hooked to this page! <3

  7. Wanda Avatar

    A very effective treatment for stinky feet is to use several inexpensive black tea bags (Lipton) soaked in hot water to soak feet in. Steep the tea bags in hot water, put feet in when cool enough to soak, until water turns cold. Do this one or two days in a row and it will be gone.

  8. Nicole Fuller Avatar
    Nicole Fuller

    I found that sprinkling borax powder twice a day on, and between, our toes worked brilliantly on my family – and only took a few days (I can’t remember exactly how long it took, but I would guess less than a week). We generally did it after a shower while feet were still damp, and I also sprinkled some into shoes but it probably wasn’t necessary as several years later we haven’t had any reoccurrences and I’m sure I didn’t get all the shoes!

    1. Deidre Avatar

      I’m going to try this! Borax powder is good for so many things around the house! (I use it in my laundry, and sprinkle a little on the carpet, let it sit for as long as you can and vacuum it up, no more odor!!)

  9. Hanlie Burger Avatar
    Hanlie Burger

    I have used apple cider vinegar for 3 months. Soaking my feet every night. My one foot is pink and healthy and my toe nails are thin and and smooth. My other foot is still not healed. I was thinking of trying an alkaline like bicarbonate of soda because the acid doesn’t work.

  10. Chris Avatar

    I had a tiny spot between two toes. I poured some castor oil over some chopped garlic and let it infuse for a day, then strained out the garlic and made a salve with beeswax to firm it up. I applied it one time and my feet have never itched since. I originally made this salve to help a horse with his itchy breakouts and spots where he was rubbing. Other oils may work just fine as well.

  11. Candy Avatar

    I have had amazing success using magnesium gel, after 20 years of struggling to cure athlete’s foot which I picked up while living in Asia. I had tried everything for years, and nothing had lasting results. Magnesium gel caused all the blisters to dry up, then all the red itchy skin flaked off, my toes turned pink again instead of yellowish. It was a process that took a few months, but the results were dramatic. I simply rubbed some on my toes after my shower and carry on with my day. Simple and convenient. Now I have nice feet and no more itching and peeling.

    1. Christena Avatar

      Really? Where do you buy? Any special name or brand? 2 days & gone, sounds fabulous to me! I’d like to try it! TY!!

  12. Morgan Avatar

    Old fashioned lye soap, just wash your feet with it for a few days and it’s gone.

  13. Erika Avatar

    I’ve made my own essential oil spray and it worked great! Your diaper rash cream also works wonders on my feet, so much better than the medicated stuff (got the idea after reading one of the comments). They look so much better and healthier. I also do tea tree foot baths.

    1. Michelle Avatar

      I love Wellness Mama, it’s my go-to for daily life. Do you have a suggestion to stop the spread of the fungus from shower/tile floors, would you recommend the witch hazel/eo spray or something else? Thanks so much!

  14. Mary Avatar

    Buying a shoe dryer and drying out this shoes between uses really helps with foot odor.

  15. Susan Avatar

    Not exactly about athlete’s foot, but feet in general. I know someone with terrible foot odor. He wears real leather work boots with charcoal inserts (and flip flops after work to “air out” his feet . Any other ideas? Could some of these athlete’s foot suggestions work for him? Thanks for any help.

    1. Caro Avatar

      I heard that you should alternate shoes every day to give the ones you wore a chance to air out. I’ve kept several pairs from developing a smell for years by not wearing any pair more than one full day without a full day to dry out. Once the stink is in the shoes, I’m not sure it’s possible to get rid of it. Get two new pairs and start from there.

    2. Sally Avatar

      When my sons were traveling overseas and had to limit their shoe numbers it was advised that they actually take 3 pairs of shoes to rotate daily so one pair could have 2 days to dry out completely. Also spraying the show with and essential oil inside helped, like Rosemary, or melaleuca, some thing anti fungal. I don’t actually think they had a spray bottle but early dropped a single drop into the toe of each shoe when they took them off. Then put them in a good place to dry, not in a cold damp entry way. A little sunlight on the drying shoes never hurts. They never had foot or oder problems even in typhoon weather. He might try a little drop of essential oil on his inserts since he has them, but get more work boots and wear socks that breathe or all cotton/natural fibers as well. Make sure his shoes fit properly with the sock and his feet don’t sweat but have enough room for a little circulation. He might try a little peppermint oil on his feet to help keep them cooler. He may need to dilute but I have never needed to dilute on oils on my feet but use your best judgement.

  16. Ruby Kissoyan Avatar
    Ruby Kissoyan

    I would add Living Clay or Calcium Bentonite to this list… Powder, poultices…

  17. Rachel Avatar

    Can you write a post on toenail fungus? I have battled it for over 10 years and tried everything! From homeopathic remedies to prescription to laser treatment to no avail!

    1. Jo Avatar

      Lamisil tablets cured mine. Your doctor will do a liver blood test first. 3 months and it’s gone. I had it for over 10 years and just couldn’t take it anymore.

    2. Sally Farb Avatar
      Sally Farb

      The Healthy Home Economist recently wrote a post on this. She actually recommended petroleum jelly. only on the nail and only externally. I was surprised cause it’s a petroleum product and that’s to her MO. But i have heard it works really well. 2x a day, morning and night for a few months and it’s gone. Of course you realize that fungus any where but especially in the toenail is a gut issue so doing some cleanses, especially a candid, one will keep fungus away. But you gotta kill or suffocate the creatures in the toe nail. I know creepy eh?

    3. Maddi Avatar

      Is there any possibility that it might not be fungal? I thought I had a fungal infection in two of my toenails for years and it turned out it was actually psoriasis. I started using a mild steroid cream from my doctor and it has improved tremendously in only a few weeks. If anyone else in your family has psoriasis then it is far more likely. Otherwise, good luck finding a solution if it is fungal! 🙂

    4. Kiesa Avatar

      I also had toenail fungus and I used colloidal silver on it. File down the nail a bit and drop some on it weekly. You have to wait until the infected nail grows out. Mine took about 3 months, but my nails are pretty again.

  18. Yumei Silva Avatar
    Yumei Silva

    Lemongrass essential oils mixed with aloe veral gel is highly effective against athletes foot, assuming it is just externa fungus infection.

  19. Anonyplgrim Avatar

    I thought I had recurring athlete’s foot. It stopped responding to tea-tree oil and witch hazel. I got desperate and got anti-fungals from my doctor. No matter how much I cleaned and dried, it kept coming back. I went to a dermatologist and it turned out I had eczema. He pointed out that fungus will grow from the toes outward. If your rash persists elsewhere on the foot and is not connected to the toes, then it’s likely not athletes foot.

    Now I just use coconut oil when I’m starting to break out. It goes away pretty quickly.

    1. Angei Avatar

      Thank you for this helpful information! I’m going to try coconut oil, mine has the same pattern, not from toes.

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