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. Gwen Avatar

    Could you please give an exact recipe with measurements etc. on how to make a natural spray that can be sprayed inside of shoes (like running shoes etc.) that won’t damage the shoes, but yet help kill Foot Fungus/bacteria etc.? Thanks!

  2. Rick Bard Avatar

    I had athletes foot on one foot between the little toe and the one next that I could not get to go away for a couple months. I tried three kinds of athlete foot medicine, yeast infection medicine, tea tree oil and hydrogen peroxide soaking. Nothing worked. I put a dab of Dannon probiotic yougart on it and ate the cup of it twice a day for a week and it was almost gone. Within 2 weeks it was 100 percent gone. Now I eat a cup almost every day and its been gone about 6 weeks. No joke IT WORKS!!

  3. John Avatar

    I had severe recurring tinnis nothing Oct helped. I made a paste with a teaspoon of minced garlic and a teaspoon of minced onion, make sure you get the juice, and packed my toes with it for 30 min.. my feet were clear in 5 days. It may burn you can also add a teaspoon of coconut oil to make it more tolerable.

  4. Helena Avatar

    Hello I am going to try the essential oils remedy for athletes foot…..please can you tell me how many millileters a cup is please? Thankyou

  5. Chris F. Avatar
    Chris F.

    I can say I had athlete’s and jock itch consistently for several years on my left foot pinky toe and my right inner thigh. Always the same spots. I would get relief with topical creams but it always seemed to be there.

    Last month my wife got me a daily fermented men’s multivitamin for gut health and it has 100% obliterated both my athlete’s foot and jock itch. I have not even finished the first month. It is pretty wild because I didn’t start taking the vitamin for that purpose. I googled this evening to see if there was an association and came on this article.

    Pretty wild. But I am a testimony of it actually happening where I addressed my gut health and both those funguses are gone.

  6. Bruce Avatar

    HOT WATER!!!

    I’ve been tortured by athlete’s foot and flea bites. Both don’t care if you scratch, still itches. I use water that is hot enough that I can only stand it for 3 seconds. Knocks out the itch for hours. For my feet and ankles that is around 108 Fahrenheit. For more ‘personal’ itches, not-as-hot will suffice and you don’t have to limit it to 3 seconds.

    I don’t sell hot water. You can try it for virtually free in the privacy of your bathroom.

  7. Ela Avatar

    Dear Katie, what a very informative article! Thank you. Just one question: you mentioned the proportion of 3-5 drops of essential oils per teaspoon of oil. But what are the dilution ratios to combine anti-fungal essential oils with witch hazel to make an anti-fungal spray? Best wishes to you and your family.

  8. Rachel Avatar

    Hi, anybody know the ratio of essential oils to with hazel? Could it be the same rule as coconut oil?

  9. Kris Avatar

    Post 3. Continued…
    8) If you used Tinactin spray then squeeze out a 1/2 inch length of the cream and apply it on the entire soles of your feet. It is important to apply it on the entire sole area. It prevents the fungus from gaining root in other areas of your soles is my conjecture.
    9) Wear a new (newly-washed) pair of socks. Remember to change socks often and use hot water and bleach to wash your socks.
    10) Do this for thirty days. This should give you major relief. It works for me but I still have not gotten rid of it. I was being lazy once again and did not stick to this strict regimen. I also took advice from another blog and treated myself with oral terbinafine (250mg/day for a month, it seemed to make a slight difference but I did not follow the aforementioned treatment while I took the terbinafine. It failed and the two reasons according to me seem to be (a) the concentration of the drug/kg_my_body_weight was not appropriate to be effective (b) the drug just did not work on this fungus, although it is supposed to. Now I am a scientist, so I know a thing or two about pharmacology.
    11) Whenever possible apply foot powder to keep feet dry.
    12) Clean your shower/tub with bleach, scrubbing bubbles etc immediately after you do your treatment and keep it clean to prevent other people (like your girlfriend/wife/friends or kids) from getting it.
    11) You can also practice extreme measures. In fact it will be beneficial. Discard old shoes, socks etc. Buy a new bunch of everything that came into contact with the fungus. It will prevent reinfection.
    It will be effective but I do not know if you will get rid of it completely and even if you did, how do you know that it is not from reinfection if the athlete’s foot persists ????

  10. Kris Avatar

    OK I just figured I could post a couple of messages instead of one to get over this limit thing. My post continued…
    I have gotten good results from using this recipe but your results may vary. I have not gotten rid of it yet but I am close to this result.

    I tried the creams by themselves, spray by themselves, ACV by itself. The itch always came back. But I did some mistakes too. You do not have to make them since I already have.

    How to treat it:
    You have to do this seriously for 30 days at least I suppose. Doing it for such a long time is a major pain in the rear but hey if you stupidly get into a shower without footwear, you will get screwed this way. KARMA.
    1) Pour about 50 ml ACV into 1 gallon bag. Add some (50-100 ml) hot water ( I mean hot water!!!) into the bag.
    2) Wash your feet in water and then put your foot into the bag with ACV+hot water.
    3) Soak it for a solid 20 mins. At the end of this session scrub your feet with a scrubber and rinse off in hot water.
    4) Remember to use separate plastic bags for each foot and discard 1 set of bag every 3-4 days. I made a mistake which you can learn from. I used a plastic container and put both my feet into it, i.e. in the same container at the same time. I feel like this caused the spread of the fungus to my other foot. So what happened was that the itch in one area spread to other areas of that same foot and also the other foot. So, remember to use two separate bags. Its inexpensive so it will save you a lot of money on the longer run.
    5) Do the whole soaking process in the shower so you can rinse your foot off in running water after this process.
    6) Now after the aforementioned scrub and rinse, dry each of your feet with a different paper towel and discard paper towel in trash. If possible burn the darn towels after ( I am just getting irritated here with the fungus I suppose!!!!!)
    7) Now immediately after spray your foot with the Tinactin or Equate (Tolnaftate 1%) spray. Note that the Equate spray is a powder spray and it will cause your foot to turn white because the powder comes out with the solvent that is sprayed. Tinactin does not seem to do the same thing for whatever reason. Later on (when 1/4 of the spray is used up) both these brands cease to spray the powdery stuff an just the solvent seems to be spray. Go figure. Importantly that white powdery stuff will prevent the next cream application step.

  11. Kris Avatar

    Hello to all who have been plagued by athlete’s foot and are really depressed because of it,

    My comment is too long it says but I really am trying to help with the best remedy that works for me and this blog wont let me post it. Well, I will post what one will need. It is really important to know how to use these ingredients. I hope the webmaster will make a concession.

    First of all its a combination of over the counter medications (I know they are not all natural but…) and Apple cider vinegar (ACV). Apple cider vinegar is just awesome.
    1) ACV (from Wegmans – 1 gallon plastic jar ($5)
    2) Tolnaftate spray (Bayer’s brandname: Tinactin or Equate sells a generic version) ($6-7). Buy 3-4 of these
    3) Tolnaftate cream (Equate brand 1% cream) ($3-4). Buy 3-4 of these
    4) 1 gallon zip lock bags
    6) couple of bags of paper towels
    7) Foot powder (prevents foot perspiration, available at walmart, actually everything other than ACV I bought from walmart. You could get your ACV from Walmart though).

    I short you have to soak, clean, dry and dress your feet individually and discard and disinfect everything that came/comes into contact before or during the treatment, respectively. For clearer instructions I will repost with a link later if I can find someone to host my material. Or maybe this webmaster will let me post it.

  12. Ashley Avatar

    I work in an academy with children living in same quarters we have an outbreak of athletes foot we can not use chemicals we soak but yet to find one that is helping we are doing the preventatives also someone said Epsom salt and vinigar I’ve heard many I need what works best for several boys what do you suggest

  13. Sharon Avatar

    How much vinegar or hydrogen peroxide do I put in the laundry to kill the athletes foot germ?

  14. christy tays Avatar
    christy tays

    what is acv you said to add this to the foot spray and I have no clue what this is

  15. Kat Avatar

    Vinegar works great. I ran out of the Apple kind and the regular kind worked for me.

  16. Melissa Avatar

    Hey there! How would you modify this recipe for a child? Or…would it be the same? Also, can I leave out the lavender or sub for one of the other oils like lemongrass or thyme? Thank You!

  17. Sue Avatar

    ACV did not work for me, and I even think I was allergic to it, which makes sense since I have hayfever. What eventually worked where:

    – Soaking in ice coldwater with icecubes and salt. Be careful for freezing!
    – Molkosan. I used tissued drenched in the stuff and put it on the affected areas. Plastic bag over it and socks. Half an hour is fine.
    – Zinc oxide, dry tissues and bamboo socks. Make sure your feet stay dry, dry, dry.
    – Only canvas or leather shoes with special insoles that absorb moisure. Stay away from plastic and rubber.
    – I did use steriod cream and Loprox for a while, to help my skin heal.

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