How to Identify and Treat Athlete’s Foot Bumps

Athlete's foot, medically known as tinea pedis, is a fungal infection of the skin around the toes and on the feet. The infections can also occur in other areas of the body. When that happens it is known by other names, like ringworm (tinea capitis) or jock itch (tinea cruris).

Athlete's foot causes bumps, skin fissures, and red, itchy scales. It is spread by direct skin contact or contact with items where the fungi thrive: pools, showers, and shoes.

Athletes are not the only people who can get athlete's foot. It can infect anyone. In this article, you will learn more about athlete's foot symptoms, how to diagnose it, and the best treatment options.

Athletes foot fungus on the toes

Burak Karademir / Getty Images

Athlete’s Foot Symptoms

Athlete's foot is an uncomfortable foot infection that can affect only a tiny area of the foot and toes, or it can cover the majority of the foot and toes. The symptoms include a red, itchy rash that includes peeling skin, scales, or skin fissures between the toes or on the side of the feet.

More severe infections can include oozing or crusted blisters and small pimple-like bumps.

If the infection spreads to the toenails, they will become thickened, discolored, and can even break down and crumble.

Other Conditions That Cause Bumps on the Feet

Athlete's foot is not the only condition that causes bumps on the feet. Here are other conditions that cause foot bumps:

Cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop near joints or tendons. They are usually harmless and don't need intervention unless they start to hurt, grow, or become infected.

Plantar warts are bumps on the bottom of the foot caused by the papillomavirus. They have a scaly appearance with black/purple dots.

Plantar fibromas are bumps or nodules of fibrous tissue embedded in the plantar fascia. Treatment may be needed if they are fast growing or painful. They are both rare and benign (not cancer-causing).

Dyshidrotic eczema, also known as pompholyx, is a type of eczema that causes tiny, fluid-filled blisters on the hands or feet. The area can feel itchy and burn.


Many cases of athlete's foot are diagnosed entirely by appearance. A healthcare provider will look at the skin and determine if the rash is indeed athlete's foot. If there is uncertainty, the healthcare provider can order a few types of tests to help determine the cause of the rash. Testing could include:

Contact a healthcare provider if athlete's foot is not responding to home treatment within two to four weeks or if the symptoms worsen. Any rash that looks infected, is swollen, or spreads quickly should always be evaluated by a healthcare provider.


Athlete's foot can typically be treated at home with over-the-counter antifungal creams or powders. Look for powders or creams that contain Micatin (miconazole), Aftate (tolnaftate), Lamisil (terbinafine), or Lotrimin (clotrimazole). To prevent the athlete's foot from returning, keep using the medicine for one to two weeks after the infection has gone away.

While medication can be very effective at treating athlete's foot, here are more ways to help get rid of athlete's foot:

  • Clean and dry feet and toes thoroughly
  • Wash feet twice a day
  • Use lamb's wool to add extra space between the toes to keep them dry
  • Wear shoes that offer plenty of ventilation
  • Wear clean, dry socks
  • Wear sandals at pools and public showers

If home treatment does not help in two to four weeks, then it's time to contact a healthcare provider. They may prescribe an oral antifungal medication or a prescription cream to go on the skin.

Risk Factors and Complications

Certain risk factors can increase the chance of developing athlete's foot:

  • Family history of athlete's foot
  • Decreased immune system
  • Poor circulation in the legs
  • Allergies and eczema
  • Participating in certain sports (like swimming, diving, and running)

A complication of athlete's foot is a serious bacterial infection. Thankfully, this is rare and only in serious cases of athlete's foot.


Preventing athlete's foot takes only a little bit of time and can keep that bumpy, painful, and itchy rash away.

One of the best prevention techniques is to avoid walking barefoot in public areas that tend to be damp or wet. This includes pools, locker rooms, and showers. Keep feet clean and dry. Toenails should be cut short and kept clean.

Keeping feet dry can help prevent the fungi that cause athlete's foot from growing. Change wet socks and wear shoes that allow plenty of ventilation.


Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that causes a red, itchy rash, blisters, and bumps on the feet and toes. A healthcare provider and dermatologist can diagnose athlete's foot based on its appearance. In some cases, healthcare providers may need to do additional testing to rule out other types of infections.

Home treatment for athlete's foot includes over-the-counter creams and powders. If the rash doesn't improve, a healthcare provider can prescribe oral or topical medication.

To prevent athlete's foot, keep your feet dry and avoid walking barefoot in locker rooms, pools, and public showers.

A Word From VeryWell

Athlete's foot is an incredibly uncomfortable rash that causes bumps, skin peeling, and itchiness. However, many different types of rashes can have similar symptoms.

Contact a healthcare provider to get a definitive diagnosis and start prompt treatment. While you have the infection, keep your feet dry and clean. Don't let your skin touch other people's skin, and avoid using public showers or pools.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do you get rid of athlete's foot bumps?

    Athlete's foot bumps should be kept clean and dry. Apply over-the-counter athlete's foot cream or any prescription that a healthcare provider has prescribed. Avoid popping the bumps, as it can cause an infection.

  • Should I pop athlete's foot blisters?

    No, do not pop athlete's foot blisters. This opens the blister up, removing the protective layer or skin. Without the skin protected, there is an increased chance of developing another infection.

  • How long does it take to get rid of athlete's foot?

    Over-the-counter medication usually clears up athlete's foot in one to two weeks. If it does not get better within two weeks, it's time to talk to a healthcare provider for other treatment options.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hygiene-related diseases.

  2. MedlinePlus. Athlete's foot.

  3. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Warts.

  4. Young JR, Sternbach S, Willinger M, Hutchinson ID, Rosenbaum AJ. The etiology, evaluation, and management of plantar fibromatosisOrthop Res Rev. 2018;11:1-7. doi:10.2147/ORR.S154289

  5. MedlinePlus. Pompholyx eczema.

  6. Athlete’s Foot: Overview. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).

By Patty Weasler, RN, BSN
Patty is a registered nurse with over a decade of experience in pediatric critical care. Her passion is writing health and wellness content that anyone can understand and use.