7 Common Foot Rashes

Having a rash on your foot can be upsetting and uncomfortable, especially when you aren't sure what it is or what caused it. A foot rash can be caused by a range of conditions, from an infection to an allergic reaction.

Different kinds of rashes can have similar characteristics. So when you notice a rash, it's important to get to the bottom of what type it is so you can get the right treatment. See your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

With your doctor's guidance, you may be able to safely treat a harmless rash yourself. If your rash worsens or persists, make sure to let your doctor know.

This article discusses seven common types of foot rashes, along with what causes them, what symptoms can come with them, and how they may be treated.

Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot, also called tinea pedis, is a common foot infection caused by a fungus.

Symptoms

Acute athlete's foot is an itchy red rash that can blister. It usually affects the soles of the feet and the space between the toes.

Chronic athlete's foot causes a scaly rash that can be mistaken for dry skin, with a "moccasin" type look, where the skin on the bottom and sides of your feet are dry and scaly.

The top of the foot is usually unaffected in athlete's foot.

Causes

As the name implies, athlete's foot is common among athletes because the fungus is often found in warm, damp areas around pools and in public showers. Athlete's foot is often passed from foot to foot in locker rooms.

Factors that increase your risk for athlete's foot include:

  • Sweating a lot
  • Keeping your feet wet for long periods or not changing out of sweaty socks
  • Wearing plastic-lined, closed-toe shoes

Treatment

If you think you have athlete's foot, treat it sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the worse and more itchy the rash will become.

Mild forms of athlete's foot can usually be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal powder or cream. You should apply the medication twice a day

If the infection doesn't clear up, your doctor may prescribe an oral anti-fungal medication.

For preventative measures, always ensure that your foot is dry before you put on socks or shoes.

If you recurrently get fungus infections, clean and sanitize your socks and sneakers or purchase new ones to avoid reinfection from fungus spores. And if you are getting it from public showers or lockers, wear flip-flops to protect your feet whenever you might be potentially exposed.

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac rashes are blistering skin rashes caused by coming into contact with the oily sap found on these common plants.

Symptoms

The main symptom of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac rashes is an itchy and blistering rash that begins to develop 12 to 72 hours after contact.

Swelling or trouble breathing are signs of a serious reaction that requires immediate medical care.

Causes

Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac have a type of oil in their leaves, stems, roots, and fruit called urushiol. If you are sensitive to it, which most people are, you can get a rash on areas of skin that come into contact with any part of these plants or with the oil (if the oil gets on fabric, for example).

Treatment

If you have a poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac rash that isn't too severe, it will usually go away on its own in one to three weeks without treatment. In the meantime, the best treatment is to relieve the itching so you aren't tempted to scratch the rash, which can lead to infection.

A few ways to treat a rash from a poison plant include:

  • Apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
  • Apply a cold compress to the rash.
  • Use a skin protectant to dry out the rash and stop the oozing. These include calamine, zinc acetate, zinc carbonate, or zinc oxide.
  • Use a skin protectant to relieve minor irritation and itching, such as baking soda or colloidal oatmeal.
  • Sometimes an oral antihistamine is recommended to lower your body's reaction to the irritant.

If you have a severe reaction, your doctor will prescribe a steroid ointment or oral prednisone.

If you think your skin has been exposed to poison ivy, immediately wash off the exposed area with warm water and soap to remove the urushiol. Make sure you wash any clothes or sheets that you might have touched before you washed the oil off your skin. After you do this, you may still develop symptoms, but your reaction to the oil may be less severe if you are exposed to it for less time.

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

Hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD) is a common viral infection that usually affects children under the age of 5. While less common, it is also possible for older children and adults to catch HFMD.

Symptoms

The first symptoms of HFMD are usually a fever, reduced appetite, sore throat, and a general feeling of being unwell. In one to two days, a rash on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands may develop, as well as painful sores inside the mouth.

Not everyone experiences all of the symptoms of HFMD. Some people may not have any symptoms at all.

Causes

HMFD is most commonly caused by an enterovirus called coxsackievirus A16.

The viruses that cause HFMD can be found in the feces, saliva, phlegm, and nasal mucus of an infected person, as well as in the blister fluid from an HFMD rash. You can get HFMD by coming in contact with these substances or by breathing in droplets carrying the germs.

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for HFMD and no vaccine to prevent it. Hand washing is the best strategy for prevention.

You may need symptomatic treatment, including pain medication for comfort, and fluids to avoid dehydration.

Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a serious bacterial skin infection that can affect any part of your body, including your foot. This infection occurs when bacteria enter through a break in the skin.

Symptoms

The main symptom of cellulitis is a painful rash with red, warm, swollen, or tender skin that may blister and then scab. You may also develop a fever, chills, or swollen lymph nodes from the infection.

Sometimes a small abscess (pus pocket) can produce a bad-smelling odor.

Causes

Cellulitis is most commonly caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria entering the skin through any skin injury. On your feet, bacteria can also enter through ingrown toenails.

Treatment

Cellulitis can spread quickly and needs to be treated right away. A doctor may swab your skin or do a blood test to find out what kind of bacteria is causing the infection.

You will be treated with oral antibiotics in mild cases, or intravenous antibiotics in severe cases. Your doctor will ask you to monitor the size of the rash to ensure it is clearing up and that it's not still spreading after treatment.

Cellulitis can worsen. It can progress to a limb-threatening infection or may enter the bloodstream, potentially causing a life-threatening infection.

Dyshidrotic Eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema is a common form of eczema that affects the soles of the feet, toes, palms, and fingers. It is more common in women than in men. Other names for dyshidrotic eczema include foot-and-hand eczema, vesicular eczema, and palmoplantar eczema.

Symptoms

While all forms of eczema cause itching and redness, dyshidrotic eczema has some unique features, including:

  • Painful and itchy, deep-set blisters on the soles of the feet, toes, palms, and fingers
  • Redness
  • Flaking
  • Scaly, cracked skin

Causes

People with contact dermatitis, atopic dermatitis, or a close family member with dyshidrotic eczema are most at risk for developing the condition.

It can be triggered by a number of things, including stress or moisture from excessive sweating or prolonged contact with water. Consuming or touching nickel, cobalt, or chromium salts can also trigger dyshidrotic eczema.

Treatment

Treatment for dyshidrotic eczema can include soaking the feet (or hands) in cool water several times a day before applying a rich moisturizer or skin barrier repair cream.

In more severe cases, a doctor may drain the blisters or give a Botox injection in the affected area to reduce sweating. You may be prescribed topical steroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs), or phototherapy to clear the rash.

Shoe Contact Dermatitis

Shoe contact dermatitis is a rash caused by an allergic reaction to your shoes or socks.

Symptoms

Shoe contact dermatitis is generally an itchy and peeling rash on the balls of the feet, bottoms of the toes, or heels. The rash may also blister.

The shape can be symmetrical on both feet because the material is often in the same location in both shoes.

Causes

A number of possible allergy-triggering substances can be present in the materials used to make your shoes. Chromate salts, used as tanning agents on leather products and various kinds of rubber compounds, are common allergens that can cause shoe contact dermatitis.

Treatment

If you have an allergic reaction to your shoes, the first thing you should do is minimize your contact with the allergen. This can be frustrating, especially if you've just purchased the shoes, but it's important to avoid further irritation. The reaction will only worsen if you keep wearing the shoes.

Once you stop wearing the shoes, the reaction will typically clear up on its own. A cool compress and/or anti-itch cream, such as hydrocortisone or calamine, can make you feel more comfortable,

Scabies

Scabies is a skin condition caused by mites (Sarcoptes scabiei). It is very contagious and can quickly spread from person to person in areas of close physical contact, such as a school or hospital.

Symptoms

Symptoms of scabies include intense itching and a pimple-like skin rash that can affect various parts of the body, including the feet. Symptoms can take three to eight weeks to develop, but sometimes symptoms can start a few days after contact. During this time you can transmit scabies to others.

Causes

Scabies is caused by coming into skin-to-skin contact with someone who has scabies. It can also be spread by touching or sharing clothing, towels, or bedding with someone who has the condition. It can sometimes be sexually transmitted.

Treatment

Treatment is recommended for the person who has scabies, and also for anyone living in their household, sexual partners, and anyone else they regularly have skin-to-skin contact with.

The steps for treatment include:

  • Decontaminate bedding, clothing, and towels. This can be done by washing in hot water and drying in a hot dryer, by dry cleaning, or by sealing items in a plastic bag for 72 hours. Mites will die after a couple of days without skin contact.
  • Use a prescription scabicide (permethrin) lotion or cream head-to-toe to kill the mites and/or their eggs.

Everyone being treated should get treatment at the same time to prevent re-infestation. If itching still occurs more than four weeks after treatment, it may be necessary to repeat the treatment steps.

Summary

You can develop a rash on your foot due to a skin infection, as is the case with athlete's foot and cellulitis. You can also develop a rash on your foot due to an allergic reaction, as is the case with contact dermatitis.

Most common skin rashes that affect your feet can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medication. If you develop a rash on your foot, it's important to treat it as soon as possible so that it does not get worse or spread to someone else if it's contagious.

A Word From Verywell

To avoid foot rashes, dry your feet before putting on shoes or socks and protect your feet by wearing shoes in public showers, at the gym, and by the pool. And always cover any cuts or wounds on your feet with bandages.

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7 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.
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  2. Cleveland Clinic. Poison plants: poison ivy, poison oak & poison sumac. Updated December 2018.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms and diagnosis of hand, foot, and mouth disease. Updated December 2019.

  4. Sullivan T, de Barra E. Diagnosis and management of cellulitisClin Med (Lond). 2018 Apr;18(2):160–163. doi:10.7861/clinmedicine.18-2-160

  5. National Eczema Association. Dyshidrotic eczema.

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  7. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Scabies. Updated October 2017.