Examining Foot Eczema & Common Misassociations

foot eczema - main

Although many eczema sufferers usually experience flare-ups in most common areas, like on the front of their arms, behind their knees, and around the neck, foot eczema can also occur.

Foot eczema is most commonly confused with athlete’s foot; however, the two can be distinguished from each other.

Athlete’s foot appears between the toes and along the sides of the feet and heel. It is a fungal skin infection and is usually picked up in moist places like a communal shower floor or pool deck. It is also extremely contagious and only gets worse when feet are kept in warm, moist, enclosed spaces.

If you’re experiencing foot eczema, on the other hand, you’ll be surprised to know that there are several different types of foot eczema that exist. Remember that eczema is never contagious, unlike athlete’s foot.

Please keep in mind that although these tips have worked for many eczema sufferers, I am in no way a medical professional. If you’re experiencing severe eczema or have a topical fungal infection, it is always best to seek medical advice immediately.

What Is Athlete’s Foot?

person standing on swimming pool ladder

Athlete’s foot is a common contagious fungal infection. It is estimated that 3% to 15% of the population struggles with athlete’s foot these days, and 70% of the population will develop the condition at some point in their lives.

While athlete’s foot mostly affects the skin between your toes, the infection can also spread to the bottoms and tops of your feet. If you have athlete’s foot, you may notice cracked and scaly skin on your feet, as well as blisters. What’s more, the irritated skin is itchy, it may appear red, purple, grey, or white, and your feet may smell badly too.

These fungal infections can affect everyone, however, it most commonly affects men and people over the age of 60. If you’re obese, have diabetes, or a weakened immune system, you are also more likely to develop athlete’s foot.

Chronic athlete’s foot requires proper treatment, which includes using antifungal creams, gels, and ointments. These products contain such substances as clotrimazole, miconazole, tolnaftate, and terbinafine. You can also treat your skin condition with prescription pills that have antifungal properties.

What Is Foot Eczema?

 

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that can lead to infection if not properly treated. It can occur on any part of your body, including your feet. Unlike athlete’s foot, eczema isn’t contagious, although its symptoms are very similar to the fungal infection.

Eczema may cause redness, itchiness, cracking, and dryness. The infected skin may also swell, thicken and turn white. In severe cases, the skin can develop sores, pus bumps, and blisters that weep and leak liquid.

This common skin condition often results from genetic and environmental factors. People who experience eczema have a dysfunctional skin barrier which causes the skin to be drier or more prone to irritation by allergens and fragrances.

Similarly to athlete’s foot, you can treat eczema with special creams and ointments that you can purchase over the counter. They may help you reduce redness and itching. If you struggle with eczema flare-ups, it’s crucial to avoid harsh soaps and to instead use delicate, non-irritating products. A healthcare professional may also prescribe topical steroids, antihistamines, or oral medication in the form of pills.

As eczema is an inflammatory condition, eating anti-inflammatory foods may help ease the flare-ups. Such products as fatty fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are worth including in your diet if you’re experiencing eczema symptoms.

Types of Foot Eczema

There are several types of eczema that may affect your feet. They can be distinguished in terms of their symptoms. Among the most common types of foot eczema are:

Nummular Eczema

This type of eczema is characterized by oval (coin-shaped) plaques on the feet and can be caused by stress, different climates, and occupational hazards.

These patches can last weeks or months and sometimes end up oozing or becoming flaky and dry.

Contact Foot Dermatitis

Another type of eczema that can appear on the feet is contact dermatitis. This type of eczema can appear swollen, red, and with blisters or cracked skin.

Most foot contact dermatitis is actually caused by certain allergens found in shoes and socks. Rubber box-toe shoes/boots are the most common cause of foot contact dermatitis due to a chemical known as rubber accelerators. Latex allergies are also a common trigger. Latex is commonly found in most elastic, so 100% cotton latex-free socks are a great option in these cases.

Pompholyx eczema

Also known as podopompholyx, this type of eczema is very commonly seen on the feet, especially among athletes.

It appears in painful blisters on the soles of the feet accompanied by intense itching. These blisters can grow into large growths on the soles of the feet that become painful.

Causes of Foot Eczema

Although general eczema causes were mentioned above, eczema on feet can also be caused by a variety of external and internal factors. These include changes in climate or allergens such as rubber accelerators, dust mites, and pollen.

To find out if pollen is causing your eczema, check out our post: How To Determine if Pollen Is Making Your Skin Flare-Up: The Eczema and Allergies Connection.

Foot Eczema Treatment

In order to properly treat athlete’s foot and eczema, it’s important to visit your doctor. Athlete’s foot infection and foot eczema are entirely separate conditions that require different treatments.

If you have been diagnosed with foot eczema and steroid or prescription creams are not working for you, using both natural eczema treatments and eczema socks can help provide necessary relief.

Socks

For foot eczema to heal properly, it needs to be kept properly aired out so that it is free from sweat. These Hypoallergenic Socks are the perfect eczema socks, as they’re made of 100% organic cotton and are latex-free and elastic-free, so they’re completely comfortable and non-irritating. We also love these adult socks for foot eczema from Remedywear™! Why are they great? The fabric is composed of cooling, soft TENCEL and antibacterial zinc for double the relief and comfort. They come in kids’ sizes too.

Dry or Wet Wrap Therapy

Both socks can also be used for wet wrap therapy, which will keep your skin hydrated and allow eczema to heal quicker. This type of treatment works by wearing one damp pair of eczema socks covered with a dry pair AND a natural cream or balm such as the Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream or Emily Skin Soothers Super Dry Soother to heal eczema quickly and painlessly. Dry wrapping is much easier and less messy, and we like to recommend it as the first line of defense. Learn all about dry wrapping.

How to Prevent Athlete’s Foot and Eczema?

Implementing the following strategies into your routine may help you minimize the risk of getting athlete’s foot and eczema:

  • Wash with a mild soap and dry your foot and nails completely.
  • Dry your feet thoroughly after taking a shower or swimming.
  • Moisturize your skin regularly (to minimize eczema flare-ups). Apply a honey based moisturizer like the Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream.
  • Cover the foot with a breathable sock with beneficial properties like the Remedywear socks for adults that contain antimicrobial and anti inflammatory zinc and cooling, moisture wicking TENCEL. You’ll be glad to know they come in sizes for kids as well, since children often develop athlete’s foot.
  • Wear flip-flops or slippers around public swimming pools and changing rooms.
  • Avoid very tight-fitting shoes in synthetic materials.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Identify and avoid allergens and triggers.

The Bottom Line

Although foot eczema can be easily confused with athlete’s foot, there are several symptoms that are distinguishable, as mentioned. If you are experiencing ongoing symptoms or are in a lot of pain, make sure to visit your doctor as soon as possible so that you can receive the most accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Do you have foot eczema? Let us know how you treat it in the comments below!

FAQs

Is athlete’s foot the same as foot eczema?

No, athlete’s foot and foot eczema are not the same. Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin, and it’s contagious. On the other hand, foot eczema is an inflamed skin condition that cannot be spread from one person to another.

Since the symptoms are similar, eczema can often be mistaken for an athlete’s foot. If you suspect you have either skin condition, it’s crucial to discuss your symptoms with a healthcare professional.

Can I use eczema cream on athlete’s foot?

It depends. As athlete’s foot is a fungal skin infection, medical eczema cream will not be effective in treating it. You may need an OTC or prescription antifungal cream or pills to treat athlete’s foot. However, we have seen natural honey based products and coconut oil work well for both foot eczema and athlete’s foot because they both feature antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.

What happens if eczema is left untreated?

As atopic eczema often causes your skin to crack, there’s a risk of the skin becoming infected with bacteria. Your condition may also get worse if you scratch your skin and do not use your treatments properly.

Bio: Laura is a contributor and content developer for It’s An Itchy Little World. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes. Please see It’s An Itchy Little World’s disclaimer for information about affiliate links and more.

Laura is a contributor and content developer for It’s An Itchy Little World. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes. Please see It’s An Itchy Little World’s disclaimer for information about affiliate links and more.

TAGS:

30 Comments

  1. Camelie Similien on June 28, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    Itchy and flaky

  2. Keza on June 25, 2018 at 10:23 am

    I appear to have Dyshidrotic Eczema, on my hands and feet between fingers/toes. I have been unable to wear socks/shoes in summer heat, the heat seems to make more blisters between the toes. I’ve mostly been wearing sandals to keep feet dry and aired out, using cortisone, aloe, lysine and various medicated cream. Found relief accidentally when i had forgotten creams when out of town, used Super Lysine+ (typically for dry lips/cold sores) and it moisturized and looked better/more healed by the morning.

    • Jennifer Roberge on June 25, 2018 at 10:38 am

      That’s wonderful you found something to work for you!

  3. Deb cook on March 13, 2019 at 9:05 pm

    Is it possible to have ezema with no rash? Allergic to mattress possible. Got new memory foam or poly urathane foam and itching stops when I get off bed. Replaced mattress and new one doing same thing.

  4. Sherri on May 2, 2019 at 2:33 pm

    I’ve had eczema for years and it only affects my right foot. I’ve been searching the internet and cannot figure out why it’s only one foot. I keep it somewhat under control with Ketoconazole cream (prescription) and if it gets really bad I use Hydrocortisone cream. I’ve also discovered that Gold Bond Extra Strength foot powder in the blue container is very helpful to stop the itch. Ceremonial cream is great for moisturizing.
    Maybe this will help somebody

    • Mary Anne Simpson on February 27, 2020 at 11:27 am

      It is also possible to get eczema if you have venous reflux. I had a patch of eczema on my right calf, which went away after I had the veins under the patch closed down with ablation. I currently have eczema on my right foot because of faulty veins in my ankle. I should note that I hate no ropy or bulging veins that can be seen. It does not always show on the outside, but a thorough ultrasound can rule out the possibility that the problem is vascular

    • Linda on June 8, 2020 at 12:10 am

      I’ve been going crazy wondering if I’m the only person thst had it on one specific foot and not the other! For years I’ve had it on my left foot, but never my right.

      • Caprice Harried on June 22, 2020 at 6:27 pm

        I have also had it on my left foot to for years. Im glad Im not the only one.

        • Sheila S. on June 19, 2021 at 3:57 pm

          I also experience it only on one foot- only on my right. So bizarre. Many people have told me that clinically, it only appears in both feet but that has never been the case for me. I’m in acupuncture school now and make an herbal poultice with drain -damp herbs and it helps significantly to reduce the itch and dries out the blisters . Also avoiding dairy seems to help avoid flare ups too

    • Angela on August 24, 2020 at 1:45 am

      Um yes only my right foot too how weird? Thank you so much, after getting rid of all shoes and socks and the sprays and oils and lotions most of which i was highly allergic to i have decided to try your remedy hope it works fingers crossed #hopeforfeet

    • Stacy on December 1, 2020 at 11:42 am

      Sherri,
      It’s always on my right foot as well!!!! Right now, I have developed a crazy blister in the middle of my foot. At first it itched a lot, but over the past few days it has simply just grown in size. It hurts to walk!

    • Bel on January 3, 2022 at 6:56 am

      I also only get it on my left foot and never on my right. Weird and dr keeps saying it’s athletes foot but it’s not. It’s only on the top of my big toe and I think it’s from a shoe fabric. It’s crazy itchy atm in summer. 😩

      • Eleanor Martin on September 1, 2022 at 10:27 am

        Wow I’m having the same problem with my right foot only and they kept saying it’s athletes foot also but I know it’s not the case it flares up from stress, moisture, when in bed at night under the covers it flares up and during the spring and summer. I’m glad I’m not the only one who suffer from this.

    • Nicole on May 3, 2022 at 10:26 pm

      I have the same exact thing! My left foot is beautiful, totally fine. My right foot is cracked, dry, gets little blisters that itch terribly!! And it hurts when it cracks. They look like two feet from two different people!?!

    • Natalie on June 1, 2022 at 2:16 pm

      Same here! Only in my right foot. I cannot agree on athletes foot and this has affected me my whole life it’s been on and off flare ups of insanely itchiness I literally itched until I bled. Medically neglected as a child and teenager it upset me but I could never do anything about it now I’m in my 20s I don’t have coverage for podiatry to help me figure this out so I’m trying to diagnose myself on the internet. I also have accompanied occasional foot pain where it’s hard to walk it hurts so bad so I’ve seen some people say vascular? I’m so overwhelmed I wish I could see a doctor I hate this country

  5. Sherri on May 2, 2019 at 2:35 pm

    That should have said Cetaphil cream in my previous comment. Sorry.

  6. Natasha on June 15, 2019 at 2:10 am

    Is it possible to have both athlete’s foot and eczema at the same time? Mine shows both similarities.

  7. Bhargab Kashjap on August 5, 2019 at 9:55 pm

    Tqs,very usefull

  8. Marh on August 13, 2019 at 1:26 pm

    I have also very itchy on my toes and athletes 😭 its disturbance in daily life. 😣 this about a week noe. I hope some advice will help heal this .. ty

  9. Jenna Whited on October 31, 2019 at 11:44 pm

    I use eucerin original healing cream (its really more of a paste) and mine got better within 4 hours. But i use it religiously every hour till the itching stops.

  10. Deb on December 23, 2019 at 5:27 am

    Olive oil works wonders to stop the itch

  11. 7 Ways to Handle Foot Eczema on January 15, 2020 at 5:49 am

    […] very effectively by putting on socks so the feet are slightly compressed, as per the advice of itchylittleworld.com. Be sure to pick socks that are breathable, without proper airflow the eczema will stick around for […]

  12. Mark SancheZ on February 9, 2020 at 1:25 am

    hey my wife’s way of treating this is by putting vicks on your feet like alot and then putting a sock on before you go to bed and by the morning or the next day it should be gone ,

    hope this helps

    • Masi on January 8, 2021 at 2:09 pm

      Thanks for all the comments. Not only I have it spreading on the bottom of my left foot only, it was painful to walk on as well. I put vicks on and wore a sock overnight. Woke up in the morning and the pain is almost gone.

  13. Mandy Orsini on January 31, 2021 at 7:34 am

    Where might I find the latter free socks. The eczema on my feet is very bad, very itchy and peels daily.

  14. Mandy Orsini on January 31, 2021 at 7:37 am

    Where might I find the laytex free socks. The eczema on my feet is very bad, very itchy and peels daily.

  15. […] Is it Foot Eczema or Something Else? – It’s an Itchy Little World […]

  16. […] Check out the It’s an Itchy little world blog and read, Is it food eczema or something else? […]

  17. Eleanor Martin on September 1, 2022 at 10:28 am

    Wow I’m having the same problem with my right foot only and they kept saying it’s athletes foot also but I know it’s not the case it flares up from stress, moisture, when in bed at night under the covers and during the spring and summer. I’m glad I’m not the only one who suffer from this.

  18. Elizabeth on October 6, 2022 at 11:42 pm

    I have something like this on my right foot only, too! Maybe that’s a distinction that could be made between athlete’s foot and eczema? There’s only one roundish dot there that itches, but the outer edge of my foot got this rough, ugly, grayish patch of skin that doesn’t itch. It just feels like it needs a good scrubbing. I experimented with an exfoliant, and it will rub off, but I don’t want to do extra damage. Tinactin doesn’t seem to be doing it, either.

    I ask here because I live a ways from my doctor, and I don’t have a car.

Leave a Comment





Pin It on Pinterest

Share This