Q: If a person has had athlete's foot, how long does the fungus remain on their previously worn shoes?

A: Athlete's foot is a fungal infection of the superficial skin layer of the toes and feet. A hot, sweaty environment, like the one inside sneakers and shoes, helps athlete's foot develop. Breaks (or macerations) in the skin from where the shoes rub against the skin also contribute to the spread of athlete's foot.

Signs can include:

  • Painful breaks in the skin between the toes

  • Itchy, scaling soles of the feet

  • Blisters on the instep of the feet

Shoes that don't "breathe" create a humid environment in which the fungus thrives. It is helpful to minimize foot moisture by wearing cotton socks and using antifungal powder to absorb moisture.

Shoes are often the source of re-infection. If you have had athlete's foot recently, treat relatively new shoes with antifungal powder. Throw away your old, sweaty shoes. The fungus can stay around for indefinite periods of time, depending upon how often you wear the shoes and how good an environment the shoes provide for the fungus.