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Best athlete’s foot treatment 2023: Save on the best creams, sprays and powders

Your feet deserve better than the itch, pain and pong of athlete’s foot - here are the best treatments to stamp it out

You don’t have to be an athlete to suffer from athlete’s foot. The British Medical Journal says that, right now, nearly one-third of the general population is suffering from this condition (medical name tinea pedis), which brings itchiness, inflammation, cracked skin and nasty whiffs to your poor feet.

The best athlete’s foot treatments clear up those symptoms within days, and help to prevent future bouts by killing off the fungi and fungal spores that cause the infection. Some treatments also contain ingredients designed to fight bacteria and yeast infections, which often develop alongside athlete’s foot. Just when you thought it was safe to kick your shoes off, eh?

Skip to discover our top picks for treating athlete’s foot, or read on for a guide to buying the right treatment to blitz your symptoms quickly and stop them coming back.

Best athlete’s foot treatment: At a glance

  • Best for smelly feet: Canesten Athlete’s Foot Cream | Buy now
  • Best spray option: Scholl Athlete’s Foot Spray Liquid | Buy now
  • Best powerful option for fast results: Lamisil Once | Buy now
  • Best treatment option for children: Mycota Powder | Buy now
  • Best value for ongoing use: Scholl Athlete’s Foot Cream | Buy now
  • Best natural organic option: Lulu & Boo Foot Balm | Buy now

How to choose the best treatment for your athlete’s foot

What exactly is athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is a highly contagious fungal infection that you’re most likely to catch (and spread) by walking barefoot on contaminated floors, especially damp floors such as those in swimming pools and changing rooms. It can also be spread by sharing towels and socks. Fungi like it warm and damp, so the infection tends to start between the toes – and the sweatier you are and the tighter your footwear, the more likely you are to suffer.

According to the NHS’s Health A to Z, which includes some pretty unstinting photos to illustrate, symptoms of athlete’s foot include itchy white patches between your toes; red, sore and flaky patches on your feet; and skin that may crack and bleed. Your feet may also smell bad, usually as a result of bacteria infecting the area along with fungi, and some sufferers even notice fluid-filled blisters in the affected area.

Athlete’s foot can spread from between your toes to the soles and sides of your feet, and can even spread to your toenails and cause a fungal nail infection. It’s closely related to other fungal infections such as ringworm and jock itch.

(Are you scratching yet? Not to worry, we’ll come to the treatments in a sec.)

READ NEXT: Best fungal nail treatments

What ingredients should I look for in an athlete’s foot treatment?

Athlete’s foot treatments all contain antifungal active ingredients that target and kill the main types of fungi (usually dermatophytes) that cause the infection.

Different athlete’s foot infections will respond more quickly to one or other antifungal medication, but it’s hard to know which will work best for you until you try.

These ingredients are used most often to treat athlete’s foot:

  • Clotrimazole (and similar miconazole and bifonazole) can kill off athlete’s foot fungus within a week or two.
  • Terbinafine hydrochloride attacks the cell membranes of the fungus in a slightly different way from clotrimazole.
  • Tolnaftate and undecenoate are yet another group of antifungals. You may have more or less success with them compared with other antifungals, depending on the type of fungus that’s found its way into your skin.

Many athlete’s foot treatments also include antibacterial agents such as undecenoic acid, which can help to blitz the unpleasant smell that often accompanies the infection.

Some treatments also include anti-inflammatory ingredients to relieve itching and soreness. Hydrocortisone is a mild corticosteroid that treats symptoms of inflamed athlete’s foot, and is especially effective when combined with clotrimazole.

The best athlete’s foot treatments you can buy in 2023

1. Canesten Athlete’s Foot Cream: Best athlete’s foot treatment to clear up smelly feet

Price: £5.50 | Buy now from Amazon

Athlete’s foot can be a smelly old business, thanks to the bacteria that hitch a lift with fungi. This is why Canesten’s cream contains active ingredients to fight bacteria as well as killing off the fungi, making it the most effective all-round treatment for banishing nasty whiffs and itchy athlete’s foot, just in time for summer.

It takes a few days to deal with the bacteria, and you’ll need to keep on using it for a while after symptoms clear to ensure the problem doesn’t bounce right back thanks to hibernating spores. But it works very quickly and powerfully to soothe the dreaded itch and whiff. A couple of satisfied buyers report that wrapping the affected area in clingfilm after applying the cream, which you’re meant to use three times a day, speeds up the healing process.

Key specs – Size: 30g; Format: Cream; Active ingredient: Clotrimazole 1%

2. Scholl Athlete’s Foot Spray Liquid: Best athlete’s foot spray

Price: £5 | Buy now from Amazon

A spray-on treatment may not be quite as environmentally friendly as a cream or a powder, and no spray treatment will clear up an aggressive bout of athlete’s foot as fast as a more powerful anti-fungal cream can. However, it’s quick and easy to apply, with no messy hands or powder-covered floor to worry about, so it’s ideal for sticking in your gym bag or keeping in your locker.

This spray-on liquid also tends to penetrate better in awkward places, such as in between the toes and around the toenails, and is also really handy to use as a disinfectant inside your shoes to blitz any hibernating fungal spores that are lying in wait to reinfect you.

Key specs – Size: 150ml; Format: Spray; Active ingredient: Tolnaftate 1%

3. Lamisil Once: Most powerful athlete’s foot treatment for fast results

Price: £8.65 | Buy now from The Independent Pharmacy

Lamisil Once requires just one application to kill off the fungus causing your infection, making it the fastest-working treatment for athlete’s foot. Apply the entire contents of the dinky 4g tube to the affected area, and its powerful terbinafine content will penetrate your skin and target the fungus, continuing to work for up to 13 days until the problem is eliminated.

The catch is you’re not allowed to wash the affected area for the first 24 hours after application, but after that the cream creates an invisible protective layer over the anti-fungal chemicals, which can then carry on working while you get on with bathing and showering as normal.

Key specs – Size: 4g; Format: Cream; Active ingredient: Terbinafine

Buy now from The Independent Pharmacy

4. Lulu & Boo Melissa and Mallow Foot Balm: Best natural organic athlete’s foot cream

Price: £12 | Buy now from Amazon

If you’ve got a serious case of athlete’s foot and need it cleared up fast, then scroll on: this cream is no wonder medicine. But if you want an all-natural, gorgeous-smelling, and surprisingly effective treatment for itchy, dry and cracked feet, then this is a great choice.

The delicious, vegan blend of organic shea butter, castor oil and tea tree oil has powerful natural antiseptic properties, and it’s great for soothing the sore skin of your heels and reducing inflammation and itching between the toes. A tiny amount goes a long way, which is just as well given that it’s quite pricey. The cream’s lovely citrus smell does a good job of hiding whiffs, but it’s not anti-bacterial, so for really pongy feet you’ll need something stronger like Canesten.

5. Daktarin Aktiv Cream: Effective athlete’s foot treatment cream with added moisturising

Price: £5.41 | Buy now from Amazon

Another cream, yet another choice of antifungal active ingredient (this time it’s miconazole nitrate), which attacks the fungus that causes the infection. Daktarin is particularly good for moisturising your skin, so it’s a great choice for soothing the cracked and flaky skin that can be an unpleasant symptom of athlete’s foot.

Key specs – Size: 30g; Format: Cream; Active ingredient: Miconazole Nitrate 2%

6. Mycota Powder: Best athlete’s foot treatment for kids

Price: £5.10 | Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy

Powder offers a gentler, less invasive way to treat athlete’s foot and other itchy skin infections. It’s suitable for use on children, unlike creams and sprays, and lasts well in the bathroom cabinet for quickly dealing with occasional flare-ups. Thanks to the powder’s antibacterial and moisture-absorbing properties, smelly feet will definitely be more fragrant after a few days of use, but don’t expect any sweet talc-like smell from Mycota – it’s a medication and certainly smells like one! And while powder is a relatively cost-effective way to treat athlete’s foot, it’s pretty hard to apply this stuff without making a mess on the floor.

Key specs – Size: 70g; Format: Powder; Active ingredient: Zinc Undecenoate 20%, Undecenoic Acid 2%

Buy now from Lloyds Pharmacy

7. Scholl Athlete’s Foot Cream: Best-value athlete’s foot treatment cream for ongoing use

Price: £5.39 | Buy now from Boots

Scholl’s anti-fungal cream may not be strong enough to kill a really aggressive bout of athlete’s foot, but it’s ideal for using regularly to combat recurring infections. It feels really soothing to apply and is great for stopping the itch quickly. It then takes a few days for symptoms to ease off and one week for the fungi to be blitzed. Users report that it absorbs quickly and keeps their skin well moisturised, too. A good-value cream to use year-round to maintain soft, healthy tootsies as well as keeping athlete’s foot at bay.

Key specs – Size: 90g; Format: Cream; Active ingredient: Terbinafine Hydrochloride (1%)

Buy now from Boots

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