9 Natural Treatments For Athlete’s Foot

Give foot fungus the boot with these natural remedies.

January 26, 2018
athlete's foot
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Athlete’s foot can stop you in your tracks. Also called tinea pedis, the funky fungal infection commonly strikes between the toes (blame sweat and moisture), and can turn feet red, scaly, flaky and super itchy—yes, even women! Stop itching and start doing something about it. Even if you’ve tried over-the-counter creams and gels to no avail, we have a crop of natural treatments—doctor and science approved—that can turn your tootsies back to Cinderella status, no fairy godmother required! 

1. Oil of oregano

The herbaceous oil doesn’t smell the best, but thanks to its active ingredients carvacrol and thymol it can fight fungus. One study not only found that it can treat athlete’s foot, but it had the most antifungal powers of all 11 essential oils tested. 

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Treatment: Mix two drops oil of oregano and 2 drops tea tree oil with 1 teaspoon anti-fungal emu oil and apply to both feet and nails, suggests Dr. Emily Splichal, DPM, MS, CES, a podiatrist in New York City. 

2. Tee tree oil

This essential oil gets a lot of hype for fighting acne, but it’s more than a one-trick oil. Anti-microbial, antiseptic, and antifungal, one study showed that applying it twice daily for 4 weeks can help clear up nagging foot fungus, plus it can dry out and de-stink feet.

Treatment: Add a few drops tea tree oil to a Q-tip and gently swab effected area or combine 2 parts tea tree oil to 1 part aloe gel and rub into feet. 

Related: 6 Natural Ways To Deal With Nail Fungus

3. Camellia oil

Derived from the seeds that make green tea, don’t let the mild smell fool you. Long used in Japan as a folk remedy, camellia oil is concentrated with fungal-fighting catechins that have been shown to treat athlete’s foot.

Treatment: Apply directly to skin or nails, suggests Splichal—“or mix it with emu oil to make it go further.” 

4. Baking soda

If your feet sweat excessively, dry them out with a combo of baking soda and cinnamon powder. The main goal of the powder is to keep the feet dry, but one study showed that baking powder can inhibit the overgrowth of bacteria and fungus.

Treatment: Mix 2 parts baking soda to 1 part cinnamon powder and sprinkle on feet (get between the toes) and cover with a sock. 

 

Related: 9 Surprising Uses For Baking Soda

5. Cinnamon bark oil 

A potent anti-fungal and antimicrobial, this sweet-smelling oil, derived from the bark of cinnamon trees, has been shown to both kill off Trichophyton rubrum, the fungus behind athlete’s foot, and decrease painful inflammation.

Treatment: Mix 2 drops cinnamon bark oil with 1 teaspoon of emu or olive oil and rub into feet and toenails.

6. Coriander oil

No, we’re not suggesting you put Thai food on your tootsies, but the oil extracted from the seeds of coriander (or cilantro, as you probably know it), can thwart the fungus behind athlete’s foot. One study found that a topical treatment of 6% coriander oil applied twice daily for 28 days cleared up athlete’s foot in 75% of cases. 

Treatment: Add 30 drops coriander oil to a 1-ounce spray bottle filled with witch hazel, shake, and spray on feet and toes. 

Related: These 4 Cooking Oils Make The Best Natural Moisturizers For Dry Skin

7. Tea foot soak

Since fungus needs moisture to grow, it seems counterintuitive to put your feet in water, but a soak can actually sooth symptoms and ultimately help dry out feet. “My favorite foot soak is black tea which contains tannic acid to dry out sweaty feet,” says Splichal. Plus, studies suggest tea polyphenols have an anti-fungal effect. 

Treatment: Brew 2 tea bags, add to a foot bath filled with room temperature water and soak feet (repeat every day for a week). 

8. Get the right socks

When it comes to athlete’s foot, socks can work for you and against you. “Socks should be synthetic to avoid holding onto moisture, like cotton socks would,” says Splichal, who’s also a fan of socks infused with anti-microbial copper or silver. How you wash your socks can also make a difference. Soak socks in white vinegar then wash in hot water to kill fungus and avoid reinfection. 

 

Related: The Best Wool Socks To Buy This Winter

9. Be consistent

Athlete’s foot doesn’t go away overnight. “The biggest thing with anti-fungal treatments, whether they’re prescription or natural, is they take consistency and time,” says Splichal. It can take up to 2 months of twice a day application to reduce symptoms of athlete's foot and up to a year for nail fungus.