7 Types of Foot Rashes and How to Treat Them

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
  • 1
    Athlete's foot
    athlete's foot closeup

    Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that causes itching, burning, and cracked skin, usually between your toes. The rash can also spread to the bottom of your feet and elsewhere on your body. It got its name because athletes often have sweaty feet, and the fungus thrives in warm, moist places like locker rooms, showers, and swimming pool areas. You can lower your chance of developing this contagious rash by keeping your feet clean, dry and cool. Avoid walking barefoot in damp places. You can treat the rash with over-the-counter antifungal creams. Severe cases may require a prescription medication.

  • 2
    Environmental allergies
    unidentified person scratching itchy feet on grass

    Allergens like poison ivy and poison oak can cause rashes if they touch your feet as you walk by. Both plants are covered in an oil called urushiol that creates swelling, itching, redness and blisters, which usually appear within 48 hours and last up to three weeks. If you think you have walked past poison ivy or oak, washing your feet may help prevent the rash. If one does develop, use an over-the-counter corticosteroid cream, try antihistamines, and soak your feet in cool water. If the rash is widespread, see a healthcare provider who may prescribe a prescription steroid.

  • 3
    Hand, foot and mouth disease
    Baby with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease

    Infants and children up to 5 years old are particularly susceptible to hand, foot and mouth disease, which is caused by a virus. In addition to flu-like symptoms and mouth sores, a rash of flat, red spots may appear on the soles of the feet as well as the hands. Blisters can also develop that may contain the virus, so avoid letting your child touch them. There is no treatment for this generally mild disease, but you can give children’s acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil)to ease discomfort. (Do not give aspirin to children as it may cause a reaction called Reye’s syndrome.) The disease will run its course in most children in about a week.

  • 4
    Shoe contact dermatitis

    Shoe contact dermatitis occurs when you are allergic to something in your footwear. It is an itchy, peeling rash that may cause blisters on the bottom of your feet. It may be something in your socks or shoes, from dye to leather to rubber. Try to figure out what is causing the rash and avoid the trigger. A cool, clean cloth or over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream can relieve the itching. Once you have eliminated the source, the rash should clear up on its own.

  • 5

    Cellulitis is a complication of a bacterial skin infection that can develop in the feet. It can worsen very quickly, and if it spreads through the body, it can be life-threatening. Cellulitis starts as a rash of red spots and blisters with swelling, redness and warmth. It may be painful to the touch. If red streaks develop that move up from the foot, it means the infection is spreading. If you think you have cellulitis, contact your healthcare provider for a same-day appointment or if you see streaks and have a fever, go to your local emergency room.

  • 6
    close up image of toes with dyshydrotic eczema, a type of dermatitis

    Eczema on the feet is called dyshidrotic eczema. The symptoms are painful, itchy blisters; redness; flaking; and a cracked or scaly appearance. Eczema may be due to pollen, stress, excessive sweating, or exposure to water. Some people who are allergic to nickel, cobalt or chromium salts may develop dyshidrotic eczema. Treatment includes soaking your feet in cool water and applying a moisturizer or barrier cream several times a day. In more severe cases, a healthcare provider can drain the blisters and prescribe a topical steroid or light therapy. Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections can stop excessive sweating if the problem recurs.

  • 7
    medical exam of foot with magnifying glass showing scaly psoriasis rash

    If your feet are red and itchy, and over-the-counter treatments haven’t helped, a podiatrist can check to see if you have psoriasis on your feet. Psoriasis is often confused with severe athlete's foot or contact dermatitis. Mild cases often respond to topical prescription treatment. If not, long-term medications that suppress the immune system may help, but be sure to understand the risks and benefits of those medications. Psoriasis can’t be prevented, but it can be controlled.

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  1. What You Should Know about Ankle Rashes. UPMC Pinnacle. https://www.pinnaclehealth.org/wellness-library/what-to-know-about-ankle-rash/
  2. Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease Symptoms. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/about/signs-symptoms.html
  3. Athlete’s Foot/Tinea Pedis. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/athletesfoot.html
  4. Athlete’s Foot. American Podiatric Medical Association. https://www.apma.org/Patients/FootHealth.cfm?ItemNumber=978
  5. Foot health. American Podiatric Medical Association. https://www.apma.org/Patients/FootHealthList.cfm?navItemNumber=25223
  6. Matthys E, Zahir A, Ehrlich A. Shoe allergic contact dermatitis. Dermatitis. 2014;25(4):163-171. doi:10.1097/DER.0000000000000049, retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25000234/
  7. When Psoriatic Disease Strikes the Hands and Feet. National Psoriasis Foundation. https://www.psoriasis.org/advance/when-psoriatic-disease-strikes-the-hands-and-feet?gclid=EAIaIQobChMImbWe4bzS6gIVCYTICh0xyQadEAAYAiAAEgIKtPD_BwE

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Aug 13
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