In the past sports' people often have had to wear footwear which stopped the natural evaporation of sweat. This turns normal skin into moist, white and rubbery tissue especially in-between the toes. The medium is perfect for fungal growth and hence fungal infection of the foot is often referred to as athlete’s foot.
Studies have shown there are more micro-organisms lurking in a pair of sport's shoes than are found under a toilet seat. An estimated 26 times more mould in the shoes than on the convenience. Micro-organisms replicate even when the shoes were not being worn. These findings are not really that surprising since most toilet seats are cleaned regularly whereas shoes are rarely fumigated.
Fungi like to grow in warm, dark areas. They are tough micro-organisms and survive in showers, swimming pools and spa areas. Infection passes from infected scales of skin dropped on the floors of changing areas. Very moist and dry skins are prone to fungal infections. Whilst there may be large colonies living in the shoe, normal hygiene of the foot will prevent infection in most cases.
Some simple rules to avoid fungal infections are as follows: Wash the feet every day in warm water (hand hot, 43oC). Gently dry the skin with a soft towel, take time to dry carefully in-between the toes without forcing them apart and tearing the delicate skin. When the feet are completely dry apply a light talcum, similar to baby powder, to the complete skin surface. Make sure a light application is used in-between the toes Avoid antifungal powders unless prescribed by your physician or podiatrist.
The action of the talc is twofold. It will absorb excess fluid and simultaneously provide a friction free surface which further reduces local mechanical sheering. Avoid going barefoot in areas where you may be exposed to fungi.
Sharing footwear including socks should be avoided and communal shower mats should be cleaned regularly with domestic disinfectant. Avoid socks made from synthetic fibres or wear occlusive footwear which restrict evaporation of natural sweat.
Training shoes should be washed regularly in the washing machine (regular wash) and left outside to air. Be careful of spiders and snakes. Store your sports shoes in the bar fridge or freezer as many micro-organisms cannot live in the cold. Just be careful to thaw out the footwear before wearing them. If the skin is very moist and the shoes give off an offensive odour, shoes maybe fumigated. There are several commercial products available over the counter and you may like to discuss this with your pharmacist. A cheap method is to soak crumpled newspaper with 10% formalin solution*. The shoes are lightly stuffed with the paper and left over night in an open area. When formalin gas is given off it will kill most micro-organisms. If symptoms persist then see your foot physician.
Footnote *One note of caution is formalin can irritate the skin and inhalation should be avoided. Always wear kitchen and eye glasses when working with hazardous material. Ask your pharmacist for safer alternatives.