Just because athlete’s foot is an incredibly common ailment, it doesn’t make it any less obnoxious to deal with. Not only is athlete’s foot itchy, painful, and unsightly, but it’s contagious and can spread on your clothes to the rest of your body, making it important to treat right away. And that means heading to the pharmacy- while we’ve given you some useful tips on how to prevent athlete’s foot, once you have it, you’ll need to use a medicated product.
While there’s several over-the-counter options available that should solve the vast majority of cases, with a variety of different application methods and active ingredients it can be hard to determine which is the best for you. Don’t worry, we’ve tried them all, and we’re here with a helpful guide to which one you should choose.
If athlete’s foot is giving you a particularly painful challenge, you need to bust out the big guns. In this case, that’s terbinafine. An active ingredient that both stops the fungus from spreading and also kills existing fungus, terbinafine is simply the most effective of the competing active ingredients on the market, with a 70% cure rate after only 1 to 2 weeks of treatment. By comparison, tolnaftate and miconazole, the other prominent active ingredients, have both lower cure rates by 10%-20%, and also require a longer 2-to-4 weeks of use to be effective.
The drawback, however, is value, as Lamasil AT runs sometimes double the price of the other treatments. But if you’re really uncomfortable, not only is the quicker effectiveness probably worth the price, but it may save you in the long run, as you’ll be using less cream to solve the problem. Pound for pound, Lamisil AT (or really, any product featuring terbinafine) is the best product out there.
Some cases of athlete’s foot are relatively minor: some itching between the toes, but nothing horrible. If you’re experiencing something like this, you may not need the more expensive, top of the market product in order to quickly and easily find relief at a better value. Tinactin Cream features 1% tolnaftate as its active ingredient, which offers slightly less antifungal power than terbinafine, but at a lower price. As cream gives you the control to target a concentrated dose of medication where it’s needed, you can effectively treat a minor-to-moderate case of athlete’s foot before it becomes a bigger and more expensive problem. The low cost and ease of use also makes Tinactin Cream a good choice to keep on hand in your medicine cabinet even if you don’t currently have athlete’s foot, so you can be ready at the first sign of trouble.
While creams are the optimal way to treat acute infections for the reasons we outlined above, there are several reasons one might prefer a spray. Sprays quickly and easily cover the entire foot with minimal effort, so they can effectively deal with a moderate but widespread case that might have you going through a tube of cream every few days. A spray is also a great choice for someone who frequently gets athlete’s foot and plans to use a treatment on an ongoing daily basis to protect against future infections.
Of the sprays we tested, our favorite for daily use is the Odor Eaters Spray Powder, which combines a respectable 1% tolnaftate antifungal with a quick-drying moisture-absorbing liquid powder to keep feet from sweating all day long. This makes it a great choice for people who have problems with excessive foot sweat, which can cause a cream to run off before the active ingredient has a chance to absorb. Additionally, Odor Eaters’ proprietary odor fighters kill the bacteria that cause foot odor while also providing a neutral scent to mask existing odor. We put it through some pretty solid workouts in some pretty old sneakers, and our feet were still impressively odor free. With that many benefits, we think Odor Eaters is the foot spray best suited to help you get through even the toughest days.
If you’re looking for a daily maintenance product, but you suffer from more serious outbreaks of athlete’s foot that spray may not be able to tame, Bozak Cream may be just what you’re looking for. Equipped with an effective 2% miconazole nitrate formula, it’s got the antifungal power to knock down a normal case of athlete’s foot and prevent it from coming back, but aside from the active ingredients, Bozak Cream offers a lot more. Loaded with cooling menthol, it provides a soothing sensation on application, and then dries to a highly effective powder that absorbs moisture and prevents chafing for up to a full day, preventing the conditions that create athlete’s foot in the first place. Sold in a larger tube and at a more affordable price than other athlete’s foot specific creams, Bozak Cream makes a great choice for regular use.
As we discussed in our recommendation for a value cream above, minor cases of athlete’s foot don’t necessarily require the extra expense of a product containing terbinafine. While it’s the least effective of the three major active ingredients, miconazole nitrate is still extremely effective at killing minor infections and preventing them from coming back. Lotrimin AF Liquid Spray has a concentration of 2% miconazole nitrate, allowing you to easily treat an infection of any size, or cover the entire foot for ongoing prevention. As a nice bonus, the liquid spray has a cooling effect, providing immediate relief for any itching or burning while the miconazole gets to work. At a relatively low price compared to competing sprays containing tolnaftate or terbinafine, it’s easy to stock up on.
While the active ingredients in most OTC athlete’s foot treatments are perfectly safe for most people, there’s always the chance of ineffectiveness or an adverse reaction. And some people just prefer to treat conditions using whole, natural ingredients when possible. The good news is, there are several ways to naturally treat athlete’s foot with relatively high efficacy. While some of them are a bit gross (do you want to soak your feet in vinegar every night for two weeks?), we’re happy to say we’ve found a balm that’s easy to apply, smells great, and does the trick. Puriya Wonder Balm features tea tree oil, which, while not quite as powerful as the best medications, still shows about 60% effectiveness in clinical studies for treating athlete’s foot- more than enough to tackle minor cases. And with eucalyptus and lavender oils, this thick, moisture-rich balm stayed put on our feet, providing moisture, a nice, masculine smell, and a pleasantly natural tingle. While it may be less effective than the best performers and more expensive than the best values, this balm is our recommendation for an all-natural alternative that’s actually functional.