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Wearing polished officiating shoes improves one’s look on the court or field. After a game, John Carney, Mt. Vernon, Wash., can stave off potential foot problems by drying the inside of the shoes. Photo Credit: Dale Garvey

Aythlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a common problem, especially in athletic populations. But some officials may even be more susceptible to athlete’s foot than players because many of us work multiple games in a row in the same shoes and socks. Those games may also be worked in wet conditions, exacerbating the problem. Athlete’s foot can keep you out of action, or at least make your life miserable, so it’s a problem you want to attack head on.

Athlete’s foot is caused by fungus. Athletic shoes are a prime breeding ground for fungus because they are frequently damp due to perspiration, warm because your feet are in them and dark because the sunlight cannot penetrate the footwear.

It usually begins as peeling or flaking skin or blisters on the sole of the foot or between the toes. It is usually, but not always, itchy. Sometimes there is redness where the skin has peeled off.

Athlete’s foot is contagious. Wearing shower shoes in public showers and locker rooms can help prevent the spread. Using anti-fungal sprays or antiseptics in bathtubs and showers is also helpful in preventing athlete’s foot.

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There are many anti-fungal creams, powders and solutions available to treat the problem. Lamisil, Tinactin, Lotrimin and Desenex are but a few of the many over-the-counter anti-fungal medications that are available. You may have to apply topical anti-fungal medication for as long as six weeks to completely eradicate the problem. It is also beneficial to spray anti-fungal powder in your shoes because it is possible to re-infect yourself from your own shoes.

If your refereeing shoes get wet, dry them thoroughly before your next assignment. to speed up the process you can place newspaper or paper towels in your shoes overnight to absorb some of the moisture.

If your next assignment is later the same day, shoe dryers in bathrooms can be used if you don’t have time to let them dry naturally. Using high heat or a clothes dryer can cause some shoes to shrink and become too tight though, so be careful. Having dry shoe liners or insoles to swap out between games is also very helpful.

If you can afford it, you could also utilize multiple pairs of shoes, alternating each game to let the other pair dry.

Try to wear refereeing shoes that “breathe.” Specifically, wear shoes that are composed of materials that allow the air to circulate about the feet. Avoid shoes composed of materials like plastic that retain moisture.

Change socks throughout the day, especially if you work in rainy weather. Wearing a fresh pair of socks every game can dramatically reduce your risk for athlete’s foot.

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If your feet sweat a lot, antiperspirants can be used on the feet to reduce the dampness in the shoes and socks you wear.

If you have tried over-the-counter medications and taken the precautions described above without relief of symptoms, make an appointment with your health care provider for an evaluation. There are other dermatological conditions that can appear to be athlete’s foot that don’t respond to anti-fungal medication. Those conditions must be treated by a professional, so when in doubt, always seek professional advice.

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