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Foot Rot Fundamentals

Warm Water = Fun and Fungus?

Summertime is in full-swing up on the Ottawa River. Low levels mean big waves, and warm water means paddling in shorties or skin to win! But warm water, warm weather, and long days in kayaks can also equal the dreaded phenomenon of “Foot Rot,” as many of us recently learned at the Malabar River Fest.

“Foot Rot,” also known as “Trench Foot” or “Athlete’s Foot” is a fungal infection that normally begins between the toes. Foot Rot literally causes the skin on your feet to rot away, but that isn’t the worst of it. Foot Rot burns, stings, and can make walking incredibly painful.

Kayakers commonly get Foot Rot after getting a little bit of sand or dirt in our boats or booties, and then spending the rest of the day in wet shoes or boats. When the sand rubs against our warm, soft skin, it causes little holes where fungal infection can creep in and take hold. Foot rot is most commonly caused by the Ringworm Fungus, which thrives anywhere warm and moist…like in our kayaks. Or neoprene socks/shoes. YAY!

How can you know if you have Foot Rot?

Well, you may notice after a long day in the water that it is starting to burn in between your toes. There is only one thing left to do: Get up close and personal and take a look.

If you take those suckers and open them wide, you might notice a red, scaly rash, or soft looking white/pink skin that is starting to peel away. Your skin might look just a little pink, or feel raw. Your toenails might feel or look like they are peeling away from your nailbeds, but actually, it is your skin deteriorating. Congratulations!

But! Never fear, because for all that Foot Rot is a terrible, painful, awful, no-good situation, it is reasonably easy to prevent, control and cure.

Foot Rot Prevention and Treatment

The best way to prevent Foot Rot is to rigorously keep your feet clean and dry! If it is too late for you, you may need to take a day or so away from the river to dry out. LAME! So, remember:

*Take off your river shoes when you can, and once you are off the river, clean in between your toes! Get rid of any dirt or sand lurking in there. I like the baby-wipe method: One wipe per foot, and use it almost like dental floss to really clean things out.

*Once your feet are clean and dry, use a little bit of an anti-fungal powder, like Tinactin, Desenex, or Micatin. Just sprinkle right onto and in between your toes like sugar on a cookie. The anti-fungal will help kill any fungi on your skin, while the powder will help dry up any additional sweat or moisture left behind.

• If your Foot Rot has already begun and is persistent, double your pleasure. Use some powder, and add in the joys of an over the counter Anti-Fungal cream, like Tinactin or Micatin. I usually look for the highest percentage of Miconazole or Tolnaftate I can find. Again, this is best to apply once you are done being wet for the day, but you may need multiple applications to help if things get gnarly. If this doesn’t help, you might want to see a doctor and get some extra-strength goodness.

Foot Rot is contagious, so once you have it give your booties or boat a good wash out with a little bit of bleach, or be sure to sit them out in the hot, dry sun to try and kill any lingering fungus!

With love, and Foot Rot,