Types Of Foot Rash

Written By: Chloe Wilson - BSc(Hons) Physiotherapy
Reviewed By: FPE Medical Review Board

Foot Rash: Common causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options

A foot rash can be caused by a whole range of things such as to an allergic reaction, infection or underlying medical condition.

Symptoms of foot rashes vary from anything from a small, short-lived, mild rash to one that spreads up the leg, returns frequently and is painful or itchy.

Accurate diagnosis of foot and ankle rashes is essential to ensure effective treatment and prevent the rash from spreading, worsening or becoming chronic (long-term). 

What Can Cause A Rash On My Feet?

There are a number of different causes for foot rashes which all present slightly differently and therefore require different treatment. The most common causes of rashes on feet are:

Irritant Contact Dermatitis

An allergic reaction that causes a foot rash is known as contact dermatitis and develops when the skin is sensitive to certain substances. There are two types of contact dermatitis, the first being Irritant Contact Dermatitis:

Irritant contact dermatitis of the foot

Causes: Damage to the protective outer layer of skin, usually due to contact with chemicals such as household cleaning products, detergents, dyes, cosmetics or industrial chemicals. This is the most common type of contact dermatitis.

Symptoms: Localised dry, cracked, scaly skin and a non-itchy foot and ankle rash. Symptoms vary according to the length of exposure, the amount and potency of the irritant. 

Treatment: Wash the area well, avoid the irritant, anti-histamines and topical steroids

Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Allergic contact dermatitis foot rash: causes, symptoms, diagnosis & treatment

The other type of contact dermatitis is Allergic Contact Dermatitis

Causes: Exposure to allergens trigger an immune reaction in the skin.  Common allergens include latex rubber, plants e.g. poison ivy, metallic substances e.g. nickel and chromates e.g. in shoe leather.  

Symptoms: This type of foot rash usually presents as pink or red skin with small bumps which may blister. It tends to be extremely itchy. 

Treatment: Avoiding the allergen, cold compress, anti-histamines, topical steroid cream

A foot or ankle rash from contact dermatitis may develop from a single exposure or after repeated episodes of contact. Symptoms usually appear within a few minutes to hours of exposure and can last for 2-4 weeks. A rash from contact dermatitis is not contagious. 

Eczema aka Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis foot rash. Find out about the causes, symptoms and best treatment options

Eczema is another cause of a foot or leg rash. It is a chronic condition that usually starts in early childhood. Many children grow out of eczema but it can persist into adulthood.

Atopic dermatitis affects approximately 25% of children and 2-10% of adults and is becoming increasingly common.

Causes: The exact cause of eczema is unknown and it may be due to a number of factors including an inability for the skin to provide an effective barrier to allergens, bacteria on the skin and environmental conditions. There is a genetic link with eczema and it is often accompanied by allergies and hay fever. Stress and anxiety can cause flare ups.

Symptoms: Dry, red patches of inflamed skin. Often itchy, especially at night. Can progress to small, fluid filled bumps. A leg or foot rash from eczema often occurs in skin creases such as behind the knees or between the toes

Treatment: There is no cure for eczema but there are things you can do to reduce the symptoms of the leg or ankle rash including corticosteroid cream or ointment (ointment tends to be more effective), anti-histamines, UV light therapy.

Regularly moisturise the skin (at least twice a day) to help reduce the chance of flare-ups. Reduce the frequency and length that you bathe or shower, use warm rather than hot water and use emollients such as Aveeno instead of soap in the water to prevent the skin drying out.

Eczema tends to flare up periodically and then subside for anything from a few days to years. It is not contagious.

Athlete's Foot aka Tinea Pedis

Athlete's foot is a common cause of a foot rash

Athlete’s foot, a type of ringworm, is a fungal infection that usually starts with a rash between the toes known as a ringworm rash.

It affects approximately 15% of the population and is more common in men.

Causes: Sweaty feet, tight shoes, damp footwear – anything that makes the foot warm and wet for long periods

Symptoms: Scaly, flaky, itchy, red foot rash (aka a ringworm rash) accompanied by stinging and burning sensation.  Blisters can develop

Treatment: Anti-fungal medication – usually cream or ointment or in severe cases oral medication.  Good hygiene measures such as regularly changing socks and shoes, or wear sandals to prevent excessive moisture at the foot

Athlete’s foot is contagious and is spread by skin-to-skin contact or through contaminated surfaces e.g. floors, towels and clothing

Hand, Foot & Mouth Disease

Typical foot rash seen with hand, foot and mouth disease. Highly infectious.

Hand, foot and mouth disease is a mild viral infection which causes a mouth, hand and foot rash. It mainly affects children under the age of 10. 

Causes: Infection from the coxsackievirus A16. Highly infectious, through nasopharyngeal secretions from coughing and sneezing. 

The incubation period (time from exposure to symptoms) is usually 3-6 days.  Tends to occur during warmer weather.

Symptoms: Red, non-itchy hand and foot rash (on the soles of the feet). Blisters in the mouth, hands and feet. Fever, sore throat, loss of appetite and a general feeling of being unwell.  Dehydration is a common side effect as it can be extremely painful to drink.  

Treatment: Treatment is geared towards symptom relief. Oral anaesthetics can make swallowing more comfortable and over the counter medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can help relieve discomfort.   Symptoms usually settle within a few days.

NB Not to be confused with foot and mouth disease in animals which is from a completely different virus. Hand, foot and mouth cannot be caught from or passed on to animals.  

Other Causes of Foot Rash

There are a number of other possible causes of a foot rash, but they tend to be less common or affect more of the body, rather than being confined to the foot or lower legs.


Foot rash caused by psoriasis

Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease causing red, scaly, itchy patches. It is caused by rapid overproduction of skin cells due to a problem with the immune system. Psoriasis skin lesions range from small, localised patches to major eruptions affecting the whole body. 

A foot rash from psoriasis tends to occur on the soles of the feet.  It affects 2-4% of the population. Symptoms usually go through recurrent cycles of flaring up for a few weeks or months then settling down.


Typical presentation of scabies rash

Scabies is a contagious skin condition caused by a parasite burrowing under the skin. Scabies affects 1.5% of the population and causes intense itching which is worse at night. 

Superficial burrows from the mite are visible through the skin, appearing in lines accompanied by small, red spots commonly in the webs of fingers and toes. 

Insect Bite

A bite to the foot or ankle can produce a rash. It tends to be a small, localised spot or group of spots which are itchy and settle within a few days.

Medical Conditions

Some other medical conditions can cause a foot, ankle or leg rash include Lyme Disease, meningitis, lichen planus, chicken pox, shingles, and rheumatoid arthritis.

How Do You Know If A Foot Rash Is Serious?

If you are suffering from a foot rash, it is always a good idea to get it checked out by your doctor, epsecially if it last for more than a few days or is getting progressively worse.

Your doctor will examine the foot, leg or ankle rash and ask questions such as when it began, if you’ve been taking any medications, eaten something disagreeable, used any new products e.g. soaps, if there is any associated itching or scaling, if you’ve spent lots of time outdoors and how your general health is.

They will then be able to advise on the best course of treatment for your foot rash.

If none of these is sounding quite like your problem, visit the foot pain diagnosis section for help working out what is wrong.

  1. Foot Pain Guide
  2.  ›
  3. Foot Symptoms
  4. Foot Rash

Page Last Updated: 2019-06-10
Next Review Due: 2021-06-10

Your Comments

Share your foot pain experiences with others, whether it be ideas, top tips, things that worked well for you, problems you've had, questions etc.......

This comments section is moderated occasionally and posteriorly by our editorial team. Internet users posting comments here should not be considered as health professionals. Comments posted here should be designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her existing physician. See our full terms of use in the commenting policy section.