While athlete's foot is the best-known foot fungus, National Geographic reports there are more than 100 types of fungi growing on the feet, most of which are harmless. Some of them are beneficial and break down oils in lotions to aid in moisturizing the skin.
Athlete's foot causes the skin to crack and peel. This fungus lives in the moist environment of the shoes and socks and passes through wet environments, such as locker rooms and swimming pools, according to WebMD. Most people treat athlete's foot using topical medications.
With the other fungi on the feet, such an approach is not always necessary. Just as microbes help to improve digestive health, these fungi also help to improve the skin on the feet. Some of the beneficial fungi help to prevent disease-causing bacteria from sticking to the skin. Understanding the workings of such microbes helps to protect humans from other pathogens and diseases, according to National Geographic.
Fungal infections remain a problem for 29 million Americans, reports National Geographic. Nail fungi differ from skin fungi, so finding effective treatment is often difficult. Protecting the feet by wearing flip-flops when using public showers remains one of the most effective ways of preventing passing the pathogens from one person to another.