Swimming Pools & Foot Health: 5 Things to Know About Your Favorite Summer Activity

August 11, 2022 4:35 pm Published by

As summer heats up in SW Florida, many people head to their private or community swimming pools for relief. Aside from beating the heat, swimming has some important benefits for your feet and ankles, including:

  • Combating arthritis
  • Improving circulation
  • Relieving muscular strains, sprains, and tears.

However, there are also some foot injuries from swimming, as well as infections, that you’ll want to be aware of. It’s important to understand the most common types of foot and ankle infections and injuries that happen around swimming pools so you can learn how to prevent them.

Infections Caused by Swimming

Swimming pool surfaces in tropical or humid climates are the perfect incubators for contagious bacteria and fungi that can negatively affect foot health. The two most common types of infections you can contract are fungal and viral infections.

Fungal Infections

Fungi thrive in areas that are warm, humid, and damp, such as the perimeter of a swimming pool. The fungi can survive on surfaces for several months, making it easy for bare feet to contract and spread the fungal spores.

Athlete’s Foot

One of the most common kinds of fungal infections that is contracted at swimming pools is athlete’s foot. In fact, estimates show that between 3% and 15% of the population have athlete’s foot, and 70% will get it at some point during their lives.

While dry, healthy feet can generally fend off the fungi, excessive moisture in the skin causes cracks in the skin that allow the fungi to easily penetrate the outer layer. Symptoms of athlete’s foot typically start 4-10 days after exposure and include: 

  • Itching and burning between the toes
  • Redness
  • Dryness
  • Flakiness
  • Scaling
  • Blistering

Timely treatment of athlete’s foot is important because the infection doesn’t generally go away on its own. Fortunately, it is easy to treat with over-the-counter antifungal creams. However, if it becomes severe or spreads to other areas, you might need to see a doctor for alternative treatments. 

Viral Infections

It’s also possible to contract a viral infection from swimming pools. Most people think of viral infections as colds or the flu, but there are other viral infections that target your feet. 

Plantar Warts

Much like fungi, plantar warts thrive in warm, moist environments. Plantar warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which can survive on surfaces for months or even years in the right conditions.

Like fungal infections, plantar warts are commonly contracted through small scrapes or cuts on the soles of the feet. The symptoms can take weeks to show up and usually appear on the heel or ball of the foot. Symptoms include small, hard, rough growths that are accompanied by pain, tenderness, and discomfort when standing or walking.

Receiving treatment for plantar warts is important, because if left untreated, it can take years for symptoms to subside.. For faster relief, common treatment options include cryotherapy (freezing), peeling medicines like salicylic acid, or Swift.

Preventing Foot and Ankle Infections

To avoid foot and ankle infections at swimming pools, there are some precautions you can take: 

  1. Check your feet before you go to the pool and stay out of the water if you have cracks, cuts, or blisters.
  2. Don’t go barefoot. Instead, wear flip-flops or water shoes when walking around the pool.
  3. Don’t share towels with other people.
  4. Rinse off thoroughly after getting out of the pool
  5. Completely dry your feet before putting on socks and shoes.

Strains and Overuse

Another foot health consideration when swimming this summer are foot strains and injuries. Reduce your risk by following a few simple foot health tips.

Foot Cramps

Foot cramps while swimming are very common and can affect beginner and experienced swimmers alike. A foot cramp can come on suddenly without warning, and is characterized by a short, sharp muscle spasm at the sole of the foot. Symptoms can be very painful; however, they are usually short-lived and relieved by stretching. The cause is often dehydration, overuse of the muscles, or both.

Preventing Foot Cramps

  1. Massage and stretch feet and ankles before swimming
  2. Drink plenty of water
  3. Increase your calcium, magnesium, and sodium (bananas, avocados, and almonds are good sources)
  4. Wear comfortable shoes


The muscles and tendons in your feet and ankles can also become strained by overuse, improper form, and repetitive movements when swimming. 

1. Certain Strokes and Forms

Some styles of swimming require a lot more foot and ankle use that can increase the risk of injury. For example, strokes that require frequent kicking, such as Freestyle, Flutter Kicks, and Butterfly strokes, can cause strains and inflammation as ankles make repetitive contact with the water. 

2. Wall Pushes

If you swim laps and are pushing off the wall repeatedly, this can also irritate the ankle.

Preventing Strains

  1. Keep your toes relaxed. Don’t point or flex them when swimming
  2. Stretch and warm up before getting into the pool
  3. Don’t overexert yourself. Take time to rest to reduce swimming injuries

Slips and Falls

The area around the pool is one of the biggest risk factors for slips and falls. Worldwide, falls are the second leading cause of unintentional injury. Walking barefoot on wet, slippery surfaces increases your fall risk. These falls can be very dangerous because they result in scrapes and bruises to broken bones, concussions, or even drowning.

Preventing Slips and Falls

  1. Walk slowly and don’t run around the pool
  2. Use waterproof pool socks to keep your feet dry, prevent slips, and prevent infections
  3. Be sure there’s a lifeguard on duty

Need help with infections or injuries to your feet or ankles? Reach out to us today. As the leading professionals for the health of foot and ankle disorders in Southwest Florida, We’re here to give you the treatment and support you need to have healthy, happy feet again.

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