Athlete's foot is tinea pedis, which is fungus. The way that I most easily diagnose athlete's foot, or tinea pedis, is by looking in the fourth and fifth web spaces (that is the space between your fourth toe and your fifth toe), and if I find some cheesy, white, chalky material in that area, then that's a diagnosis of foot fungus until proven otherwise.
That is the actual cause of athlete’s foot, and the fungus responsible for foot fungus is usually called tinea mentagrophytes. We can treat this fungus with a topical anti-fungal cream, and it goes away within two weeks.
To prevent recurrence, keep the foot dry, lots of powders, and frequent sock changes. Some patients that have lots of recurrence issues with tinea pedis, should use the anti-fungal cream once a week or twice a month, just a prophylaxis against recurrence of that foot fungus.