Plantar warts occur from a viral infection in your skin called the human papillomavirus (HPV). This virus can enter damaged skin more easily, such as cuts, scrapes, or severely dry skin. Plantar warts are common on the soles of the feet.
These types of warts can be painful, and the resulting raised bumps uncomfortable. Plantar warts may also have tiny black spots that some people call “wart seeds.” These spots are actually blood vessels. While not necessarily harmful, plantar warts can grow and eventually make it uncomfortable to stand and walk.
It’s often possible to treat plantar warts at home, but it’s also important to know when you should see a doctor for medical treatment.
While plantar warts aren’t typically dangerous, you might want to get them removed due to discomfort and aesthetic reasons. Warts can get larger over time or spread to other areas. Most wart removal treatments will take several weeks, if not longer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Some people claim you can get rid of plantar warts by using duct tape.
The evidence to support this method is mixed, according to experts. But even if it doesn’t help, using duct tape probably won’t cause harm. To try it, stick a small piece of tape over the wart, and then change the tape every few days.
The idea behind duct tape for warts is that it could help “peel away” the layers of the wart. In theory, the wart could eventually peel completely away. But it’s not known if duct tape really works this way.
Salicylic acid is a type of beta hydroxy acid often used in acne treatment. It works by removing dead skin cells, which can sometimes clog your pores.
Higher concentrations of salicylic acid can be found in over-the-counter (OTC) wart creams treatments. These products shed the skin around the wart little by little, until it’s eventually cleared up completely.
To get the most out of this treatment, you’ll need to apply the salicylic acid product on your plantar warts according to the instructions on the packaging, and continue the treatment for as long as directed.
Some products may advise you to to prep the skin by soaking the affected area in warm water before applying the acid.
It can take several weeks of treatment for the warts to completely go away.
OTC freezing sprays
Aside from salicylic acid, you can also buy “freezing sprays” at the drugstore for plantar warts. The spray works by creating a small blister-like injury that may help destroy the wart. This is different from the cryotherapy wart treatments that are available at a doctor’s office.
To use freezing spray, carefully follow the instructions on the packaging. You might have to repeat the process several times to kill the wart. Check the instructions to see if it’s safe to do so. If OTC treatment doesn’t get rid of the wart, talk with your doctor about other treatment options.
Iodine is an essential mineral that’s most often associated with thyroid health. But certain formulations can be used for other purposes too — this may include wart removal.
Researchers are conducting clinical trials to test povidone-iodine’s safety and effectiveness for wart treatment. In the meantime, you should only use povidone-iodine for warts under a doctor’s supervision.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has historically been used as a topical antiseptic. It’s primarily used for fungal infections, wounds, and acne.
One case report from 2008 found that tea tree oil successfully removed warts on a person’s hand when applied once daily for 12 days. While this single report is promising, much more research is needed before experts can recommend this approach.
Tea tree oil can cause irritation or contact dermatitis for some people. If you use topical products containing tea tree oil, stop using them if you notice a rash or other symptoms.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar continues to be studied for a wide range of health claims. It contains a type of acid called acetic acid. Some older
The amount of acetic acid found in apple cider vingar is much less than the acetic acid preparations used in these studies. There’s also no evidence to suggest that apple cider vinegar is safe or effective for treating warts.
Because undiluted apple cider vinegar can
Calluses are caused by repeated friction against the skin. These are most common on your hands and feet. With a callus, you may notice a flat area of thickened skin.
Calluses aren’t the same thing as plantar warts. However, sometimes the two look alike. It’s also possible to have plantar warts inside of a callus.
In some cases, you may be able to tell the difference by looking at the lines on your skin. With warts, you may see
Calluses can go away on their own when friction against the skin has stopped, such as when changing tight shoes for a better-fitting pair. The outer skin of the callus may also be cut off or filed away.
While plantar warts are caused by the HPV virus, there are other risk factors to consider. You might be at an increased risk of getting plantar warts if you:
- have a history of plantar warts
- are a child or a teenager
- have a weakened immune system
- frequently walk barefoot, especially in germ-prone areas like locker rooms
With the right precautions, plantar warts can often be prevented, even if you’re at a higher risk of developing them:
- Avoid touching warts, including your own.
- Wash your hands before and after touching a wart.
- Don’t pick at a plantar wart with your fingers.
- Avoid using the files and pumice stones you used on affected areas of skin for nonaffected areas.
- Don’t walk barefoot in public areas.
- Keep your feet clean and dry.
- Change your socks and shoes frequently.
Plantar warts that don’t go away or keep coming back despite home treatments should be looked at by a doctor. They can treat the warts in the office with cryotherapy or other treatments. They might also recommend prescription medications to help treat the wart.
For chronic plantar warts, your doctor may refer you to a foot specialist.
If you have any of the following conditions, see your doctor before starting a home wart treatment:
- a weakened immune system
- HIV or AIDS
- solid brown or black warts (these could be cancerous)
- plantar warts that change in color and size
- severe discomfort due to the warts
- changes in your gait
Plantar warts tend to go away eventually, and you may be able to treat them at home.
When in doubt, always ask a doctor for advice, especially if the plantar warts worsen or affect your daily mobility.