Plantar warts are warts that affect the bottom of the feet. They are very common, especially in children.
A plantar wart, sometimes called a verruca, is typically associated with the human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically types 1, 4, 57, 60, 63, 65, and 66, according to research from 2020. HPV causes a buildup of the protein keratin on the skin, which can result in warts.
HPV thrives in warm, moist places, such as locker room floors and around swimming pools. Those little puddles on the surface of pool tiles are a breeding ground for HPV.
The virus is transmitted by direct contact and may be picked up more easily if you have an opening or crack in your skin.
While plantar warts can appear anywhere on the foot, they appear most often on the bottom of the foot, according to
Occasionally, plantar warts grow inward, below the surface of the skin, and may look like a callus. A healthcare professional can help you determine whether your hard spot is a plantar wart or a callus.
Plantar warts can be painful. One of the first symptoms you may notice is pain or tenderness when putting pressure on your foot while walking.
According to the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, other symptoms of a plantar wart include:
- thickened skin on the bottom of your foot
- tiny black dots on your foot, which are actually dried blood stuck in the capillaries in and around the wart
- white or skin-colored lesions on the bottom of your foot
In some cases, a plantar wart will resolve naturally. Other cases may require treatment. You can treat a plantar wart a few different ways, either by seeing your doctor or by treating the wart at home.
- salicylic acid, which can help “burn” off the wart and comes in forms such as a liquid, cream, stick, or embedded on cotton pads
- cryotreatment, which can be used to “freeze” off the wart
- curettage, which involves cutting out the wart
- medication applied directly to the wart
- laser therapy to burn off the blood vessels that feed the wart
Salicylic acid and liquid nitrogen are the most common treatments. Both require multiple treatments over several weeks to get rid of the wart or warts.
Salicylic acid is available over the counter. You can use it at home. Follow the directions on the packaging, and expect to apply the medication for approximately 12 weeks.
One small review from 2019 found that treating a plantar wart with salicylic acid was just as effective as cryotreatment by a doctor.
If your wart is deep or if it returns, you may need to see a doctor. Your doctor may combine different treatments, such as cryotherapy with salicylic acid, for more effective results.
Plantar warts are caused by HPV, which is a group of viruses that can affect your skin.
HPV can cause warts on other parts of your body, but only the warts on your feet are classified as plantar warts.
In individuals with plantar warts, HPV has found a way into the body via a cut or scrape on the skin. People with a weakened immune system may be more susceptible to developing plantar warts.
If you suspect you have a plantar wart, you should check in with a doctor, since it can be hard to tell how much the wart has grown beneath the skin. You should definitely see a doctor if the wart is causing you pain or spreading to another location.
A doctor can help you determine which treatment is best for you based on how advanced the wart is. If the wart has returned, for example, your doctor might choose a different combination treatment to ensure its removal.
Once your doctor has diagnosed your plantar wart, they will recommend removal methods such as salicylic acid or cryotreatment.
It’s important to get a doctor’s advice before trying to remove the wart. Doing so without input from a physician could result in damage to your foot. Never try to remove a plantar wart by cutting it off yourself.
While there are home remedies floating around on the internet that may involve things like essential oils or apple cider vinegar, most of these treatments have not been proven and could end up causing more discomfort.
Most treatments for plantar warts take several weeks. The most important thing to remember when treating a wart is consistency.
Plantar warts can be difficult to eliminate and have a tendency to return, so be sure to follow your treatment plan carefully.
Cryotherapy usually requires two to three trips to the doctor for liquid nitrogen therapy. Laser therapy might work in one to three treatments.
If you’ve had your wart cut off by a doctor, stay off your foot for about a day. Keep the area covered with a bandage, and avoid putting pressure on the wart site.
To help prevent a plantar wart, consider the following tips:
- Always cover your feet in shared community spaces, such as pools, locker rooms, or dorms.
- If you are under 26 years old, ask your doctor about receiving the HPV vaccine. It may help prevent warts, though more research is needed.
- If you have a wart, change your shoes and socks daily.
- Keep the wart covered, and wash your hands frequently to avoid spreading plantar warts to other people.
Plantar warts are common and treatable. There’s no single treatment that’s always effective. You may be able to treat them at home, but more serious cases may require treatment at your doctor’s office.