Skin: Plantar Warts

The 26 Review

  • What are Plantar Warts? Warts that appear on the soles of your feet
  • Causes Poor foot hygiene, barefoot walking, sharing personal items, genetics
  • Symptoms Rough lumps with a dry, callused skin covering, painful on pressure or compression
  • Diagnosis Physical examination, physician experience, skin biopsy
  • Treatment Debridement, topical medications, laser therapy, surgery
26 Foot and Ankle Plantar Warts

Let’s take a closer look…

Plantar warts are warts that appear on the soles of your feet. This type of wart appears as small, rough lumps and is usually painless unless pressed upon or stepped on. It’s important to distinguish plantar warts from calluses and corns, which are harmless but can look similar to plantar warts in their early stages. Since plantar warts grow under the skin, it’s not uncommon to mistake them for something else, especially since they can be painful if you put pressure on them or step on them without shoes on.


Although plantar warts are usually benign, sometimes they can cause pain or irritation. For example, plantar warts on your heel may hurt when you step on them. You might feel like you’re walking on a stone. Symptoms of plantar warts also depend on where they occur and how big they are. If your wart is big enough to see with your naked eye, for example, it could be painful when you walk or stand in shoes that rub against it; if it’s located on your heel and therefore visible in your shoe, chances are it will hurt as you walk.


The first step in treating plantar warts is to make sure you have actually been diagnosed with a plantar wart. In addition to having a doctor look at your foot, they will most likely use a magnifying glass or office light to check for broken skin. If you are diagnosed with plantar warts, it is important to then have your doctor determine which type of wart you actually have so that treatment can be directed appropriately, as there are different forms of treatments for flat warts than those used for other types of common warts.

Incidence and Prevalence

If you walk barefoot or spend significant time on hard surfaces, then chances are you’ll develop a plantar wart at some point in your life. Plantar warts are one of the most common types of skin growths, with one study finding a prevalence rate of 8.7%. They are also extremely contagious, spreading like wildfire through populations that engage in communal activities such as gym classes and swimming pools. In rare cases, they can cause permanent damage to an infected person’s soft tissue due to physical stress and/or local immune dysfunction.


Warts are caused by a virus that inhabits the outer most layer of the skin and they tend to affect everyone differently. As the virus resides in the surface layer of skin and is undetected by the body’s defense systems, in many cases the body does not react or attempt to remove the abnormal tissue from the foot. This can lead to plantar warts lingering for long periods of time. Additionally, some factors that predispose some individuals to contracting plantar warts include poor foot hygiene, active lifestyle, contaminated in-soles and sharing personal items such as towels, shower shoes or razors. These factors can contribute towards providing a conducive environment for plantar warts to grow. Some individuals are genetically predisposed to infections from plantar warts.

Risk Factors for Developing Plantar Warts

It’s important to understand what you can do to reduce your risk of developing plantar warts. If you are going to develop warts, it usually happens within a few months after exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV). The virus enters through broken skin on your hands or feet. People who are more likely to develop plantar warts include those who: live in communal living situations like dormitories and nursing homes; share tools such as razors or clippers; have nail problems that affect their ability to wash their feet properly; and have weakened immune systems.


There are a number of treatments available for treating plantar warts, though how well each of them works varies from person to person. At home, you can use products such as duct tape and over-the-counter medications like salicylic acid or cryotherapy, which involves freezing your wart with liquid nitrogen. Other options include liquid nitrogen injections and surgery; however, these methods may be expensive or cause scarring. When choosing between treatments, talk to your podiatrist about whether one method will work better than another. Treatment is often determined based on your preference as well as how bad your condition is.

Healing and Recovery After Treatment

Recovering from a plantar wart treatment can take time. After your treatment, wash your feet with cool water and mild soap, pat them dry and put on clean socks. Consider wearing shoes that let your feet breathe (like sandals) so you don’t risk infecting other areas of your foot. You may also want to use an over-the-counter pain reliever to help manage discomfort caused by inflammation from removing your warts. For long-term relief from plantar warts, avoid places where they tend to spread such as swimming pools and locker rooms. If you do come in contact with one again—and they can reappear—have it removed right away.

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