Plantar warts are growths on the soles of the feet. They are often mistaken for corns or calluses. They grow in clusters and are usually flat. A plantar wart can often be distinguished by numerous black dots visible on their surfaces.
Although plantar warts are generally harmless, their location beneath the feet can make them very tender. They also have a tendency to spread locally to other sites on the foot and elsewhere.
Plantar warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). It can be contracted by walking barefoot on unsanitary surfaces. Touching and scratching can cause the virus to spread.
Plantar warts are more common in children and teens. Other factors that may increase your chance of plantar warts include:
Plantar warts may cause:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. Your feet will be examined. Some doctors may wish to refer difficult cases to specialists. Podiatrists focus on foot disorders. Dermatologists focus on skin disorders.
There are many over-the-counter products available to treat warts. These therapies often contain a mild acid. You can usually apply them when a wart first appears.
Another popular and less expensive treatment is using duct tape to cover a wart for a week at a time. This is also done with weekly “sanding” of the wart with a pumice stone.
You should see a doctor:
After confirming the diagnosis of plantar warts, the doctor may use one or more of the following:
The best ways to prevent plantar warts is to keep your feet from coming into contact with the virus that causes them. Ways to do this include:
In addition, periodically checking for warts on your child’s feet may help prevent them from becoming larger and painful.
The American Academy of Dermatology
American Podiatric Medical Association
About Kids Health—The Hospital for Sick Children
Canadian Podiatric Medical Association
Al-Gurairi FT, Al-Waiz M, Sharquie KE. Oral zinc sulphate in the treatment of recalcitrant viral warts: randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial. Br J Dermatol. 2002;146(3):423-431.
Plantar wart. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115786/Plantar-wart. Updated January 27, 2016. Accessed September 4, 2016.
Warts. American Podiatric Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.apma.org/learn/FootHealth.cfm?ItemNumber=989. Accessed September 4, 2014.
7/30/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115786/Plantar-wart: Huo W, Gao XH, Sun XP, et al. Local hyperthermia at 44 degrees C for the treatment of plantar warts: a randomized, patient-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. J Infect Dis. 2010;201(8):1169-1172.
Last reviewed September 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.