5 Things to Know About Plantar Warts

Plantar warts, caused by the human papillomavirus, occur on the soles of your feet.
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For those of us whose mobility depends on our feet, a plantar wart can make daily life a real pain.

Plantar warts look a little different from those on other parts of the body. They're found on the soles of your feet, usually where you bear your weight most -- the heel and ball. These rough growths of skin come in gray, brown or yellow, and what you see is only a tiny part of the wart. The rest is underneath the skin (and much larger).


Plantar warts can go away on their own, but that may take years. Considering the pain and inconvenience they can cause, you want to know how to treat them -- and prevent them from cropping up to begin with.

5: Plantar Warts Are Caused by a Virus

You get plantar warts like you get the flu -- from a virus. In the case of warts, it's human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 100 strains of HPV. Some cause cervical cancer, some cause genital warts, and some cause plantar warts.

To get into your system, the virus needs a break in the skin and weak antibodies that will fail to kill it on contact. Once inside, the virus makes skin cells multiply rapidly so that there is a thick growth of skin.


HPV prefers a warm, moist environment, such as a locker room or shower floor. (That's why college kids invest in shower shoes or flip flops for dorm bathrooms.) HPV can incubate up to 20 months, so it may be difficult to identify when the infection occurred. If you were barefoot around a pool, though, that's a good bet.

4: Plantar Warts Can Spread

Plantar warts aren't happy to stay put. Given the chance, they'll spread into clusters, grow to an inch-plus in circumference, and move to other parts of the foot. Scratching and touching the wart makes its spread more certain.

The good news is that while plantar warts like to move, they only like certain types of skin. They'll be happy to get all over the soles of your feet, but they'll stay away from other parts of your body. Plantar warts won't lead to genital warts, for example -- but they can make being on your feet very uncomfortable.


3: Plantar Warts Are Contagious

The type of HPV that leads to plantar warts is contagious, but it doesn't affect everyone the same way. Plantar warts are most common in people ages 12 to 16 and in people with weakened immune systems [sources: Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic]. They're also found most frequently in people who have cuts or sores on their feet already.

So while the virus is contagious, it isn't highly so. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take it seriously -- no one's going to thank you for a wart on their foot, and you don't want to give yours a twin.


Lessen the change of contagion with these tips:

  • Don't touch or pick at the wart ,and don't use anything such as a pumice stone that's touched it.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Don't walk barefoot in public.
  • Wear flip-flops in the gym shower.

2: You Can Treat Plantar Warts at Home ...

Plantar warts are tougher to deal with than a wart on your finger. But because they can be incredibly painful and liable to grow, treatment is important.

There are some home remedies you can use to try to get rid of them. First, try hyperthermictreatment: soaking your foot in hot water for an hour and a half every day. It may take months, however, to see results. You can also try vitamin A capsules (applying the liquid in them to the wart) and salicylic acid treatments. These, too, may not show results for months. If there's no improvement in a couple of weeks, it's time to consider other methods.


1: ... Or at the Doctor's Office

Sometimes home remedies just don't cut it. If your plantar warts are spreading, bleeding or making your daily life difficult, call a doctor.

Cryotherapy is often the first line of treatment. The doctor freezes the wart with sodium nitride to kill the virus and make the wart fall off. It can also be burned off with acids or a poison called cantharidin. Laser therapy is another option, as is a surgical removal procedure called curettage and desiccation, but the latter is painful and can cause scar tissue that may also hurt. Immunotherapy is only used for hard-to-treat, stubborn plantar warts.


For more information on warts and other troublesome skin conditions, try the next page.

Lots More Information

Related Articles


  • American Podiatric Medical Association. "Warts." (Accessed 8/5/09)http://www.apma.org/topics/Warts.htm
  • Cooper, Jeffrey S. "Plantar Warts." eMedicineHealth. (Accessed 8/5/09)http://www.emedicinehealth.com/plantar_wart/article_em.htm#Plantar%20Warts%20Overview
  • Ellin, Abby. "Communal Yoga Mats: Beware of Germs." The New York Times. 7/27/06. (Accessed 8/5/09) http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/27/fashion/27Fitness.html?_r=1&scp=6&sq=plantar+warts&st=nyt
  • The Mayo Clinic. "Plantar Warts." 5/02/09. (Accessed 8/5/09) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/plantar-warts/DS00509
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  • VisualDXHealth. "Plantar Wart in Adults." 12/22/08. (Accessed 8/5/09) http://www.visualdxhealth.com/adult/plantarWart.htm