Plantar warts are common warts that affect the bottom of the feet. Most people will have one at some point in their lives.
Plantar warts, officially named verrucae warts, are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), specifically types 1, 2, 4, 60, and 63. The virus attacks the skin on the bottom of the feet.
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.
You can get HPV from someone else or from something that someone who has HPV has touched. It’s easier for the virus to get into your body if you have cuts or scrapes.
These steps help:
- Wash your hands, especially after you touch a wart that you already have. And keep your hands dry, since warts like moisture.
- Wear shower shoes, thongs, or rubber swimming shoes whenever you go to a public pool, locker room, or use a shower that other people also use.
- Wash your feet thoroughly with a disinfectant soap after being in an area where the virus can spread.
- Don’t touch someone else’s wart. And don’t pick at your own warts.
- If you get pedicures, make sure your pedicurist doesn’t use the same tools on you that they use on other people.
- Don’t shave, brush, or clip areas that have warts.
- Do you already have a wart on your foot? Keep it dry to help prevent it from spreading.
Plantar warts can be extremely painful. One of the first symptoms you may notice is pain or tenderness when putting pressure on your foot while walking.
Once the wart has formed, you’ll see a circular flat spot on the skin with a depressed area in the middle. The wart may appear yellowed, with a crust, or even have a black spot in the middle.
How to treat a plantar wart
- Try an over-the-counter remedy. At-home wart treatments work about half the time, and they’re fairly quick and inexpensive. Most at-home treatments peel away the wart layer by layer, so it may take some time.
- Get the wart treated by a doctor. After making sure it’s really a wart, your doctor may offer to freeze it off with liquid nitrogen. This is the most common medical treatment for warts. Other treatment options including injectable medicines that help strengthen your immune system (and clear out the HPV virus), prescribed creams, or laser surgery.
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 treating the wart at home. Treatments include:
- salicylic acid cream, a topical cream that can “burn” off the wart
- liquid nitrogen, which can be used to “freeze” off the wart
- curettage, which involves cutting out the wart
- medicine applied directly to the wart
- laser therapy to burn off the blood vessels that feed the wart
- alternative treatments, such as essential oils
Salicylic acid cream 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 at least 12 weeks.
One studyTrusted Source found that treating a plantar wart at home was just as effective as treatment by a doctor. This study used 50 percent salicylic acid for the self-treatment of plantar warts. This is a higher concentration of salicylic acid often used by podiatrists.
If your wart is deep or if it reoccurs, you may need to see a doctor. Your doctor may combine different treatments, such as cryotherapy with salicylic acid, for more effective results.
Some evidence suggests that alternative therapies, such as using garlic, can help treat a plantar wart. To try this at-home remedy, apply fresh, peeled garlic directly to the wart. Cover it with duct tape to let the garlic target the wart, and then remove.
You can also apply a garlic essential oil directly to the wart. The use of garlic has been shown to cause burns, especially in children. It’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before trying alternative treatments.
If you suspect you have a plantar wart, you should check in with your doctor. It can be hard to tell how much the wart has grown beneath the skin. You should definitely see your doctor if the wart is causing you pain or spreading to another location.
Your 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.
Most treatments for plantar warts take at least several weeks. The most important thing to remember when treating a wart is consistency.
Plantar warts can be difficult to eliminate and they have a tendency to return, so you want to 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.
You may also want to consider the cost of plantar wart treatments. At-home salicylic acid costs around $5, while laser therapy can run up to hundreds of dollars.
If you’ve had your wart cut off, you’ll want to stay off your foot for about a day. Keep the area covered with a bandage, and avoid putting pressure on the wart site.
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 will require treatment at your doctor’s office.
Tips for preventing plantar warts
To prevent a plantar wart, consider the following tips:
- Always cover your feet in shared community spaces, such as pools, locker rooms, or dorms.
- Ask your doctor about receiving the HPV vaccine, which 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.
5 Quick Tips to Prevent Plantar Warts
Plantar warts can be particularly painful when you spend a significant amount of time on your feet, as is the case for parties and taking your children trick-or-treating. You don’t want a wart to develop before then—or at any time, really—so use the following tips to keep your feet wart-free:
- Don’t touch warts. Warts are caused by certain strands of a common virus known as human papillomavirus (HPV). Making contact with a wart is one way to contract the offensive virus, so do not touch one (either on yourself or someone else).
- Do not share certain items with others. Razors, towels, socks, and shoes are items which can become contaminated and lead to a transfer of HPV. Make sure you have, and use, your own items like those.
- Keep your feet dry and clean. Damp or wet skin can easily become damaged and provide an easy point of entry for HPV. This infection can result in a wart, so protect your feet by keeping them dry and clean.
- Keep them covered. One way to reduce the risk of warts spreading is to cover existing ones with a clean bandage. This also provides a limited amount of extra cushion for the viral growth.
- Protect your feet. You can further protect your feet by wearing sandals or shower shoes in often-contaminated areas like gym showering areas, locker rooms, and pool decks. Another protective measure is to wear moisture-wicking socks to prevent damage to wet skin.
In most cases you shouldn’t need to see a doctor about a wart. If you want a quick treatment option, try one of the many home remedies to remove the wart.
You should contact your doctor for treatment options if the wart becomes painful or doesn’t go away using home remedies. You should also see your doctor about warts if you have diabetes, poor circulation or lack of feeling in your feet, signs of infection, or a weakened immune system.