Plantar Warts Explained

Plantar warts, those persistent and often painful growths on the soles of the feet, are a common dermatological condition that affects individuals of all ages. Caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), these warts can lead to discomfort and pain, especially when walking. This blog post by Manly Cove Podiatry aims to demystify plantar warts, providing a comprehensive overview of their causes, symptoms, and the array of treatment options available

What Are Plantar Warts?

Plantar warts are non-cancerous skin growths that appear on the heels or other parts of the feet that bear weight. They’re caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV), which enters the body through small cuts or breaks in the skin on the bottom of the feet. These warts are recognised by their grainy, hard appearance, often with a small central black dot due to blood vessels clotting.

How Do You Get Plantar Warts?

The virus responsible for plantar warts thrives in warm, moist environments, making communal showers, swimming pools, and locker rooms common areas where people can contract HPV. Direct contact with the virus, especially if you have cuts or breaks in the skin of your feet, increases your risk of developing plantar warts.

Identifying Plantar Warts

Plantar warts can be identified by their location on the foot, their rough surface texture, and the presence of the characteristic black dots. They may also cause pain or discomfort when standing or walking. Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination by a healthcare provider, and in some cases, a small section of the wart may be removed and sent to a laboratory to confirm the diagnosis.

How Plantar Warts Affect Your Feet

While plantar warts are generally harmless, they can be painful and uncomfortable, particularly when pressure is applied to the wart during activities like walking or standing. This discomfort can lead to alterations in posture or gait in an attempt to relieve pain, potentially leading to secondary musculoskeletal issues.

The Psychological Impact of Plantar Warts

Beyond the physical discomfort, plantar warts can also have a psychological impact, affecting individuals’ self-esteem and social interactions, especially in environments where feet are exposed, such as swimming pools or locker rooms. The visibility of warts can lead to embarrassment and social isolation for some individuals.

Over-the-Counter Solutions

Over-the-counter treatments for plantar warts often include solutions or patches containing salicylic acid, a keratolytic medication that gradually peels away the infected skin. Regular application after soaking the foot can lead to the wart’s eventual removal. It’s important to follow the product instructions carefully and be patient, as this treatment can take several weeks to be effective. Other OTC options may include freeze-away products that aim to mimic the cryotherapy a doctor might perform.

Professional Treatments

Cryotherapy, Laser Treatments, and Surgical Options

For persistent or large warts, professional medical treatments may be necessary. Cryotherapy involves freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen, causing it to blister and eventually fall off. Laser treatments target the blood vessels within the wart, effectively “starving” it of nutrients, leading to its removal. Surgical options, including minor surgery to cut away the wart, are typically considered as a last resort due to potential scarring and the wart’s location on weight-bearing areas of the foot.

Home Remedies and Natural Treatments

Some individuals turn to home remedies, such as applying apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, or banana peel, in an attempt to remove plantar warts. While anecdotal evidence supports the effectiveness of these treatments, scientific studies are limited, and they may not work for everyone. Before trying home remedies, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider to discuss safety and potential interactions with other treatments.

Prevention and Management

Preventing plantar warts involves minimising exposure to HPV. Wear flip-flops or waterproof shoes in communal wet areas like showers, pool decks, and locker rooms. Keep your feet clean and dry, and avoid direct contact with warts on other people’s bodies or on your own. Regularly check your feet for signs of warts and treat them promptly to prevent spread.

Managing Recurrent Plantar Warts

Recurrent plantar warts can be frustrating. In addition to following preventive measures, boosting your immune system through a healthy diet, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep can help your body fight off the virus more effectively. For those with recurring warts, a consultation with a dermatologist or podiatrist may provide additional treatment options tailored to your specific situation.

Signs That It’s Time to Seek Professional Help

While many plantar warts can be treated at home, there are situations where seeing a doctor is advisable. These include warts that are painful, change in appearance, or multiply, as well as warts in people with diabetes or compromised immune systems. If over-the-counter treatments have not been effective after several weeks, professional evaluation and treatment may be needed.


Plantar warts, though common and often harmless, can be a source of discomfort and inconvenience for those affected. Understanding the nature of these growths, their causes, and the ways in which they can be treated and prevented is essential for effective management. Over-the-counter solutions, professional treatments, and even home remedies play a role in addressing plantar warts, but the effectiveness of these methods can vary greatly from person to person. Prevention, through practices such as wearing protective footwear in communal areas and maintaining good foot hygiene, remains a key strategy in avoiding plantar wart infections.

It’s important to recognise when a wart is not responding to home treatments and to seek professional medical advice. Healthcare providers can offer more advanced treatments and tailor approaches based on individual cases, ensuring the best possible outcomes.