A Guide to Plantar Warts

Medically Reviewed By Clare Wightman MS, PAC

Plantar warts are benign growths on the sole of the foot that occur due to a strain of human papillomavirus (HPV). When plantar warts become thick, they can cause tenderness while walking or putting pressure on the sole of the foot. This may lead to a change in how a person walks, called their gait, and cause musculoskeletal issues.

Plantar warts often go away on their own without any treatment. Others may be harder to treat and require a doctor’s visit. Another name for plantar warts is verrucae plantaris.

Explore this article for more information on symptoms, causes, treatments, how to protect yourself, and when to call a doctor for plantar warts.

What are plantar warts?

Plantar warts are fleshy growths on the bottom of the foot, called the plantar surface. Plantar warts can vary in size and usually appear as thick, callus-like growths. Plantar warts are contagious, and they are not cancerous. HPV causes plantar warts.

This virus enters the skin through tiny cuts or breaks. The virus infects the outer layers of the skin, causing rough or grainy lesions. Verrucae plantaris is the medical name for plantar warts.

Plantar warts also shed HPV, which can both spread warts on the foot and spread the virus to others.

Plantar warts usually appear Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source on the heel, forefoot, or base of the toes. The pressure on these weight-bearing areas causes plantar warts to grow deeper into the skin instead of outward like other warts. Plantar warts can also develop a hardened layer of skin, or callus, over them.

Plantar warts grow slowly and may or may not be painful or bothersome. Plantar warts often go away on their own without any treatment. Over-the-counter (OTC) plantar wart treatments can help speed up removal.

What are the different types of plantar warts?  

The two types Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source of benign plantar warts are:

  • Solitary plantar warts: This is a single wart that may grow large. It may also form smaller warts that spread nearby, called satellite warts.
  • Mosaic plantar warts: This is a cluster of small white warts that grow close together. Mosaic plantar warts may spread and cover large areas, making them more difficult to treat. These warts are flat and rarely hurt.

People who are immunocompromised are at higher risk of plantar warts. They may also be at a greater increased risk of abnormal cell growth within a plantar wart. This can lead to verrucous carcinoma, a type of cancerous wart.

Malignant lesions tend to be more crumbly, inflamed, and painful than benign plantar warts.

What are the symptoms of plantar warts?

Plantar warts are flesh colored growths or lesions on the soles of the feet. They can be yellowish, pink, or gray-brown, similar to a callus, or a thickened cobblestoned plaque, as is the case for a mosaic wart.

They tend to grow on areas of the sole that bear weight. This pressure can cause the wart to grow inward and appear flat. Plantar warts can also be rough or look grainy.

Common symptoms Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source of plantar warts include:

  • black dots, which are small clots that form as the wart grows deeper
  • feeling like a pebble is in your shoe when you walk
  • pain or tenderness, especially when walking or standing
  • pain when you squeeze the wart
  • thickened, hard skin over the wart, which looks like a callus and is not painful when you squeeze it
  • disrupted skin lines on the foot

If you are not sure whether a lesion is a wart or not, contact your doctor for a diagnosis.

What do plantar warts look like?

Untreated plantar warts can form clusters that are more difficult to treat.
Plantar warts occur on the sole of the foot. Dermatology11/Shuttertsock
Plantar warts can be difficult to treat and painful in some instances.
Plantar warts can be difficult to treat and painful in some instances. DermNet New Zealand

What causes plantar warts?

HPV causes Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source all types of warts, including plantar warts. You can get HPV infections through small cuts and breaks in the skin. HPV spreads through direct contact with the virus.

Plantar warts and the virus can spread to other areas of the body and to other people through touching the wart, sharing personal items that touched the wart, or walking barefoot in communal areas.

Who is at risk of plantar warts?

Anyone can get plantar warts. However, not everyone has the same susceptibility to them. Some people can come into contact with HPV and not develop warts.

People at increased risk of getting plantar warts include Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

  • children, adolescents, and athletes of all ages, especially those who use swimming pools, public showers, and other communal areas for sports
  • older adults
  • people with weakened immune systems
  • people who are immunosuppressed

How do you prevent plantar warts?

Person wear sandals while walking around a pool
Susana Ramírez/Stocksy United

There are things you can do to protect yourself from getting plantar warts. If you already have plantar warts, there are things you can do to prevent them and the virus from spreading.

To prevent plantar warts, try the following tips.

  • Wear shower shoes, flip-flops, or swimming shoes in public showers, in locker rooms, and around swimming pools.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Do not share personal items, such as towels, nail clippers, socks, and shoes.
  • Do not touch another person’s plantar wart. Wear gloves if you are caring for another person’s plantar wart.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after caring for a person’s foot.
  • Wash your hands and feet with disinfectant soap if you think you have come into contact with HPV.
  • If you get pedicures, be sure that the salon follows disinfecting guidelines.

If you have plantar warts, you can lower your risk of spreading plantar warts and the virus by:

  • keeping the plantar wart covered
  • avoiding touching, scratching, and picking the wart
  • avoiding using pumice stones, as these can spread plantar warts
  • washing your hands thoroughly after caring for the wart
  • keeping your feet dry because moisture can promote warts to spread
  • not sharing personal items that touch your feet

When to contact your doctor for plantar warts

Contact your doctor if warts persist despite OTC treatments or if they recur. Your doctor may recommend more aggressive treatments for plantar wart removal.

Certain medical conditions can put people at risk of complications from plantar warts. Contact your doctor promptly for symptoms of plantar warts if you have:

  • diabetes
  • HIV, other immune disorders, or conditions requiring immunosuppressive drugs
  • neuropathy, such as diabetic neuropathy

How do doctors diagnose plantar warts?

Doctor wearing gloves to examine a person's foot
Juanmonino/Getty Images

Medical doctors, such as dermatologists (skin experts) and podiatrists (foot experts), can diagnose a plantar wart by looking at it. However, other procedures might also be performed, including:

  • trimming, or paring, your suspected wart with a scalpel to look for signs of tiny, clotted blood vessels, which appear as small dark dots
  • removing a small part of the lesion using a razor-like tool in a procedure called a shave biopsy and sending it to a laboratory for analysis

Additionally, your doctor may ask you questions about your symptoms, medical conditions, and any OTC treatments you have tried.

What are the treatments for plantar warts? 

Plantar warts often go away on their own without any treatment. This is especially true for children. 

In adults, it may take months or more than a year for a plantar wart to go away on its own. If a plantar wart is painful, bothersome, or spreading, you can try OTC plantar wart treatments.

OTC products either freeze or peel away the wart over time. It can take regular use over the course of many weeks to get rid of the wart.

For persistent or recurrent warts, your doctor may recommend and provide these plantar wart treatments Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

  • cryotherapy using liquid nitrogen to freeze the wart
  • laser treatment to burn away the wart
  • prescription topical fluorouracil or imiquimod cream
  • prescription-strength acids to peel away the wart, such as salicylic acid
  • combined autologous platelet-rich plasma injection and topical salicylic acid 30, especially for resistant Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source plantar warts
  • injections with Candida antigen
  • surgery to remove or destroy the wart, though this is rare

Office-based procedures often require multiple treatment sessions. It is important to follow through with the entire course of treatment to prevent warts from returning.

Home remedies for warts are largely unproven. Never try to cut or remove a wart yourself.

What are the potential complications of plantar warts?

Plantar warts do not pose a serious health threat for otherwise healthy people. However, they can cause pain and discomfort. In some cases, this can cause you to change the way you stand or walk to accommodate. This, in turn, can end up causing musculoskeletal issues.

Plantar warts can turn into verruca carcinoma in people who are immunocompromised. This cancerous wart requires aggressive treatment.

Contact your doctor if warts are causing pain that interferes with your ability to walk or stand as you usually would.

If you are immunocompromised, contact your doctor for symptoms of plantar warts.

Other frequently asked questions

Here are some questions that people often ask about plantar warts.

Are plantar warts contagious?

Yes, plantar warts are contagious. They happen as a result of HPV, which prefers moist, warm places. Some common places where the virus and plantar warts can spread are locker rooms and public pools.

To reduce your risk of getting the virus, wear flip-flops or water shoes to protect your feet when walking in those areas.

Does Gardasil prevent plantar warts?

Gardasil is a vaccine that prevents genital warts and cervical cancer caused by a different strain of HPV than what causes plantar warts. More research is needed to determine if the Gardasil vaccine will prevent other strains of HPV.

What causes plantar warts?

Plantar warts are the result of HPV. The virus enters the surface of the foot through tiny cuts on the bottom of the foot. Plantar warts appear as small growths on weight-bearing areas of the foot, such as the heel. 


Plantar warts are typically harmless growths that grow on the bottom of the foot. They are the result of a strain of HPV.

Other than sometimes causing discomfort or pain when walking, plantar warts are not harmful. They typically go away on their own, though it can take a long time. Several OTC medications are available to help speed up the process of getting rid of them.

Contact your doctor if plantar warts are painful or affecting how you walk or if you have diabetes, neuropathy, or a weakened immune system.

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Medical Reviewer: Clare Wightman MS, PAC
Last Review Date: 2022 May 31
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