by Jennifer Hellwig, MS, RD
Plantar warts are growths on the soles of the feet. They are often mistaken for corns or calluses. The warts are different because a virus causes them.
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.
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that increase your chance for plantar warts include:
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 children’s feet may help prevent them from becoming larger and painful.
The American Academy of Dermatology
American Podiatric Medical Association
About Kids Health
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;146:423-431.
American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: http://www.aad.org . Accessed July 16, 2009.
Plantar warts. Mayo Clinic website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/plantar-warts/DS00509 . Updated June 2009. Accessed July 21, 2009.
Warts. American Podiatric Medical Association website. Available at: http://www.apma.org/learn/FootHealth.cfm?ItemNumber=989 . Accessed July 16, 2009.
7/30/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php : 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 2012 by Purvee S. Shah, MD
Last Updated: 9/10/2012