Everything You Need to Know About Plantar Warts

Warts are one of several soft tissue conditions of the foot that can be quite painful. They are caused by a virus which generally invades the skin through small or invisible cuts and abrasions. They can appear anywhere on the skin; plantar warts are specifically warts that develop on the sole of the foot.

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Children, especially teenagers, tend to be more susceptible to plantar warts than adults; some people seem to be immune.

What Are Plantar Warts?

On the soles of the feet, plantar warts can develop. The human papillomavirus (HPV), which spreads through minor skin breaks or cuts, is the culprit behind them. It may be painful and uncomfortable to walk or stand for extended periods of time if you have plantar warts.

On the bottom of the foot, plantar warts typically appear as tiny, rough, elevated growths with a hard, thickened outer covering. Small occluded blood vessels may have left tiny black dots in the center of them. When pressure is applied to the warts, they may also become painful or irritated.

How Do You Identify Plantar Warts?

Most warts are harmless, even though they may be painful. They are often mistaken for corns or calluses, which are layers of dead skin that build up to protect an area which is being continuously irritated. The wart, however, is a viral infection.

It is also possible for a variety of more serious lesions to appear on the foot, including malignant lesions such as carcinomas and melanomas. Although rare, these conditions can sometimes be misidentified as warts. It is wise to consult a podiatric physician when any suspicious growth or eruption is detected on the skin of the foot in order to ensure a correct diagnosis.

Plantar warts tend to be hard and flat, with a rough surface and well-defined boundaries; they are generally raised and fleshier when they appear on the top of the foot or on the toes. Plantar warts are often gray or brown (but the color may vary), with a center that appears as one or more pinpoints of black. It is important to note that warts can be very resistant to treatment and have a tendency to recur.

Why Do Plantar Warts Form?

The plantar wart is often contracted by walking barefoot on dirty surfaces or littered ground where the virus is lurking. The virus thrives in warm, moist environments, making infection a common occurrence in communal bathing facilities.

If left untreated, warts can grow to an inch or more in size and can spread into clusters of several warts; these are often called mosaic warts. Like any other infectious lesion, plantar warts are spread by touching, scratching, or even by contact with skin shed from another wart. The wart may also bleed, another route for spreading.

Occasionally, warts can spontaneously disappear after a short time, and, just as frequently, they can recur in the same location.

When plantar warts develop on the weight-bearing areas of the foot—such as the ball of the foot or the heel—they can be the source of sharp, burning pain. Pain occurs when weight is brought to bear directly on the wart, although pressure on the side of a wart can create equally intense pain.

Plantar Warts FAQs

Warts are small growths caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV thrives in moist environments and spreads by direct contact. 

Most people pick up the virus by walking barefoot in locker rooms and community pools. However, you only get a wart when the virus gets through a cut or sore in your skin.

The warts that grow on the bottom of your feet, called plantar warts, may appear in a cluster or as a single wart. Plantar warts typically have a rough, hard surface and often look more like a thickened area of skin rather than a distinct wart.
When plantar warts go untreated, they can get as wide as an inch or more. They also tend to grow deep into your foot.

Warts seldom cause symptoms, but plantar warts differ from other warts. These warts develop on pressure points like the ball of your foot and heel. 

Plantar warts also grow to a large size and go deep under your skin. As a result, you can experience mild to severe pain every time you take a step and put pressure on the wart.

Plantar warts often go away on their own, but that can take more time than most people want to wait, especially if their warts cause pain. You should also seek professional care at Artisan Foot and Ankle Specialists if you have diabetes or a blood vessel condition that restricts blood flow.

Warts also need medical attention if they bleed, change color or appearance, or cause enough pain to interfere with walking.
You should schedule an appointment when you can’t identify the lesion. Serious conditions like skin cancer can often resemble a plantar wart.

Our providers perform several in-office procedures to quickly eliminate your warts. After examining your foot, they talk with you about the best approach for you. They may recommend:

- Trimming or shaving the wart
- Applying topical medications
- Freezing the wart (cryotherapy)
- Using medicines that stimulate your immune system

Some treatments only remove the top part of the wart. Though this prevents scarring, you need a series of treatments to get rid of the entire wart.