Plantar Warts

The Plantar Wart Appears on the Bottom of the Foot

Sometimes painful and very ugly, plantar warts appear as small lesions on the sole of the foot, and occasionally the toes. In their early stages they look like small black puncture marks, but plantar warts as they grow they turn brown and take on a cauliflower-like appearance. A black spot may develop in the middle, which is caused by bleeding. Plantar warts are pushed deep into the skin by the weight of your body as you walk, which is why they can hurt a lot.

Plantar warts are hard warts that grow most commonly on the bottom of feet. They can be quite painful since they tend to grow inward on foot’s surface. People comment that having a plantar wart is like walking on a stone all day.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) strains that are most often the cause of plantar warts are type 1 & 2 HPV. These strains are contagious and are spread from person to person via direct contact with the virus. The HPV that causes plantar warts thrives in warm, moist environments such as shower rooms and summer pool decks.

Sometimes a group of small plantar warts develops in one spot on the foot. The smaller plantar warts then form a plaque-like covering. These warts are called mosaic warts because of the mosaic look of the plaques.


Unless feet are checked regularly, the first time a person is aware of plantar warts is pain when walking. Then on checking their soles, they may notice an unusual rough crusty lump that feels tender and sore.

Plantar warts are sometimes mistaken for corns or calluses but there are several differences to look out for when trying to determine if you have a plantar wart or something else. Plantar warts have one or more black pinpoints within the growth. These pinpoints are actually clotted blood vessels. Calluses are smooth and clear.

Plantar warts also have well-defined boundaries and rough surfaces whereas calluses are less defined around the edges and are have much smoother surfaces.

What Causes Plantar Warts

These uncomfortable growths are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV) which thrives on warm, moist surfaces such as those found in swimming pools, locker rooms, and bathrooms. It is a highly contagious pathogen and can survive for several months without a human host. The only way to catch HPV is by direct contact, and the viral route into you is through cuts, abrasions, and other skin breaks on your feet. If an infected person walks barefoot on a floor, virus particles may be released which you could catch by walking across the same surface. It’s also possible to become infected by using a towel of a person with plantar warts.

Plantar foot warts on the bottom of soles and toes. Cross section of a common wart. Illustration showing the characteristic features (hyperkeratosis, acanthosis, hypergranulosis and large blood vessels).

How to Treat Plantar Warts

If you have plantar warts there is absolutely nothing to be worried about, even though they can be painful. They are benign non-cancerous growths and there is a range of treatments on offer to eradicate them.

Many plantar warts disappear after a few months or years, and doctors recommend that you should seek help only if they are painful. However, they present a tough challenge to the medical profession as evidence shows that there is no single therapy that is capable of bringing about complete remission from plantar warts in every patient. (Bacelieri R, Johnson SM. Cutaneous warts: an evidence-based approach to therapy. American Family Physician. 2005;72:647-653).

Plantar warts can be eradicated by salicylic acid which is available from drug stores. Applied daily to the troubled area, the solution breaks down viral cells and can lead to wart removal in about four weeks.

Stronger treatments which can be obtained from a doctor or chiropodist include cryotherapy, that is freezing warts off with liquid nitrogen or nitrous oxide. Electrosurgery involves the application of an electric needle to the middle of the wart until it boils, and then it is scraped out. Warts can also be removed by pulses of laser energy which heat up the blood vessels within the wart, resulting in a necrotic wart that eventually falls off. One study demonstrated that clearance rates using this procedure was 47.6 % (Park HS, Choi WS. Pulsed dye laser treatment for viral warts: a study of 120 patients. J Dermatol. 2008 Aug; 35 (8): 491-8). However, some of these surgical techniques can be quite painful and may need to be repeated.

If you have a plantar wart, treat it immediately, before the lumps and bumps take over. But the first line of defense is to protect yourself by keeping feet clean and dry and avoid walking barefoot in communal bathing areas, especially if you have cuts or scratches on your feet. If you do notice a plantar wart then cover it up with a plaster. In some instances, this may be all that is needed to clear it up.

Children and people with immune deficiencies are especially susceptible to HPV so it is extremely important that precautions are taken so they will not be exposed to the virus. Wear protective footwear, especially in public places that may be contaminated such as gyms, locker rooms, pools, and other wet warm places.

Common misspellings: Planter Warts, planters warts, planter wart


1. The Mayo Clinic, Plantar Wart Pamphlet