Plantar warts present as lumps on the bottom of the foot that can be sore when stood on. They are caused by a virus often spread in childhood.
Medically known as verrucae, plantar warts present as a rough, circular growth in the skin on the bottom of your foot that can leave you feeling like you’re walking on a pebble when the wart develops on a weight-bearing area. The term ‘plantar wart’ simply translates to ‘wart on the bottom of the foot’.
Warts on the feet are caused by a virus called the human papillomavirus (HPV). Often mistaken for corns even by other health professionals, warts are notably distinguished by the small blood vessels that grow at the core of the wart to supply the viral cells with blood and nutrients and typically appear as little dark spots in the centre of the wart. Other characteristic features of plantar warts include:
In some cases, you may have a cluster of warts with multiple warts of varying sizes - often one notable large and original wart surrounded by several other small warts. This is called a mosaic wart.
The virus that is responsible for plantar warts is contagious and is transmitted by either direct or indirect contact. This means you could get it directly from someone who has the virus (e.g. skin to skin contact), or by sharing floor surfaces, shoes or socks with someone that is infected. However, not everyone that comes in contact with the virus will develop warts, as each person's immune system responds differently to the viral strains.
The virus thrives in warm, moist environments, so is commonly picked up from communal areas such as public showers and pools, entering your body through a cut or a break in the skin. It also tends to be rapidly spread in childhood, especially in schools where there is a high level of exposure to public spaces and immunity is still developing.
Plantar warts can be very tricky to treat at home. They do resolve on their own, but this process can be unpredictable, take months or years, and cause much pain in the interim if present on a weight-bearing area of the foot. This is why most people choose to have them professionally treated.
There are a number of suggested home remedies for plantar warts including duct tape, tea tree or even apple cider vinegar. Unfortunately, none of these options have any scientific evidence that show any efficacy when it comes to plantar warts, and as such, we do not recommend them.
With the acids that are available for purchase from the pharmacy that are designed to be applied to the wart, we strongly recommend against using these. Often coming in the form of a solution or wart pad, these typically contain keratolytic ingredients to ‘eat away’ and dissolve the wart tissue. Unfortunately, the solution cannot tell between the wart tissue and the healthy surrounding skin, and so we see many people who have sustained a painful injury and damaged the healthy skin around the wart, making it very painful for them to walk.
Prevention over cure
When it comes to plantar warts, prevention is always better than cure. We highly recommend wearing shoes when in communal areas like changing rooms, locker rooms and showers, where others may be walking around with bare feet and with warts present on their feet.
You’re in the best hands with our experienced podiatrists when it comes to caring for the warts on the bottom of your feet. We have a range of treatments available to best suit every person’s unique circumstances, including the location of their warts, pain levels, treatment history, preferences and medical conditions. These include:
If you or anyone in your family is struggling with plantar warts, even if other treatments have failed and you’d like a second opinion, come in and see our experienced podiatry team for a discussion on the best way to finally give you relief from painful or stubborn warts.