Plantar warts are small, superficial growths, that are commonly found on the soles of the feet or the heels. Warts are not usually a serious cause for concern, but they can be unsightly, and in some cases, their position can cause discomfort. This guide will provide detailed information about plantar warts and some tips to help you find effective therapies and products if you’re looking to get rid of plantar warts. 

What are plantar warts?

Plantar warts are growths that develop on the soles of the feet, most commonly on the pressure points that bear the brunt of your body weight when you walk. Plantar warts are usually found on the heels and the area of the plantar surface below the toes. Plantar warts look like thick calluses, and there can be several warts in the same area. In many cases, it’s not necessary to treat plantar warts, but sometimes, people prefer to take steps to try and get rid of the growth, rather than letting it heal independently.

What causes plantar warts?

Plantar warts are caused by HPV or human papillomavirus. The virus affects the surface of the skin, and it can be spread through skin to skin contact. Anyone can develop plantar warts, but they tend to be most common among children aged between 12 and 16 years old. You may be at higher risk of developing plantar warts if you use public swimming pools or showers on a regular basis, or you have a weakened immune system due to an underlying illness. Plantar warts are contagious, and if you have a wart, it’s important to take steps to prevent others from developing warts too. If you’re using public showers, for example, wear a protective verruca sock. Once you have a wart, it is possible for the virus to spread to other sites, so you may find that you end up with multiple warts on the soles of your feet. It is worth noting that there are several different strains of HPV, and not everyone who is exposed to HPV will develop plantar warts. 

What are the symptoms of plantar warts?

The most noticeable symptom of a plantar wart is a flesh-colored growth that appears on the sole of the foot. These growths tend to be small and they are covered in thick, tough skin. In the center of the wart, it may also be possible to see a small point, which looks black in color. This is a tiny collection of blood vessels that is sometimes known as a wart seed. In some cases, you may experience discomfort when you walk, and the area surrounding the wart might feel tender. 

When should I seek medical advice?

In most cases, plantar warts don’t cause serious problems, but it is wise to seek medical advice if you are in pain or the warts are interfering with your day to day routine or preventing you from enjoying hobbies and activities. It’s also a good idea to see your doctor if you suffer from diabetes, or if you keep developing warts, or warts are coming back after treatment. 

How can plantar warts be treated?

There are several treatment options for plantar warts. Some are home remedies or products you can buy at home, while others are administered by health professionals. Often, plantar warts don’t need to be treated, and they will disappear of their own accord. If they’re not showing signs of subsiding, you have recurrent warts, or your plantar warts are causing you discomfort, you may wish to explore treatment options. Here are some commonly used therapies for plantar warts:

  • Salicylic acid: salicylic acid is used to remove layers of the toughened skin surrounding the wart. It can be found in several drug store products, including Freezone, Dr Scholl’s Wart Remover, DuoFilm, and Wart-Off. These products come in different forms, including liquids, ointments, and topical pads. If you are using products from a pharmacy, make sure you follow the instructions carefully and wash your hands after use. It can take up to 2 weeks for warts to drop off following treatment with salicylic acid, so don’t panic if you don’t see results straight away. 
  • Cryotherapy: Cryotherapy involves freezing the wart by applying nitrogen oxide to the growth. This treatment can be done by your doctor, and you can also buy products that are based on the treatments used by healthcare professionals. Examples include Dr. Scholl Freeze Treatment and Compound W Freeze Off. Most products claim to be single-use treatments, and your wart should disappear within one week. If you don’t get the results you want, it’s a good idea to see your doctor. 
  • Minor surgery: in rare cases, when other treatments have failed, your doctor may recommend a minor surgical procedure, which is used to cut out the wart. As this procedure can be painful, anesthetic is used to numb the skin beforehand. This is usually a last resort and will only be recommended when the wart or warts are causing major issues and other therapies have been unsuccessful. 

Preventing plantar warts

It’s not always possible to prevent plantar warts, but there are steps you can take to reduce the risk and prevent the spread of the virus if you already have warts. These include:

  • Avoiding public places that are warm and moist, for example, shower rooms, locker rooms, and swimming pools
  • Wearing protective socks if you already have warts
  • Washing your hands after touching a wart
  • Keeping your feet as warm and dry as possible
  • Leaving warts alone 
  • Using different pumice stones and towels to wash and dry your feet if you have warts on one foot only

Finding the best products for plantar warts

If you have plantar warts, and you’re looking for effective drug store products, read reviews, ask your doctor or pharmacist for recommendations and read the instructions carefully. The top-rated products include: