Plantar warts are warts that develop on the feet. Typically seen on the plantar surface – sole – of the foot, the warts can be painful and irritating.
Like all warts, plantar warts, also known as foot warts, are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). There are more than 100 types of HPV, but only certain types of the virus cause plantar warts. HPV prefers warm, moist environments, such as locker rooms or showers. The virus enters the body through a crack or cut in the skin and often later spreads, causing more plantar warts to develop.
Dermatologists recognize plantar warts by their appearance and location. The lesions often present as small, grainy, cauliflower-like growths on the sole of the foot. Some plantar warts have multiple tiny blood vessels that appear as small, black flecks.
Due to pressure from standing and walking, plantar warts often grow inward. Growth is slow, but eventually, the wart becomes larger and a hard callus forms over the site. Individuals with plantar warts frequently describe them as painful, similar to the feeling of having a pebble in their shoe.
Plantar warts can be treated with cryotherapy, an in-office therapy that involves freezing the wart with liquid nitrogen. Repeat cryotherapy treatments may be needed.
Other treatment options include cantharidin, a medication applied directly to the wart by a dermatologist, electrosurgery (burning) followed by curettage (scraping), and excision.
Stubborn warts that don’t respond to the above methods may be treated with laser therapy, chemical peels, bleomycin injections, and immunotherapy.
Following treatment, plantar warts can reappear in the same spot or develop on other parts of the sole. These new warts require immediate treatment to prevent further spread of the virus.