April 28, 2022

What is Plantar Wart?

Plantar warts are small growths that usually appear on the heels or other weight-bearing areas of your feet. Human papillomaviruses (HPVs) infect epithelial tissues of skin and mucous membranes. Plantar warts are caused by HPV type 1 in the outer layer of your skin on the soles of your feet.

What does it look like?


A small, fleshy, rough, grainy growth (lesion) on the bottom of your foot, usually the base of the toes and forefoot or the heel, interrupts the normal lines and ridges in the skin of your foot.

How to treat it?

Topical salicylic acid and cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen are the most common treatments for plantar warts and have the strongest evidence for efficacy.

Topical Salicylic Acid

Topical salicylic acid exfoliates the affected epidermis and may also stimulate local immunity. Advantages of salicylic acid include self-administration, painless application, and minimal risk for serious side effects. Studies have found salicylic acid superior to placebo for clearance of warts. Reports of the likelihood of wart clearance following salicylic acid therapy range from 0 to more than 80%. Products containing salicylic acid in concentrations between 17 and 50% are typically used for treatment. The higher 40 to 50% concentrations are usually reserved for application to sites with a thick stratum corneum such as the palms or soles.


Cryotherapy done at a doctor’s office involves applying liquid nitrogen to the wart, either with a spray or a cotton swab. This method can be painful, so your doctor may numb the area first. The chemical causes a blister to form around your wart, and the dead tissue sloughs off within a week or so. Cryotherapy may also stimulate your immune system to fight viral warts. You may need to return to the doctor’s office for repeat treatments every two to four weeks until the wart disappears. Some studies suggest that cryotherapy combined with salicylic acid treatment is more effective than just cryotherapy, but further study is needed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the virus transmit?

The HPV strains that cause plantar warts aren’t highly contagious. So, the virus isn’t easily transmitted by direct contact from one person to another. But it thrives in warm, moist environments. Consequently, you may contact the virus by walking barefoot around swimming pools or locker rooms. If the virus spreads from the first site of infection, more warts may appear.

Is there a way to prevent acquiring plantar warts?

To reduce your risk of plantar warts, avoid direct contact with warts, this includes your own warts. Wash your hands carefully after touching a wart. Keep your feet clean and dry and change your shoes and socks daily. Avoid walking barefoot around swimming pools and locker rooms. Don’t pick at or scratch warts.


Goldstein BG, Goldstein AO, Morris-Jones R, et al. Cutaneous warts (common, plantar, and flat warts). UpToDate. UpToDate, Inc.; 2021. Updated October 29, 2021. Accessed May 7, 2021.