Knowing what plantar warts look like can help you figure out what to do next for a painful spot on the bottom of your foot. It could be the common foot wart, also called plantar verruca.1 While you may benefit from getting checked out by a doctor, these photos and explanations may help you get a better sense of whether it is likely to be a plantar wart.
Plantar Warts on the Foot
While warts on your hands and other parts of your body can have a wide variation in how they look, plantar warts on your feet have a more consistent appearance.2 They are usually round and you can mistake them for a corn or callus.
Plantar warts are usually flat rather than raised because they are covered by the top layer of the tough skin of the sole of your foot. But they might also have a rough, grainy surface texture. The little black dots near the center of the wart are the blood supply to the wart.
Warts can occur singly or you may have them in clusters. They can stay small or you can get a giant plantar wart. Often, they appear on the heel or ball of your foot where you place your weight when standing or walking.1
Warts vs. Calluses
Warts on your feet can often look like calluses, which are thickened areas of skin. But warts have a few distinguishing features that calluses do not.
- Interrupts the skin lines
- Small black “seed” dot (capillary blood supply)
- Painful when squeezed side to side
- Skin lines continue through the hard, dead skin
- No dots, no blood supply
- Painful when pushed on directly
If your wart is well-defined, interrupts the natural skin lines, and you can see a black dot, that will help you determine it isn’t just a callus.1
Multiple Warts on the Foot
Warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which infects the epidermis (the upper layer of skin).1 Multiple warts can develop on the sole of your foot once it is infected.
Multiple warts can appear as distinct warts in different spots, or they can be grouped together in a cluster, which is called a mosaic wart. A large cluster of warts can be very painful and make it uncomfortable to walk or run.3 It’s also more difficult to treat a larger cluster to eliminate them.
When to See the Doctor
Plantar warts can go away on their own without treatment, or you might use an over-the-counter treatment for them found in the drugstore. These treatments use salicylic acid to remove the layers of the wart slowly. Most people don’t see a doctor for treatment until after these self-care tactics have failed.4
You should see your doctor if the wart changes appearance or color, if it is bleeding, or if you have multiple warts. If you have diabetes, poor sensation in your feet, or a weakened immune system, you should also have the wart seen by a doctor.5
Your doctor may use a stronger preparation of salicylic acid or use cryotherapy, applying liquid nitrogen to the wart to freeze it off. There are further methods that can be used, including immune therapy, minor surgery, and laser treatment.
Another interesting treatment is with HPV vaccine, even though the particular type of HPV that causes plantar warts is not targeted by the vaccine.6
If you aren’t sure whether the foot lesion is a plantar wart, it is wise to see your doctor. This common problem can be treated and you’ll be on the road to less pain when walking or standing.