In the medical world, the bottom of your foot is known as the plantar surface. Warts that materialize on the soles of feet are known as plantar warts. The plantar wart is unique because the skin on the bottom of your foot is 20 times thicker than anywhere else on the body. Warts are caused by Human Papillomavirus (or HPV). Over 100 types of HPV exist, and warts are frequently determined by the type of virus that caused them. HPV resides within the dermis/epidermis. Because the plantar surface is made up of skin that is significantly thicker than the rest of the body, the plantar wart inverts and becomes embedded.

HPV Type 1 is typically the culprit when it comes to plantar warts. (Although other types have been known to cause them as well.) The virus makes its way into the body through little lesions found on feet. HPV, as is the case with most viruses, is contagious. Which is why plantar warts can spread to other areas on your feet.

What do plantar warts look like?

The appearance and location of a plantar wart can vary. Below you’ll find examples of how they may present:

  • More often than not, plantar warts present on the sole of the foot.
  • Sometimes plantar warts invade the tops of feet, too. If you rest the sole of one foot on the top of the other, the wart can spread.
  • Plantar wart-causing viruses enter your body through cracks in your skin. Your heels, which can often get cracked due to dry skin or ill-fitting shoes, are most susceptible.
  • If a plantar wart presents itself on the bottom of your toe, it is very easily spread to your other toes.
  • Plantar warts may feel like in-grown warts, because of the callus that forms over the top of them, but warts only form in the top layer of your skin.
  • The soles are an ideal location because plantar warts like moist environments — such as sweaty feet.
  • Plantar warts can be big, but they can also grow together in clusters, called mosaic warts, which have been known to reach diameters of 1 inch or more.

Are plantar warts painful?

For most folks, plantar warts are a painful experience. Think about how often pressure is applied to the bottom of your feet on a daily basis. Whenever you walk or perform activities that require you to stand, right? Well now imagine going about these everyday tasks with a hard growth on the bottom of your foot. Every action that involves placing weight on your feet causes the wart to press against sensitive nerves under the skin. Those nerves are what signal to your brain that you’re in pain. While plantar warts only grow within that top layer of skin, this pain can make them feel like they’ve invaded even deeper.

What Are Plantar Warts? | IMG 5926
Recalcitrant plantar wart

Your body is pretty smart, so it responds to this painful pressure by producing a protective layer of skin over the plantar wart. This is called a callus and it doesn’t necessarily relieve the painful symptoms the wart causes. After all, the wart is still lingering underneath that layer of skin. Removing the plantar wart is usually the only course of action to fully reduce pain.

While many types of warts don’t require medical attention, unless removal is requested for cosmetic reasons, plantar warts are different. Painful walking necessitates removal of plantar warts for many.

If you have concerns about a plantar wart or are experiencing pain when walking, book an appointment. Don’t let plantar warts be the reason you miss enjoying your feet. Come see the experts at Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle and get it resolved today!