Your Guide to Plantar Warts

example of multiple plantar warts on sole of the foot

Warts are a common problem that we see throughout the entire year here at our podiatry clinic here in Melbourne. They are often painful and can stop you from doing the things you like such as walking or running.

What are Warts?

In the podiatry world, we refer to warts on the feet as ‘verruca pedis’. These warts are caused by a virus known as the human papillomavirus (HPV). Warts are the formation of a cauliflower-like bulk of tissue within the skin that can continue to grow or multiply if not treated. 

Being a virus, they survive off the ‘host’, being the person, for their blood supply and environment. You can often see little black specks throughout a wart which are known as vascular heads, as the wart has its own blood supply stemming from the host’s. Some warts can resolve on their own and do not require treatment.

Why do we get Warts?example of wart on the ball of a person's foot

People that are most at risk of contracting warts are children, the elderly and those who are immunocompromised as the body’s ability to fight off the virus is hindered. The virus is very opportunistic, in that it can enter the top layer of the skin if there has been trauma through an injury or foreign object. They are commonly contracted in areas such as pools and communal change rooms.

What treatments are available for warts?

Cryotherapy is a very popular option available for the treatment of warts. Cryotherapy is cold therapy using liquid nitrogen, whereby the wart is frozen to prevent growth and to kill off any viral tissue. The top of the wart must be removed or ‘debrided’ to produce pin-prick bleeding of the wart’s vascular heads. This allows for better penetration of the skin by the liquid nitrogen. If the warts on a weight bearing area of the foot, padding may be applied to offload the area to prevent pain or irritation. 

Other popular treatment methods include the use of salicylic acid and silver nitrate, which works to kill off the infected tissue. The wart must still be debrided to produce pin-prick bleeds to allow for better penetration when using these methods as well. The surrounding skin is often protected using a felt device or skin preparation and once the salicylic acid has been applied, sports tape is put over the top to block the wart’s oxygen supply, meaning the wart will die. 

Home remedies can include the use of lemon essential oil, banana peel, garlic or pineapple juice. 

Should I use duofilm treatments from the Chemist like Wart Off ?

You should always be cautious when using duofilms from the chemist such as ‘Wart Off’. These products contain salicylic acid which, when not applied correctly, may damage the surrounding skin, as seen in this photo. Consult your podiatrist before using these products to ensure you are applying the product correctly and safely. 

Why do some warts take longer to heal than others?

example of a large wart on the sole of the midfoot

There are many reasons as to why warts can take longer to heal. Our aim is to speed up the healing process, however we are also relying on your immune system to help fight it off. Healing also requires adequate blood supply so issues with your red and white blood cells or your blood supply may also delay healing. We cannot give a definitive time period of when your wart/s will resolve and will often try numerous treatment options at a time to help speed up the process. 

How can I reduce the risk of getting a Wart?

In order to reduce your risk of contracting a wart or spreading them, there are some simple things to try. 

  • If you do visit the local swimming pool, ensure that you always wear thongs or sandals around the pool deck and in the change rooms, as the floor surface is a wart’s haven. 
  • At home, try to shower last and ensure that you clean your bathroom and shower floor at least weekly with bleach. You can also wear thongs or sandals in your shower at home. 
  • Make sure that you ensure you dry your feet properly, change your socks everyday and air out your shoes regularly. 

If you find yourself with a wart that you’re concerned about, do not hesitate to contact our team here at Watsonia Podiatry. Call us on (03) 9432 2689 for an appointment or book online.  You can also download this handy guide to warts our team has put together.


Aaron Dri