Plantar warts are caused by an infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) in the outer layer of skin on the soles of your feet.

More than 100 types of HPV exist, but only a few cause warts on your feet. Other types of HPV are more likely to cause warts on other areas of your skin or on mucous membranes.

Transmission of the virus

Each person's immune system responds differently to HPV. Not everyone who comes in contact with it develops warts. Even people in the same family react to the virus differently.

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 contract 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.

The virus also needs to have a point of entry into the skin of the foot:

  • Cracks in dry skin
  • Cuts or scrapes
  • Wet, softened, fragile skin from being in the water a long time
May. 22, 2014

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.