A verruca (plantar wart) is a wart on the foot caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). They commonly occur on the soles of the feet and toes. Verrucas can be contagious and spread to other people through direct person-to-person contact. They tend to be common in children, teenagers, young adults, and people who use communal changing rooms.

Causes of verrucas

When the skin gets very wet it loses its suppleness and flexibility, which can cause tiny cracks and splits to occur. These breaks in the skin make it easier for the verruca virus to penetrate the skin. This happens through direct skin-to-skin contact, or indirect contact with contaminated surfaces. The verruca virus thrives in warm, moist environments such as swimming pools, changing rooms and bathrooms. 

Are verrucas harmful?

Verrucas are harmless but can be uncomfortable and painful if they develop on weight bearing areas, such as the feet. In addition, hard skin (callus) can form over the top of the verruca which can increase discomfort to the area. 

Treatment options

There are no guaranteed treatments to remove verrucas. In many cases verrucas will usually resolve on their own within 6 to 12 months for children, but longer for adults (up to 2 years). When the body’s immune system recognises the presence of the virus, it automatically fights the infection.

If verrucas are painless no treatment is best, as some treatments can cause pain, especially in children.

For painful and spreading verrucas you can usually treat these yourself using treatments bought from a pharmacy or shop.

Do not self-treat if you are diabetic or immunosuppressed (low immunity). Please see a podiatrist (professional who specialises in treating feet) for treatment options and advice.

Most treatments bought from a pharmacy or shop (such as bazuka™) contain salicylic acid as their active ingredient. Salicylic acid and other verruca treatments can also destroy healthy skin tissue. So it is important to protect the skin around the verruca. Apply the treatment following the instructions provided on the packaging, but discontinue use if the skin becomes sore. Sometimes rubbing down the hard skin overlying the verruca with an emery board can ease discomfort and help with stimulating the body’s immune response.

How to prevent verrucas and stop them spreading


  • wash and dry your feet regularly and treat them with surgical spirit. If your feet are dry, use cream but avoid applying in-between toes
  • change your socks every day
  • wear flip-flops in communal showers or changing rooms. If you have a verruca and want to go swimming or use communal areas, make sure you cover it with a waterproof sterile plaster to avoid spreading the virus
  • keep any cuts or scratches on your feet covered in communal areas
  • wash your hands after touching verruca to prevent them from spreading
  • avoid direct contact with a verruca on other people
  • try to avoid damaging the surrounding skin when filing, as this might result in the verruca spreading


  • do not share shoes, socks, or towels 
  • do not walk barefoot in public places
  • do not pick at your verruca. When you file your verruca down, dispose of the dead skin carefully. The sand paper or emery board will also have the living virus on it, so do not use it for any other purpose, or you may spread the virus
  • do not use occlusion (strapping) 

If you have children, you should also check their feet for verrucas.

You can speak to speak to a health professional or registered podiatrist if you have any concerns.

Other treatment options 

There are more invasive treatment options for treating verruca such as cryotherapy, needling and Swift therapy. 

You can speak to a registered podiatrist to find out what treatment might be right for you.

More information

You can find out more about verrucas on the NHS website

The British Association of Dermatologists also has more information about plantar warts

Resource number 5102/VER2
Published date: April 2024
Review date: April 2027 

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact the community podiatry team.

Phone: 020 3049 7900, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

For emergencies outside these hours, contact your local emergency department (A&E). 

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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