If I had a dollar (or pound) every time I hear:
"I think I've got a wart on my foot, but it may be a corn".
"I've filed this bit of skin on my foot for months, and it's not going".
A corn vs wart can be tough to tell, one of the many types of each causes sole of your foot pain.
And a positive ID is crucial to get rid of it — for ever.
So how do you know?
Here are five quick ways to tell the difference (or at least lead you in the right direction!)
Corn vs Wart on My Foot?
Both grow in the same area. Both look the same. Both hurt.
Even to the trained eye, it can be hard to tell the difference between corn vs wart.
(Podiatrist groups on Facebook are stuffed with second opinion requests for mysterious marks).
But don't despair. Once you know what to look for, most cases are clear.
You Say Plantar Wart, I Say Verruca
Pavement and sidewalk. Chips or crisps? Trunk, boot. You get where I'm going with this.
Over this side of the Atlantic, plantar warts are called verrucas.
(Don't ask me why, I suspect it's something to do with the Roman Conquest)
For the purposes of this article, assume that plantar warts and verruca mean the same thing!
The Big Inbred Family
Plantar warts are contagious. Technically known as HPV 1+2 (hpv for human papilloma virus), they're part of a big and dubious viral family.
They invade via minuscule cuts to the skin (almost always unnoticed in my experience). The main culprit is changing rooms, but shared towels are a big spreader.
They're not as painful as corns as a general rule, but more stubborn to abolish.
Foot Corns = Ingrown Hard Skin
Corns form when your foot suffers regular, excessive pressure. Think running, high-heels and hiking (not all at once, please).
Foot corns are just ingrowing hard skin, a callus version of ingrown toenails. They're painful, no doubt, but cheap 'n' easy to remove.
Those of you with knee or ankle arthritis are particularly prone. The restriction in your joints forces your foot to offload somewhere else.
Five Ways to Tell the Difference Between a Corn vs Wart
Now, on paper, these differences are all well and good. But in reality, the two are easy to confuse.
So here are some clues you can use to tell a corn vs wart on your foot. In rough order of importance, they are:
All of which are covered below!
1. Your Age
How old you are is the best ten-second tell. It's definitely not right all the time, but a good yardstick.
Plantar warts are far more prevalent in younger patients. By young, I mean children or teenagers.
Meanwhile, foot corns are more common in those over 30.
Now there's always exceptions to this. But, if you're 45, pretty active and have a pinching between your toes — chances are it's a corn.
So Are You Saying Only Kids Get Plantar Warts?
No, not at all! I've seen a lot of warts in adults.
It's just I see a lot more unsure adults who turn out to have foot corns instead of plantar warts.
What If I've Got a Plantar Wart As An Adult?
You've got a ton of treatment options.
But it's likely to take a little more time to resolve than a corn.
2.Wart/Verruca and Corn Appearance Differences
Coming up a close second is how each manifest.
Again, this isn't black and white (or yellow and gray for corns and warts), but as a general rule it's fine to go by.
How To Tell Corns
How To Tell Plantar Warts/Verrucas
3. Corn or Plantar Wart Pain Level
In the pain stakes, corns are more cutting than warts.
It's not uncommon for corns to disable you with discomfort. Hopping from foot-to-foot or wearing sandals in winter.
This is rare for verrucas/plantar warts. Though they can get grievous when thick callus builds up over them.
Or if you apply lashings of salicylic acid.
The Verruca/Wart Squeeze Test
A foot corn will be painful if you press in on it. A wart will be painful if you squeeze it from the sides.
In other words, if you apply the pressure of walking with your finger and cause pain, it could well be a corn.
If you recreate trying to pop a zit, a plantar wart usually aches.
Ain't Got Time To Bleed
Warts bleed far easier than corns. If you've picked or filed it, and it spots with blood right away, you could be looking at a viral invader.
4. Foot Location
This one is less reliable, but still handy to know. Corns usually form where foot bones stick out or rub. Places like:
(Seed corns are always on the sole of your foot somewhere. They're the trickiest to tell apart from warts).
This is why corns are more painful. They're pressing up on nerves as your foot pumps down.
Warts and Verrucas
Plantar warts/verrucas are far more prevalent on the plantar surface of the foot. That is, on your sole or heel.
They do occasionally appear on the sides of toes but rarely between them.
Verrucas can spread into satellite sites. These are tiny plantar warts that "splash off" the main location.
5. Lifestyle and Activity
If you're 50, live alone and spend 10 hours a day on your feet, a corn is more probable.
Go swimming every day? Have a few children sharing a bathroom? You could be looking at a plantar wart.
How Do I Get Rid of a Corn at Home?
The key to home foot corn removal is to soften and reduce the compacted hard skin.
Sometimes it doesn't work, but it will ease the pain.
Pick The Right Foot Cream For The Job
Any foot cream you use needs to contain urea as an ingredient.
It's a natural substance and crucial for soft foot skin. This also means the skin that causes corns.
Any cream without it will just slop around, look shiny for an hou, but do nothing.
I use Gehwol Fusskraft Blue or Mint. My patients love it.
It'll soften up hard seed corns and flex your skin right back up.
Put it on at least once a day, before bed or after a shower.
Sand Your Skin
The idea with this isn't just to remove the corn.
It's also to reduce any overlying hard skin and make it more receptive to refreshing foot cream.
I use Gehwol pedicure files. They're the best quality hard skin file out there. Plus, you can use them on other bits of callus i.e. heels and toes.
I Think I Have a Plantar Wart. How Do I Remove It?
Needling is the best clinical treatment for plantar warts. It's not cheap though, and needs someone who knows what they're doing.
This is closely followed by cryotherapy (freezing) with high-strength acids applied afterwards.
But, as a starting point, you won't go far wrong with common or garden salicylic acid. This is what's in Bazuka.
Be careful, it's easy to buy, and as easy to burn yourself with it. Use it for the advised time.
Women (Have Worse Feet Than Men)
Yep, and it's all down to that ballet-tight footwear.
Fashion is an integral part of your life. Society says so — like corsets.
But it's not only shoes and buying apparel online is a double-edged razor.
You can access stuff you'd never see down your McHigh Street for sweatshop prices.
Then it rocks up and looks (or fits) decidedly different from advertised.
If you've got Amazon Prime, use Try Before You Buy.
You can order six items (including shoes, kids and men's clothes) and cavort in front of a mirror trying them for 7 days. You only pay for what you decide to keep.
(Returns are free).
Corn vs Wart/Verruca - 5 Quick Ways to Tell
Have I got a corn or a wart: It's a question I get asked a lot.
(Just after "what made you become a Podiatrist".)
These points aren't meant to be the definitive guide to corn vs warts. Rather, it's to try and help guide people in the right direction.
Hopefully, it gives you an idea to decide on the next course of treatment. In particular, before you douse yourself with salicylic acid.