When is it a Callus and When is it a Wart?

Getting a large growth on the bottom of your foot can be uncomfortable and feel downright unpleasant. If you have a callus or wart on the bottom of your foot, you’ll want to take steps eliminate it right away.

There’s just one problem: you’re not sure if what you have is a callus or a wart. Calluses and warts require different treatments but can look similar and be difficult to tell apart.

Learn from Podiatry Hotline Foot & Ankle’s Thomas Rambacher, DPM and Michael Bastani, DPM, of Mission Viejo, California, how to distinguish between a callus and wart, including the definitive diagnostic test available.

What are warts?

A wart is a small growth that can develop on your skin and commonly grows on the bottoms of your feet. The HPV virus causes warts to grow. Most warts are benign and go away without intervention.

You get warts on your feet when they’ve been iin contact with the virus that causes them. This can come from walking barefoot in common areas, like pools and communal showers or sharing some personal care items with a person who has warts.

Warts aren’t typically painful, but they form an uncomfortable hard lump that can be unpleasant when you put pressure on it. If your warts don’t go away on your own, Dr. Rambacher and Dr. Bastani can treat them using medication, cryotherapy, or surgically.

What are calluses?

Calluses are hardened patches that can develop on your skin. They often develop on the bottoms of your feet as a result of friction and pressure from your shoes.

You won’t usually feel pain from a callus, but they might make walking more uncomfortable. The discomfort can cause you to avoid walking or change your gate when you move.

The easiest way to get rid of calluses is to change your footwear to avoid pressure being applied to the area where you developed a callus. 

The differences between calluses and warts

Sometimes, you can tell the difference between a callus and wart from your symptoms. The key distinctions between calluses and warts include:


When you have a callus, you’ll see the lines of your skin continuing in the growth. Warts do not have skin lines and appear more separate from the rest of your skin. They can also have black or red dots on the growth from the infection.

Pain levels

Warts are more likely to cause pain than calluses. When calluses are painful, it’s from directly pressing on them, while warts can hurt when you squeeze them from side to side.

Recent activities

You’re more likely to have warts if you’ve recently gone barefoot in a community area, like a gym changing room. You’re more likely to have calluses if you’ve recently worn footwear that has irritated your feet.

The definitive test that distinguishes calluses and warts

Sometimes, it’s not possible to tell the difference between calluses and warts through symptoms. In these instances, Dr. Rambacher and Dr. Bastani can perform an assessment and tell you which you’ve had.

During your examination, Dr. Rambacher and Dr. Bastani use a swab of cotton to take a sample of the cells in your foot growth. They use those cells to perform a skin culture. The procedure takes just a few minutes to do and is not painful.

After getting your skin culture, Dr. Rambacher and Dr. Bastani get your growth analyzed in a laboratory. The results confirm if you have a callus or wart. From your results, they will recommend a treatment course to eliminate the warts or calluses.

To get peace of mind and ensure you’re treating your wart or callus properly so it goes away for good, make an appointment at Podiatry Hotline Foot & Ankle for a definitive diagnosis and personalized treatment recommendations. Schedule your in-person or telemedicine appointment by phone or online.

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