Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

Plantar Warts

A Gray Cure

Published April 10, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

My three-war war against plantar warts took a decisive turn when I introduced the latest weapon in my arsenal, the faithful duct tape. With victory imminent, I went to the keyboard to share the good news with fellow warriors.

I lived wart-free the first four decades of my life. My relocation to the country, and the resulting change in my schedule, shifted my running time from early morning to the middle of the day. The hot public showers at the Archbold Gymnasium proved a fertile ground for viruses.

One morning, I felt an acute pain in the foot when I stepped out of bed. It took a mirror and much acrobatics out of my stiff body to determine the origin of the pain, a callus-like eruption on the ball of the foot.

A quick read of podiatry literature enlightened me with the latin name and cause of my affliction. The plantar wart, or varruca plantaris, is caused by a virus that invades the foot through microscopic tears in the skin. If left untreated, the virus spreads into a mosaic of painful warts.

My references suggested a three-pronged defense against the plantar wart. Locally, chemical warfare with salicylic acid aims to destroy the virus. Proper nutrition strengthens the immune system in its fight against the invading virus. Rest and sleep complement nutrition in strengthening the body.

The directions on the little generic bottle of acid suggested a twelve-week-long battle. I cherished the thought of sleeping well and eating a lot. Alas, at the end of twelve weeks of twice-daily applications of chemicals, and many more large healthy meals, my wart had multiplied and spread.

A visit to my favorite podiatrist, the same guy who treats Achilles tendonitis and plantar fasciitis, resulted in surgical extraction and three weeks without running. That gave me some extra time to restore my immune system by eating and sleeping more. I declared victory prematurely.

A few months after my successful surgery, the plantar wart reappeared a few inches off the original site. Apparently, the virus can remain dormant for several months before attacking. So, I resumed chemical warfare for twelve more weeks. Then, I attempted do-it-yourself surgery, with little success.

Finally, I visited my lovely internist for some atomic warfare. With a mischievous smile on her face, like a child playing space invaders on a computer, she zapped away at the warts with a liquid nitrogen gun. "Does this hurt?" she laughed repeatedly, freezing away any feeling in my toes. She played that game for six weeks, then wished me a Happy New Year.

A new year, a new wart, a new weapon. My late grandmother, who was the smartest woman of her era, once told me that warts are caused by a misalignment of the planets. Off to the library, I calculated the optimum celestial realignment that would cure my warts. On a clear moonless winter night, I sat on the balcony and pointed my bare foot to the sky. Frostbite on my little toe was the only evidence of my failed astrological treatment.

I had resigned myself to a life of misery and painful running with my viral tenants, when the new issue of Runner's World magazine proposed duct tape, the other gray matter, for the treatment of warts. Not the superstitious type, I decided to give it a try. I bought a roll of duct tape from the nearest drug store.

The magazine article suggested covering the wart with duct tape for a week. Duct tape supposedly acted on the wart by detaching the virus from its roots, depriving it of nutrients. Off I went, walking around with duct-taped toes for an entire week. Lo and behold, the warts fell off when I removed the tape. The surrounding skin looked mellow and ugly, but the warts were gone!

So, here I am, living proof of the healing power of duct tape, with toes as soft as a baby's, uh, skin. If only duct tape could lower my 5K time.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at

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