How’s this for a topic switch. Jacksonville amazingness to … warts. WARTS!
A couple of weeks ago I was walking around my kitchen and felt like I had a little pebble stuck to my foot. I brushed it off, but it persisted. Why is a pebble stuck to my foot? I wondered. I brushed it again, and again, and the stupid thing wouldn’t come off. This called for a visual inspection. I sat down, lifted my foot and I knew immediately what was going on. A plantar wart.
At first, I blew it off as a minor annoyance. I’ve had many warts over the years on my hands, one on my upper arm (weird!) and then a big one on a toe that took eight months of daily over-the-counter treatment to finally get rid of. This last one was over ten years ago, but none of them was ever more annoying beyond grossing me out a little. Oh, but plantar warts are different, particularly for runners. I learned this first hand, as the minor annoyance became a constant sharp and throbbing pain in my foot. It caused me to walk and probably run weirdly, which caused other things to hurt and – UGH! – right before we were scheduled to travel to Jacksonville!
Lest you think I’m a wuss, plantar warts can be as painful as any injury and can lead to actual injury. A real injury might occur from changing your gait to compensate for the pain. And, no matter how hard you try not to compensate, if you have a plantar wart that hurts, you will. When these suckers hurt, they HURT. They almost always grow in the padded areas of your foot, which gives them lots of room to grow nice and large. But the reason those areas are padded is because those are the parts that strike the ground. So every time you land on your affected foot, it’s like jamming a sharp stone into the same spot … over and over and over again.
What are the symptoms of plantar warts?
You feel like you have a rock in your shoe or stuck to your foot. Upon inspection, it looks like a callous but probably has a black dot or a few in the middle of it. If you look really closely, it is the most foul cauliflower looking clump of gross you ever saw (don’t worry, I’ll spare you).
What are plantar warts?
HPV, baby! That’s Human Papilloma Virus. Well actually, they’re just a manifestation of one strain of HPV, another of which causes cervical cancer if you catch it doing the deed. Strains of HPV also cause common warts, like those on the hand and fingers, some cold sores, and even some cancers. A plantar wart is a wart growing in the padded areas of the bottom of the foot. You get one when the plantar wart strain of HPV gets in your feet via cracks in your skin and then voila! It makes your life miserable for a while.
Can I prevent them?
Yes! HPV likes warm moist environments, so always wear your shower shoes at the gym. Change your shoes and socks daily. Also, if you get a plantar wart, you can spread the virus around your feet so avoid touching it and definitely don’t pick at it! Ew! If you do have to touch your wart either do it with something disposable or wash your hands thoroughly after doing so.
If I have a plantar wart, how do I get rid of it?
They will go away on their own … in two to three years. Yeah, that isn’t going to cut it. And, of course, you can go to the doctor who can freeze it off, apply cantharidin or beetlejuice (yes, actual real live beetlejuice), or cut it out. Eek! But before going those routes, there are some things you can do on your own.
When I finally decided I needed to do something about my plantar wart, I did what anyone seeking an acute case of neurosis and hypochondria does: I googled it and came upon what appeared to be a blog post about running and plantar warts only to discover that it was a wart medication page disguised as a running blog. SHADY. (Remind me never to buy Wartrol.)
Ok. The blog route isn’t good for this particular problem, I quickly concluded. The next tactic in my war against the wart was to consult my favorite medical site. Screw WebMD; it’s all about the Mayo Clinic in my quest for self-diagnoses. The Mayo Clinic recommends three at-home remedies to try before seeking medical intervention.
1. Duct Tape.
Yep, for reals. This can take a few weeks, but apparently if you soak your affected foot in warm water for five minutes, then file down the wart with an emery board (pitch it when you’re done because it will have HPV all over it now). Then apply silver duct tape. Press it firmly and keep it on for six days. Then remove the tape and file it down again (throw away the emery board) and leave it exposed for 12 hours. Repeat if necessary.
2. Salicylic Acid
This is the standard over-the-counter plantar wart remedy. It’s an acid that comes on pads or in liquid you apply with a brush and causes the wart to peel off in layers. This method, like all good things in running, takes consistency, patience, and usually quite a while to see results.
3. Home Cryotherapy
You can now purchase home kits to freeze your warts off. The medication purportedly causes the wart to blister and then fall out. Exciting! It’s very strong, so it’s only recommended to apply it once every two weeks for a maximum of four applications. If the wart isn’t gone after that, then seek medical assistance in getting rid of the darn thing. This medication is extremely flammable, so put out your smokes before applying. This is the method I chose to start with (after I gave up on the Angry Bird duct tape). I’ll let you know in a few weeks how it went!
Oh, and if I have a plantar wart can I keep running even if it hurts?
You won’t make your plantar wart worse by running on it, no matter how much it hurts. The biggest issue with continuing to run through this pain is that you will compromise your running form or foot strike which can cause an injury somewhere else. I found that ibuprofen helped if my wart was flaring up and that it often felt better later in the day than the morning. If it’s really bothering you and preventing you from running, then consider seeking treatment from a doctor even before you try home or over-the-counter remedies.
The last thing you want preventing you from achieving your big running dreams is a wart!
Have you even been afflicted with plantar warts? Share your story in the comments or tag us (@saltyrunning) in your plantar wart photos on Twitter or Instagram!