I received a mail from a friend last night who is currently walking the Camino Frances. She was asking for advice about her feet and telling me about the problems. that inspired this post.
The first time I walked the Camino I had no idea about foot care, I had never walked for more than a few days before and that had been when I was much younger. I walked a couple of long walks in my boots before heading off on the Camino and I got some blisters on the heals of both feet, they healed and left some hard skin around the heels, but I never though that would cause me a problem – it did – and a very bad one.
My boots were cheap and not very good. I was a student and I was only day walking in the Wicklow Hills, Ireland, so as I had been using them for a year or so I though they would be fine – so wrong.
I threw away these boots in Pamplona and bought good outdoor walking shoes – they were much better.
However I got blister under the hard skin on my heals. I asked for help in an albergue one night and they told me the only way to deal with it was to cut off the hard skin and bandage my feet every day. So I did. I got scissors and cut the skin from my heals – yes it was sore. Yes there was blood, but I got off all the hard skin. After that I had to bandage my feet every morning before walking, the pain went away after about a week. Hey that is the Camino – the crazy things that I would never do at home.
During this time I learned a new mantra – Pain reminds me that I am alive!
Additionally by the end of every day during the first two weeks the soles of my feet were burning. To ease this I learned to soak my feet in freezing cold water for about half an hour every night and when I could during the day. This took the heat and swelling from my feet and made walking much more bearable.
Dealing with smaller blisters was much easier and I became an expert at this. Firstly as soon as you feel the blister on you foot stop and deal with it, don’t wait until the end of the day. I had a needle and thread with me – advice from friend who had walked the Camino before. Thread the needle and puncture the blister with it running the needle all the way through and leaving the thread in the blister. This drains the blister slowly and stop it getting bigger – this may sound horrible but it does give great pain relief.
Some people use cream on their feet while walking, that is fine, however let your feet dry completely every night. If you have soaked them in water don’t put the cream on until the morning.
This was my first Camino, it was hard going and when I finished I swore I was never doing that again.
On my second Camino… Yes, I am still trying to work out why. Anyway on my second Camino I was fitter, I was 10kg lighter, (made a big difference), and I knew what to watch and care about, my rucksack was 7kg, I learned from my pain, and finally I walked slower, hurry is an enemy – always.
One last point with all the talk about good fitting boots and shoes socks are often forgotten. I wore sports socks the second time I walked, they were thin but had a double layer sole, great. On the whole the journey the second time was much easier, I developed one small blister and only towards the end.
The shoes I bought in Pamplona on my first Camino lasted till the end of the second, not too bad.
How were your feet on the Camino?
I love hiking. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.