How Fit do You have to be to Walk the Camino?

I think I am a terrible example of getting fit before walking the Camino de Santiago.  I walked only once for about 3 hours, with a rucksack, to see how I would be walking before going to Spain.  I did have some hill walking experience, though not a lot.  I would have walked in the Wicklow hills about twice per month in the two years previous to my first Camino, that was it in total.

The year before my first Camino I was very ill.  I had been diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and was taking medication that I later found out I was allergic to.  I went on the Camino two months after stopping the medication and I really had no idea how I would be; would I be able to walk every day or would I have to abandon the Camino at some point? But, amazingly – I was bloody wonderful – I had never been so fit or healthy for quite a long time.  Even though my feet suffered a great deal initially.



First Week Hell

The first week on the Camino Frances passed in a haze of agony.  I was overweight when I started and had no walking fitness, I paid the price for both of these.  My first day from St Jean Pied de Port was tough, it is all uphill – and I stopped at the Orison on the top of the Pyrenees; thereby splitting the one day from St Jean to Roncesvalles into two.


The days from Roncesvalles to Pamplona disappeared with little memory of the small villages – only the pain remains in my mind, I concentrated every moment in putting one foot in front of the other.  My body was not used to this exercise, my boots were not great, (cheap – I was a student at the time), and I was paying the price.

My boots went into the bin just before Pamplona and I walked the rest of that day in my sandals.  The boots were killing my feet – they were fine for a one day walk in the hills of Wicklow, but not for all day everyday use on the Camino.  I walked in my sandals into Pamplona and went and bought the best walking shoes I could find, – a great decision.

However, I suffered the rest of the Camino with my feet – the blisters that had developed during the first week had to be cut off with scissors and bandaged every morning – but the pain was bearable while walking and I learned how to look after my feet very well. I developed a mantra that helped – Pain reminds me I am alive – whatever works I guess.

Fitness After One Week

After the first week I was good, I found a good walking pace.  I walked every day and felt great at the end of each day.  I lost about 7 – 8kg in weight and I learned that I did not need all the stuff I brought in my rucksack, I left books in albergues for other people to read and gave away everything I did not want.


After I got home from the Camino I went jogging.  I was amazed at how easy it was and how fit, (it’s all relative), I had become.  I walked the Camino again the next year and I had no problems with my feet – I had the same good walking shoes from the year before, (they are now in walking shoe heaven).

Perhaps this is a short description on how not to do it.  I would have better if I had invested in good walking boots or shoes the first year, and – or have been a bit fitter before I went; it wasn’t what happened, the above is.

If you are prepared to get a little fit before you go you will enjoy the Camino de Santiago more. This page is a good guide and training plan to slowly getting fit before you set off.

Buen Camino.


  1. Marion Warden on April 23, 2018 at 9:34 pm

    Thank you for your honesty and encouraging words. I have been walking (lately) in order to prepare for my August start however i struggle with being overweight due to a genuine thyroid condition while i am not walking the Camino to lose weight i do hope it is a happy by product and that once home i can maintain the energy and some degree of activity.

  2. Carole on April 25, 2018 at 11:03 pm

    As a podiatrist, I would sincerely recommend old shoes, old sandals, whose comfort you know and trust. There is a sheet of felt in varying thicknesses you can buy, sticky on one side, called “Chiropodist’s felt’ in the UK, that you can cut to size and stick under shoe tongues, under straps, heels, loose bits. Very useful stuff. I see people in new expensive heavy boots, sold on the advertising, limping along. Socks, 2 pair thin is better than one pair thick. 1 pair dry is better then 10 pair wet. You can never have too many pairs of socks.

  3. Bruce on May 2, 2018 at 8:10 pm

    Thank you for your frank description of your walking experience. I am in the initial phases of planning my camino walk in the fall of 2019. I have purchased by boots….well they were a gift from my wife…and have started the breaking in process. Part of this process is exercise and long walks with a backpack loaded with all my stuff.

    It is my hope to be physically fit and ready for the walk….my mental health will wait for the camino itself.

    Buen Camino mi amigos and amigas

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