Walking the Camino de Santiago puts you in the footsteps of thousands of pilgrims and connects you with the Medieval past. You can choose routes of various lengths starting even from 4 days, and which take you through beautiful parts of the Iberian Peninsula in Portugal, Spain, and France. Taking the Way can be both an adventure and a spiritual experience, while you appreciate this gorgeous part of the world. However, you need to prepare yourself properly and avoid those dreaded blisters. Here are some tips for Camino de Santiago foot care and for making sure that your adventure comes with happy feet.
Before the Camino Trip
1. Choose well-fitting footwear. If you do not have proper hiking boots, be sure to get them – well in advance of your trip. One of the worst things you can do is start a multi-day hike in boots that have not been properly broken in. Start with shorter distances and build them up to the average distance you will travel daily on the Camino.
You may want to size a half size up from normal, as slight swelling is normal for those not used to walking long distances every day. Only buy waterproof shoes if you are going to be hiking during the wet season. In the heat of summer they can overheat your feet and make them sweaty.
2. Avoid getting a pedicure before the trip, but do make sure to trim your nails regularly. Pedicures will thin the skin on your feet and can make blisters more likely.
3. Test your boots with the precise sock type you will be using. Make sure that you take the right socks for the time of year and for your preferred temperature – some people need thinner socks than others. Moisture-wicking socks can be particularly effective for blister prevention.
Avoid cotton, which tends to retain sweat and soften the skin. If you plan on wearing multiple socks with silk liners, check combinations until you find the one which is most comfortable. Some people may benefit from running socks, which have seams carefully positioned to avoid blisters.
During the Camino Trip
1. Pack a nail clipper so you can keep your nails a reasonable length during the trip. Long nails can affect how your boots fit and cause sore spots.
2. During breaks, take off your boots so your feet can get some air. If your socks are wet or moist, take them off and try to get them as dry as possible or put on a dry pair.
3. Bring enough pairs of socks – and bring different thicknesses, in case you discover one type of sock is simply not working as well in practice as it did in theory.
4. Pack a blister kit – although most small towns on the route have pharmacies, you don’t want to wait to find what you need until you get there.
5. If you know you are prone to blisters in a certain place, consider using blister powder or proactively covering the area with moleskin.
6. If you have a ‘hot spot‘ where the skin has turned red, bandage it before it turns into a blister and keep an eye on the area. Consider changing your sock to one with slightly thicker cushion in that area.
7. If you do get a blister, use padding and a bandage to protect it. Keep an eye on the blister for signs of infection – if it becomes extremely painful you may need to see a local doctor as soon as feasible.
8. Stay hydrated. Dehydration has been known to contribute to blisters and overall fatigue.
9. Take plenty of breaks. This will give your entire body, not just feet, a much needed rest and there are many picturesque spots to have a quit stop along Camino de Santiago.
10. Carry a spare pair of socks with you at all times. If your socks are wet and you have a hot spot starting to develop, change socks as soon as you can. You can always dry the wet pair later, especially as our Camino trips will put you in well-chosen hotels for the night.
If you follow these tips, then you should avoid blisters, no matter what route you chose. Remember that you should train for your trip by doing shorter hikes at home. Depending on elevation, you may be walking as much as 29 km a day – while enjoying gorgeous countryside and meeting new friends. If you are looking to walk (or bike) the Camino de Santiago, then contact Adventure Camino to find out about our fun itineraries and which one might be right for you.