Foot Care on the Camino
I believe that your feet are the most important asset you have when walking a Camino or any long distance trail/hike. Blisters are to be avoided at all costs and the only way to do that is to take good care of your feet. #camino #pilgrim #caminofootcare
The most important item I believe is shoes.
I walked in Salomon XA Pro 3D Women's Trail shoes. They were not waterproof. Waterproof shoes tend to make my feet sweat and I find that non-waterproofed shoes dry far quicker - something that you will be thankful for on the Camino when you encounter rain (and you will).
I think that choice of shoes is a personal choice. The big question that is asked most of the time is Hiking Boots or Trail Shoes. Honestly, the terrain is not such that hiking boots are an absolute necessity. If you however require the ankle support, then boots are probably better for you. Trail shoes and even Trail sandals were perfect for me.
The secret of good shoes is that they need to be a size or two bigger than your normal size and they need to be laced properly. Don't arrive on the Camino with new shoes... you will be looking for trouble. Walk your shoes in before you start your Camino. Good shoes, fitted properly and worn in = no blisters!
The second most important thing is your socks. I originally took four pairs each of socks and sock liners (reasoning 2 pairs per day). I used Falke Sock Liners and Falke Ankle socks (not the thick hiking socks). This brand I find are quick dry too.
When you are walking in the region of 20 - 25 kms (±12 - 15mi) per day your feet are going to swell and sweat. Sock liners are fantastic for keeping your feet free of moisture which in turn reduces the risk of friction and the resulting blisters. I landed up buying another four pairs of each along the way as I had adopted the practice of changing into fresh socks 3 to 4 times a day.
When you do your research you will find 101 different ways of taking care of your feet complimented by a variety of remedies for when blisters do develop. One thing you should know is that everyone is different and what works for one may not work for another. However, the rule is and must be prevention is better than cure! This is where Moleskin & Vicks Vapor Rub became my best friends.
Here is the footcare routine (in sequence) I followed on the Camino:
Ensure that your feet are clean and free from any sand and grit.
Cover any 'hot spots' with Moleskin. You will come to know your hot spots as they are the areas of your feet that become red and are the friction points when walking. They are the places where blisters will form. Don't be afraid to use the moleskin. I typically put Moleskin around the heels, on the outer sides of my feet near the small toe and then on the inner side just below the big toe.
Cover the rest of your feet in a generous layer of Vicks Vapor Rub. Be sure to get this between your toes too. The Vicks Vapor Rub will keep your feet moisturised and is an added anti-friction layer to protect your feet. The menthol in the Vicks soothes the feet in the same way peppermint essential oils do
Put on your sock liners ensuring that you have no creases in them. This can cause friction.
Finally put on your outer socks, again checking that there are no creases.
Whenever I stopped for a rest, I took off my shoes and socks to air my feet and cool them down. I would do a routine check of my Moleskin padding and ensure that there was still Vicks Vapor Rub on my feet. If my socks were damp, then I would change into fresh socks. This happened sometimes up to four times per day. The goal is always to try and keep your feet free of moisture and protected from friction. You will come across beautiful streams and use these to cool your feet off. When this happens, you need to go through the foot care routine from start to finish before walking on. Sometimes I put on new Moleskin twice in the day.
The only time I developed a blister on the Camino was a very hot day where I decided to wear only one pair of socks - big mistake! Walking with even a single blister is the most painful thing to experience. It took me two days to clear up the blister - but lesson learned. Stick to the foot care routine.
While I did not get blisters (other than a small one on the little toe of my left foot), I carried Compeed Blister Plasters . This together with walking in my Teva Trail Sandals for a day or two was sufficient to sort my toe out and I could resume my routine and get back into my trail shoes.
There are many Pharmacies equipped to treat blisters - rather see a Pharmacist to treat your blisters than trying all sorts of techniques on your own. And sort your blisters out before walking on. I saw a number of people having to leave the Camino due to infected blisters because they did not stop and take care of their feet saving themselves agony and pain. Again I say: prevention is better than cure.