BASIC FOOT CARE CONSIDERATIONS FOR HIKERS
Blisters are formed due to friction, warmth and sweating and a combo of those three. We all understand the role shoes and socks play. Still, that’s where most people stop. If you are not an experienced hiker, chances are that you’ll be thinking of blisters as the tiny ones that are a bit annoying when you continue walking. Your skin consists of different layers. Once the top layer is affected with a blister the next, deeper, level of skin can start blistering. This layering of blisters is not annoying, it’s simply going through hell while walking. Proper foot care can avoid this.
If your body is not fit enough to walk 25 km in a day, let’s say it’s fit to do 10 km, chances are that you will start to move differently (incorrectly) after those 10km if you keep on walking. In the complete body chain effect this means that your feet will also have slightly different rolling from heel to toes; which translates to friction and as result of that, blisters. So footcare is only about applying the right cream or lubricant, it’s about taking care of yourself in general.
Walking speed & Walking rhythm
One other thing related to your own physical condition is your speed and your walking rhythm. You will meet other pilgrims and walk with them. However, you need to be conscious of your own walking speed and rhythm. If you start walking at their speed (be it slower or faster!) it can totally ruin your day. Walking slower usually means that your hips, knees and ankles will endure longer pressure moments leading to more tired and/or painful joints at the end of the day (or being able to walk less than your daily goal!). Walking faster than usual, will be an extra effort for your muscles, tendons and if you kick-it real hard, possibly also for your respiratory system. Walk at your own pace.
Skin lubrication is a popular blister prevention strategy. Lots of runners, athletes and hikers remain blister-free using Body glide and Vaseline. Evidence is controversial but worth a try if it works for you. Apply a thin layer of glide to the feet followed by a thin layer of Vaseline or Vicks vapour rub before and after walking. Body glide sticks can be bought at Sport Check and most pharmacies.
Shoes & Socks
The right shoes and socks are the most important items a pilgrim should worry about. When the wrong shoes have been chosen, the Camino will punish you and you will pay with blisters and a lot of other discomforts. Is it about spending big time on shoes? No, like with almost anything: expensive does not equal perfect. Your feet are your guides. It is important to test and use your hiking shoes extensively before you embark on a long hike to ensure that they are comfortable and don’t rub.
Make sure your shoes are the right size. The right size for walking shoes is usually half a size or one size larger than your usual foot wear: when walking long distances, your feet will be slightly swollen, so make sure they have room for that extra swelling – you don’t want to feel any friction anywhere! Your toes should be able to wiggle around and your big toe should have at least 2 cm room (between toe and end of shoe). When you go down-hill, your feet slights a bit down; you don’t want your big toe to hit his head every time you go down-hill. Your heel should be as fixed as possible in the shoe. Make sure it doesn’t slip!
If you have flat feet, raised arches, bunions or need insoles you may value the experienced advice of a podiatrist/pedorthist before you buy your shoes.
Merino socks are recommended by most walkers. They are worth the investment even though they are fairly expensive. Some folks like to wear 2 pairs of socks, a liner sock followed by a walking sock. Again this is a tried and tested individual choice. The thickness of sock is also an individual choice. Try out a few socks before your walk. Wear a clean pair of socks each day. If on a 5 day hike 5 pairs of socks are easy to carry. Alternatively if you carry fewer pairs, wash your socks out each evening. Merino socks dry quickly. You can (with baby pins) attach them to the outside of your backpack to dry, as you walk.
TRANSCRIBED AND MODIFIED FROM CAMINOCOMFORT.COM