Shoes for Hiking and Resting
Your feet are carrying you the whole way so you need to get this right above all else. What you wear on your feet for your long daily walks can be looked at as a "footwear system": your sock, your insole or orthotic, your shoes, and anti-chafing product. Not only do you need to choose comfort, but also support.
Hikers Because of the importance of your foot health to accomplish the mileage you will cover day after day, there is more discussion about footwear among future and veteran pilgrims than almost any other gear. Our teammates have tried on dozens and dozens of pairs, and walked the Camino with traditional hiking boots, lighter weight hiking shoes, trail runners, and even hiking sandals.
Fit and features: your feet will naturally swell a bit after you have been walking for a couple hours, so try on trail shoes later in the day when your feet are their normal been-on-your-feet size. If you can possibly access a store with personnel trained in fitting hiking footwear, do it. We recommend a lightweight, waterproof hiking shoe, and our favorite is the Merrell Moab Gore-Tex Waterproof Hiking Shoe. It comes in a big range of men's and women's sizing, and has all the features we have come to appreciate in our trail shoes. You will see a lot of peregrinos wearing this shoe because of its support, comfort, and overall fit. Moab Waterproof for Men and Moab Waterproof for Women As part of our rain solutions discussed elsewhere we prefer the waterproof version used in conjunction with rain gaiters to prevent rain from running down your leg into your shoe. In our experience keeping our feet dry goes a long way to prevent blisters.
Resting Most peregrinos are very happy to put on their comfortable, supportive trail shoes in the morning, but are ready to take them off when they check-in to their albergue or hotel for the night. You need something else when you finish your walk every day, and since you are carrying it in your pack, it had better be weightless. Because it can get cool at night along the Camino except maybe in summer, we prefer something that can be worn with socks, but can also be worn without socks into the shower. Our favorites: for women--Croc Cleo slides, and for men--Croc Baya slides.
The features we like in a sock are good fit and wick-ability. You do not want to have any loose or bunching fabric that can wrinkle up and cause a friction point, and dry feet are much less likely to produce friction, which leads to blisters, so you want to choose a material that wicks moisture away from our skin. Our favorites: two for people who like a thicker sock and one for those liking thinner socks. Our favorite thick sock is Fits. They come in medium or lighter weight thickness crew socks, and a lightweight ankle high version (“Quarter”). They are the best fitting socks we have tested! Another Camino favorite thick sock is by Darn Tough. For thin sock people, we love the Wrightsock--great fitting, double layer, microfiber, and ankle high.
Extra Support, Blister Prevention & Care
Extra Support The Superfeet Company makes several non-prescription insoles that can replace the insoles that come in your trail shoes to give you more support. They come in shoe sizes and a variety of support, and can be customized easily with scissors to fit in your shoe perfectly. We like the green ones best for distances of up to 15 miles per day.
If you are over 40 or have chronically sore feet after long hikes, consider a visit to a reputable sports podiatrist for a consultation about ordering custom orthotics. These can be pricey, but insurance often covers the cost. Take your hiking shoes to your appointment so the doctor can assess the fit and support, and make sure the orthotic will fit in the shoe.
Blister Prevention & Care We discovered our favorite blister prevention and treatment products back in 2007 before walking the Camino for the first time, and in the years since then these products have helped countless peregrinos go blister-free, or treat their blisters and keep walking. Anti-Chafing Lubricants are part of your first line of defense against the friction that can cause blisters. Many veterans have used petroleum jelly to prevent chafing and blisters on feet, inner thighs, inside upper arms, etc. Trail Toes is a favorite of ultra marathoners, and it is now our favorite. It comes in a 2 oz. jar, which will be the right amount for a month long Camino for one person, and weighs only 3 oz. An honorable mention goes to Glide, which comes in a couple of sizes, in the form of a crank up "solid" similar to some deodorants. It is a bit easier to carry, but a bit more difficult to apply. As you are breaking in your new hiking shoes, you may notice some hotspots where some part of your shoe is causing a spot on your foot to become hot and red. Think of this as a pre-blister. Make sure this does not indicate a shoe that does not fit. If it is just a matter of being a tenderfoot, or overdoing it, consider preventing further friction with a product called Engo Blister Prevention Patches. These adhesive-backed teflon patches attach to the parts of your shoes that are causing any hotspots, and stop the friction to allow the hotspot on your foot to heal rather than progress to a blister. If you do get blisters, it will be good to treat them with Spenco 2nd Skin Gels. We have tried all the remedies and bandages on the market, even the European ones promoted everywhere, and the Spenco gels are our favorite. If you are walking the Camino solo, get one or two of the Spenco 2nd Skin Blister Kits, which are about $10 each, and contain some gel squares and knit adhesive tape to treat inflamed skin and blisters. Or, you might prefer to invest in the following two items in bulk, even though you may not need to take all of it with you. If you are walking with friends, share the cost of these two Spenco products to divide among you: a jar of 200 Spenco 2nd Skin Gel Squares and a box or two of Spenco Adhesive Knit Sports adhesive tape. Here’s how it works: The gel squares are moist pads you put directly on your clean, damaged skin and hold in place with a piece of the adhesive knit placed over the gel pad. These not only bring immediate relief to your damaged skin, but provide a comfortable buffer allowing you to keep walking without doing more damage. This stuff is amazing!!! I cannot recommend these products highly enough.
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