Preventing Blisters & How to Keep Going if You Get Them
Foot care is one of the most popular topics at every pilgrim gathering on the Camino. After all, your feet are carrying you hundreds of miles. If you have tested all your equipment and broken in your shoes at home, hopefully you have already discovered potential causes of hot spots which can lead to blisters before you get to the Camino. Avoiding blisters is preferable to treating them after they form, so do your best to prevent them. In other blogs we have shared our road tested favorite Camino socks and shoes which play a BIG role in foot health. Let’s say you have found your favorite sock and broken in your favorite, good fitting shoes for 6-8 weeks. Here are our tips for preventing blisters from forming in the first place.
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 other peregrinos go blister-free, or treat their blisters and keep walking.
Here is our Camino routine each morning. Before setting out to walk apply an anti-chafing lubricant to your clean, dry feet and anywhere else you may experience chafing. Trail Toes is a favorite anti-chafing lubricant 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. Apply it to your feet and between your toes, and anywhere else you want to prevent the chafing and friction which lead to blisters: inner thighs, inside upper arms, etc. An honorable mention goes to Glide lubricant, 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. Some like petroleum jelly (Vaseline), and it is readily available in most farmacías in Spain.
Next, put on dry socks, then your hiking shoes. When you are breaking in 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, and figure out what happened. Make sure this does not indicate a shoe that does not fit, and adjust your lacing as needed to make yourself as comfortable as possible. 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 hotspots, and stop the friction.
As you begin to train at home, and as you increase hours of walking on the Camino, take breaks more frequently in those first days of your walk to take off your hikers and socks and let your feet dry out for a few minutes. Elevate your feet and legs if possible. If your socks are damp, switch them out to a dry pair, put your hikers back on, lacing them to your present comfort. As your distance increases and the day grows longer, even healthy feet swell some because of the work they are doing. Airing your feet, keeping them dry, re-lacing, and building up your mileage gradually are good ways to help prevent injury.
If you do get blisters, our favorite treatment which allows your skin to heal and provides comfort to keep walking are Spenco 2nd Skin Gels. We have tried all the remedies and bandages on the market, even the European ones promoted everywhere in Spain, 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 this treatment 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!!! We cannot recommend these products highly enough. We appreciate those of you who support our work on the Camino by using the links from our website to make purchases from Amazon. The cost to you is the same, and Amazon gives us a little commission to keep helping pilgrims.
Keep all damaged skin clean, dry and protected with these or other bandages, and change them every day, or any time they get wet. When you take rests or food breaks during the day, and take off your shoes and socks to let them your feet dry, also check bandages to determine whether or not they need changing. Keep your feet happy, they are working hard for you.