footprints in sand

5 ways to get your feet ready for the Camino

Last week, just for fun, I went boot shopping. You know, just to see if there’s something better out there than what I already have. I went to Sporting Goods Store B and tried on three pairs of footwear: a Topo trail runner, a waterproof Columbia low-rise hiking boot, and a North Face bad-ass hiking boot.

The Columbias won, but only until I got them home and walked around in them, inside, for a couple of days. They weren’t better than the boots I already had (Obōz low-rise hiking boots), so they are going back to the store.

Can I just say, Camino footwear is so personal.

What’s not personal is my method for getting my feet ready for the Camino, so here it is:

1. Move into your boots and socks two to four weeks before departure

What do I mean by “move in”? I mean wear them all the time, all day, every day. Wear them around the house, when you are out doing errands, to work, date night, church, everywhere.

Set fashion aside and let your feet and body get to the point of loving being in those boots. And bonus: it could be a good conversation starter that gives you a chance to talk about your Camino plans with your friends and coworkers.

2. Walk around barefoot

This isn’t my go-to, but the other day while tidying up I had kicked off my shoes and was walking around on the carpet barefoot. Oh my goodness that felt good. The thing is to not just walk around unconsciously, but instead to savor every step. Feel how and where your feet make contact with the floor or ground. Stretch your toes and try to tap them one at a time on the floor, like your fingers do when you’re bored. Roll your feet side to side to stretch and flex your ankles. And enjoy enjoy enjoy the freedom of being shoe- and sock-less. Bonus: find some cool grass and scrunch it beneath your toes.

feet on toes

3. Massage your feet 

Now, I’m not suggesting you break out the physical therapy tricks here – you know, roll your feet on a tennis ball, freeze a water bottle and roll your feet on that. No, I am suggesting you cross your ankle over the opposite thigh and use your thumbs to dig into the bottom of your feet. Find those tender spots and work them out. Don’t forget your toes!

4. Carry less

Conventional pilgrim wisdom tells us, of course, to pack light and carry less. Or use the luggage transport services (and still pack light because you are the one who will have to get that suitcase up three flights of stairs).

Great advice, yes? But here’s what I’m working on: losing a few kilos of body weight before I head over to Europe. I’m not obsessing or starving myself or going extreme Paleo Keto, but I do know that my feet will be happier if there’s less of me to carry.

If you have been planning on getting fit and dropping some weight, there is no better time than before you go walk the Camino. And there’s no better way to do it than to settle into a regular training schedule . . . now.

Training? Walking, strength training, and stretching are all you need. (Oh, well, maybe eating healthy too, darn those cookies.)

5. Experiment

Now we are back to personal.

Have you heard about – oh, I don’t know – a hundred different methods for preventing blisters?

Pro tip: try them all now. Try them when you are at home, when you are breaking in your Camino boots or shoes, and when you can test drive carrying your Camino backpack or day pack loaded up to the weight you will carry on the Camino.

Here are some things to try:

    • wool socks*
    • synthetic socks
    • toe socks
    • sock liners
    • lamb’s wool – to cover areas prone to rubbing
    • Leukotape on any hot-spots, the moment they start to flare up
    • duct tape* – same as Leukotape
    • paper first aid tape*
    • Body Glide – to slather all over your feet
    • Vaseline – same use as Body Glide (I don’t actually recommend using a petroleum product on your skin, but many pilgrims swear by this method, so I am mentioning it along with the rest)

trekking pole with duct tape

* These are my methods. For whatever reason, my feet love Smartwool hiking socks. For hot-spots, I wrap a bunch of duct tape around my trekking poles and cut off pieces as I need them. The duct tape usually falls off in the shower, so I reapply fresh tape each day, as needed. My baby toes like to cozy up to the toes next to them in a sometimes-aggressive way, and duct tape is too thick for those hard-to-reach places. So, for those cute little toes, I wrap the two outside toes on each foot with paper first aid tape.

Want to learn more about caring for your feet by selecting the right boots and socks and breaking them in all the way? Check out this episode of the YOU on the Camino de Santiago podcast.

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