El Camino de Santiago is one rough, tough pilgrimage across Spain, a long distance hike across concrete, dirt roads and trail which will test your nerve, resolve and, above all, your feet. There are plenty fun stops on the way, with little need for navigation, and you may well find companionship with some fellow trekkers. However, when the going gets tough on this hot and dusty hike, your feet go first, so here are some top tips for saving your soles!
Before you set off
Be kind to your feet and get them on side – they’ve got miles and miles to go. Use a foot spa (or a plastic basin – often just as good) and give them a long soak in hot water. Add Epsom salts to soothe the skin and drain any excess fluid retention, and a few drops of peppermint oil to get your circulation flowing. Then, use a pumice stone to buff away any callouses, rough skin and generally polish up your feet. Once feet are dry, give them a good rub with some barrier cream, and cut toenails straight across – there’s nothing worse than an overlong nail rubbing against the side of your hiking boot for 5 miles.
Pack a recovery kit
The sooner you treat developing blisters, the less aggravation they’ll give you. Blisters will arise in spots where friction occurs, you can take preventative measures by taping over any areas of your foot that will rub inside your hiking boot with some high quality medical tape. Air your feet regularly, as heat and sweat will quickly exacerbate matters if skin starts to rub. Pack strong plasters, duct tape (to place over a plaster that won’t stay in place), artificial skin and antiseptic cream. Ibuprofen is also great to have on hand. Finally, no true pilgrim leaves the house without a spare pair of hiking socks – that’s just common sense.
On the big day
The equipment you bring along on your adventure can make or break the condition of your feet. A light backpack is, of course, key. In El Camino de Santiago you won’t need to worry about bringing extra bottles of water, one will suffice, as there’s plenty of access to safe sources of drinking water. Your hiking boots should either be well worn, or at the very least, broken in, and a spare pair of insoles are a good investment. You may also want to consider the possibility of cross or trail trainers – they’re lightweight, breathable, and work better for some hikers than boots.
Follow this advice, and your feet will be fit to carry you across the fantastic and varied Santiago way. Happy trails!
Guest Post: Clint Davis is a backpacker and wanderer and is never happier than when he’s out in the fresh air exploring the world’s trails. He also enjoys bird watching.