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methylated spirits to toughen the feet

Discussion in 'Medical issues on the pilgrimage' started by ann kirkwood, Jul 24, 2007.

  1. ann kirkwood

    ann kirkwood New Member

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    This tip is from my mother who is an "old wife" so I'm wondering is it an old wives's tale. She says I should be rubbing methylated spirits into my feet to toughen them as a blister prevention.
    Has anyone else tried this? After all the blister horror stories I have read I might give it a go.
    Thoughts anyone?

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  2. KiwiNomad06

    KiwiNomad06 Member

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    ann, I am not very good at searching this forum properly, but I am fairly certain it was someone on here in just the last week or so who said a very definite "No" to meths..... that an old chemist locally had promoted it, but they found it just dried out feet and caused them to crack and be sore etc. Sorry though, I can't find the actual posting.
  3. spursfan

    spursfan Member

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    I can remember being told this 30 years ago before a long walk - since then there have been lots of improvements in technical equipment

    I'd focus on decent socks, maybe liner socks as well, changing socks and letting feet dry during the day, bodyglide or vaseline, some preventative plasters and compeed if needed before I'd bother about meths
  4. Minkey

    Minkey New Member

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    once again I'm gonna have to agree with Spursfan.

    Might also be worth venturing into the realms of sock liners, too... although I found that I don't really need them when I'm wearing my Smartwool socks.
  5. John Hussey

    John Hussey Member

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    Alcohol to toughen feet

    The expatriated British hiking/trekking guru Colin Fletcher,who wrote various books on the subject, and who even today is still considered quite an authority on the subject, espoused the very same method to 'toughen up' one's feet. He wrote a series of books entitled "The Complete Walker", updating the data each couple of years as technology advanced to supplant the old. So, if it was his opinion that it might work, I'd have to side with him.
  6. ann kirkwood

    ann kirkwood New Member

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    advice in "The Year we Seized the Day"

    I really enjoyed "The Year we Seized the Day" by Elizabeth Best and Colin Bowles on the Camino Frances. Here's the meths quote,

    "Massaging your feet with methylated spirits for two weeks prior to walking a pilgrimage (just like my eighty-three year old chemist told me to) in fact mercilessly dehydrates the skin, reducing its elasticity and therefore greatly increasing the chances of cracks, peels and blisters, along with considerably compromising the body's ability to heal affected areas."

    That convinced me to stop the meths. (I sound like a reformed druggie)
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  7. KiwiNomad06

    KiwiNomad06 Member

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    Ahhhhhhh so that is where I read it recently.. not on this forum but in that book, in the airplane, on my way back home from Oz! ( No wonder I couldn't find the posting when I used 'search'! Duh!)
  8. lillypond

    lillypond New Member

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    On the opposite end of the spectum -
    would applying Lanolin creme have too softening an effect? Reason for asking - a friend intends doing the Camino and she has already started apply lanolin - when she told me I became confused : Is this a good thing to do or a bad thing? :oops:

    I have become so foot conscious. After my normal daily activities I now notice the moisture content of my socks.

    re: Australian authors.
    Both *The Year We Seized the Day* and *Walking the Camino* were reviewed in The Australian this weekend. The heading read "Spanish pilgrimages generate tears of rage (The Year...) and hymns of joy (Walking....). *The Year .... seems to portray one crisis after another feet, knees, emotional rage and colorful language ! Whilst *Walking... evokes expressions like "The doors into my soul started to open" and there is a slowly spreading sense of peace.

    Kinda reinforces that every journey is individual.

    lillypond.
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  9. ann kirkwood

    ann kirkwood New Member

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    The year we seized the day

    Although I was a little terrified by the feet stories in the book I couldn't help but think that they set off with 2 weeks notice, so shoes cannot have been broken in and they were also carrying 14kg each. They probably didn't have the benefit of advice from the veterans on this site as well.

    I am heartened by the posts on this site re blisters where people have had blister free walks using a variety of preventatives. I'll be doing my best and using a combo of all. I'll be interested to hear what the lanolin consensus is.
    Cheers
  10. lillypond

    lillypond New Member

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    Toe squincher

    On the subject of toughening feet - strenghtening feet

    in his book *Walking The Complete Book* Jeff Galloway comments on an exercise called the Toe Squincher - for prevention of injuries of the foot and lower leg

    *GETTING STARTED Toe squincher -

    I believe that this exercise will help just about every person who runs or walks. Whether barefooted or not, point your toes and contract the muscles of your foot until they cramp. It only takes a few seconds for this to happen. You can repeat this exercise 10-30 times a day, every day.

    This is the best way I know to prevent a foot injury called Plantar Fasciia - but it strengthens the areas all over the foot and ankle for better support. I've also head from runners who believe it has helped to prevent Achilles tendon problems.*

    I have been doing this recently and it looks basically looks like you trying to pick something up off the floor with your toes.

    lillypond.
  11. Minkey

    Minkey New Member

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    I had Plantar Faciitis as a runner and have to say that it's a horrible, horrible pain. I could barely walk on the soles of my feet for 8-9 weeks. I did this exercise but actually used a pencil to pick up.
  12. lynnejohn

    lynnejohn Active Member Donating Member

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    A thick coat of petroleum jelly on your feet before putting on your socks in the morning prevents blisters. I had only 1 blister in two caminos.

    Peace, lynne
  13. Minkey

    Minkey New Member

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    Or alternatively use sock liners. Very thin socks that go on before your beefy ones!
  14. John Hussey

    John Hussey Member

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    Best Suggestion

    This is the very best suggestion for preventing blisters when making high mileage in a very short time-as in a race. use a very thin pair of relatively cheap polypropro sock liners underneath your wool socks. The friction now, instead of between your wet skin and the sock, is changed to between the polypropro sock and the wool one and the blister factor becomes mitigated substantially. Regrettably few, other than long distance racers, use it. It works surprisingly well!!
  15. Minkey

    Minkey New Member

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  16. brendan nolan

    brendan nolan New Member

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    Methylated spirits

    Hi Ann,
    The last thing you want on your feet is hard skin since that is likely to actually cause blisters. There are various solutions to avoiding blisters which others have suggested. There is one more possibility - rubbing soap on the inside of the socks before putting them on. However I think the best thing is double socks which prevent friction and therefore blisters. Always make sure the socks are completely dry before you put them on.

    Buen Camino,
    Brendan
  17. lillypond

    lillypond New Member

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    Re: Methylated spirits

  18. jeff001

    jeff001 Member

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  19. JohnnieWalker

    JohnnieWalker Nunca se camina solo

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    The is the BEST and most definitive article on the subject I've come accross for ages - thank you. It offers very practical advice on preparation, socks, methods of prevention products and treatment of blisters. And it comes from qualified experts! We should remember it as a permanent resource here.
  20. sillydoll

    sillydoll Active Member

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    Treatment for feet

    I have a friend, an ultra-marathon runner and mountain backpacker, who swears blind by Dubbin.
    Yes - that brownish tallow stuff traditionally used on leather goods or under saddles on horses to prevent moisture friction.
    Adverts for Dubbin tell you that it ".. nourishes leather at the same time forming a slightly greasy-feeling protective film. Keeps leather soft and supple. Traditional waterproofing to seal out the wet."
    And Errol says, "If it works on animal hides, why not human hides too,"
    So - there you have it! Go out and buy a tin of Dubbin for your boots and your feet!
  21. Minkey

    Minkey New Member

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    Surely Vaseline has a similar effect?

    I'm not doing anything to my feet... Boots are broken in, socks have been washed, clothes are lying in a pile in the middle of my floor and a list of random bits and bobs lie beside them.

    Role on Saturday morning!

    Sil, any news on the crowds?
  22. JohnnieWalker

    JohnnieWalker Nunca se camina solo

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    Buen Camino Minkey - I set off on Sunday myself for Madrid and then the final stage of the VdlP to reach Santiago again on 1 or 2 September. I hope all goes well for you.

    I too am looking at a pile of washed and folded clothes, boots, sandles and bits and bobs - a well kent scene is the house of every pilgrim :)
  23. John Hussey

    John Hussey Member

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    So as to answer the original question of this post, "methylated spirits to toughen the feet", I found my copy of Colin Fletcher & Chip Rawlins, "The Complete Walker IV", Alfred A Knopf publisher, New York 2002.

    On pages 108 & 109, under the title 'Getting Your Feet Ready', part of the paragraph reads:

    "For years the only substitute I've known-and a poor one at that-has been to toughen up the skin (soles, toes, and heels particularly) by regular applications of rubbing alcohol for a week or so beforehand. If you put the alcohol bottle beside your toothbrush, it's not to difficult to remember this simple half-minute chore, morning and night. But alcohol tends to dry the skin, and I'm told that tincture of benzoin works better. My limited experience suggests that it does-though it's a little messier to use. Unfortunately, it has become a special-order item at most drugstores."

    My personal experience is, once the footwear has been broken in, just a good pair of some smart wool (merino) socks work great for casual walking, even all day. But once one picks up one's pace, then a polypro thin liner underneath the wool socks does wonders to abate the damp friction which causes blisters.
  24. Kodiak

    Kodiak New Member

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    feet and rain

    More on feet:

    I've heard good things about these, but have only used gifted ones for running, not for lengthy hikes just yet:

    http://www.wrightsock.com/

    The wool-blends don't appear to be too great from the site information, but the advantage would be not worrying about keeping track of liners (which I imagine is not a problem for everyone as it is for me).

    I've pretty much decided not to use my tough leather/waterproof hiking boots and use my merrill walking/trail runner shoes instead, but the latter aren't waterpoofed. I'll be walking in late September -- anyone have thoughts as to whether this is a good decision? Is September particularly rainy? Should I use the walking shoes but waterproof them or defer to the hikers?

    Not on feet: would you vote for a packable poncho or heavier rainjacket?

    Thank you!
  25. Martin0642

    Martin0642 New Member

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    Kodiak - as for the boots...I used my Merrel Borneo's (just came back) and they were fine. However I only did Camini from Leon to Santiago so I cant vouch for how they would be on the meseta. I suspect fine - the trick with boots is in the lacing. Loose for flat, loose but snug in the middle for climbs and snug all over for ankle support on the way down. NEVER tight. If you really need them tight to keep them on they're the wrong boots.

    That said I think the walking shoes would be ok if you're experienced and well practiced. The mountain bits round a coruna and galicia can be very steep and very loose - if you doubt your ankle strength even a bit then support them. Be a shame to cop out at that point with injury. Otherwise go for the shoes - you'll be fine. It may well rain but one way or another you'll get through.

    On top - depends what else you have. Some of the nights got very cold even after 35 degree days so I was glad I had a microfleece. I only needed my raincoat 2, maybe 3 times. A poncho would have done but I preferred the jacket - just my personal preference. The downside of a raincoat is water gets between you and your pack. If you go with the poncho I found the cheap ones were worse than useless so it may be worth hunting a bit.

    :)
  26. Kodiak

    Kodiak New Member

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    Martin --

    Thank you. Your post was very informative.

    I actually never vary the lacing on my boots, so I especially appreciate that bit, and that also speaks to my inexperience, I guess.

    I am only doing seven days out of St. Jean, however far that gets me, and then doing seven days each year until I finish. I guess I'm not sure whether the boots would be better for that bit of the terrain.

    You're right about bad ponchos, garbage sacks do a better job.

    Are your Borneo's waterproof?

    c
  27. jeff001

    jeff001 Member

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    With regard to lacing: You can reduce the risk of blisters and injured toenails on downhills by relacing your boots. Before starting down loosen the laces and kick the heel down to force your foot all the way to the back of the boot. Then relace with the front laces tighter than normal to keep your feet from sliding forward.
  28. Martin0642

    Martin0642 New Member

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    Exactly what he said :) But I would add you need your ankle snug too. When going uphill on a steep slope your lower leg will cover a wide angle from front to back (imagine how your lower leg moves as you step up a slope with the leg pointing back and then as you shift weight the leg pivots forward in the boot). So that's why a looser fit is better uphill, it allows your leg a wide range of movement.

    Going downhill your weight is directly above your foot and your legs probably wont move too much laterally. Because your weight is over it though, you place more strain on the ankle and therefore stand more risk of twisting it if you lose your footing - which is of course easier because your weight is going straight down. Hence the changes in lacing.

    I also found that some of my blisters were caused by over tightening the laces early on. I forgot on a couple of occasions that you need to let your feet warm up and swell slightly first. Lace your boots loosely, they wont fall off, and then walk for 10-20 minutes. Then adjust them to fit properly.

    The Borneo's are full-grain leather so yes they are both waterproof and breathable. Gore-tex is more waterproof and breathable but you cant have it as an external layer because it's not actually that tough (by comparison).
  29. Kodiak

    Kodiak New Member

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    Thank you! Borneos are high boots, then?

    Now I'm definitely leaning towards my boots now that I'm learning the lacing tricks (not to mention for ankle support and waterproofing value).

    I am going to look more into the weather and terrain from St. Jean, and choose my walking gear based on that. I don't know how drastically the landshape changes within seven days' walking time from St. Jean, but I imagine I need less versatile shoes than if I were planning to do closer to half the pilgrimage this time around.

    Did you choose your shoes at all based upon the support you would need given the anticipated weight you would be carrying on your back?
  30. Martin0642

    Martin0642 New Member

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    I suppose you could call the Borneo's high boots... I tend to think of the more military style boots that go up on to the calf as high boots though.

    I chose my boots based on 1. ankle support 2. general build quality and 3. their ability to withstand whatever I threw at them. For me that was the Camino, and the british mountains such as the Lake District. (maybe mountains is too strong a term since i climbed higher hills in spain than any that exist in the UK) So for those reasons they needed to be general purpose, and exceptionally good. It came down to Meindl or Scarpa (as they are probably the best boots you can buy with the exception of top of the range han-wag or real specialist boots)

    Meindl's are more comfy straight away so that swung it!

    However, when I do the camino again I'm going to have a look at alt-berg. They're a british manafacturer, based not too far from me (a days outing to go to the factory) and their top of the range boots are well reviewed. They make copies of the british army boots that a lot of soldiers (apparently) buy so they have better versions of the military issue. Thats a pretty good reccomendation in my book! Also - they will make custom boots for you if you cant find a perfect fit with any of their stock boots. They tend to be a mixture of fabrics, including cordura and kevlar so I think they would be better. But still sticking with the boot design rather than shoes. I'm used to wearing boots on the flat so that aspect doesnt bother me.

    I think if you're an experienced walker..and more importantly practiced (so your ankles are still strong) then good tough shoes would be fine. But then I saw people doing the camino in sneakers and they seemed ok. For me I like the idea of a tough sole! Whatever you choose I would definitely go for something with a Vibram sole. They are made for a wide range of boots and shoes and they are exceptionally good at protecting your feet. Well worth it.

    From what I gathered the early part of the camino is very hilly, it being the Pyrenees so I would go for boots. Given what you're planning..week long stints..you can have the luxury of using shoes for the meseta and boots for the hilly bits.

    Ultimately I wanted boots that would last a long time and be perfectly happy with a wet british hillside, on slippery rocks, on shale, on grass, mud, dust...anything. And I believe thats what I have.

    One thing to note though, if you go for leather boots make sure you go somewhere with a really good fitting service.Wear them as much as possible indoors to see how they feel. If theres a little hot spot you will get a blister there! The advantage of leather (besides being tough and waterproof) is that; if there's a spot that keeps rubbing you can get a shop to use a rubbing bar to stretch them at that point. Doesn't work on fabric boots because they're too elastic.

    Oh..and brush your boot soff and rinse them each day. The leather has pores which can get clogged with dirt and dust and will make them less breathable and eventually less pliable. Five minutes each day will make them last longer and more comfy.

    Hope this helps...sorry for the rant!! :lol:
  31. gemini48

    gemini48 New Member

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  32. gemini48

    gemini48 New Member

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    A friend just returned and said a woman in St. Jean showed her a special way to lace boots for the downhill part of the Pyrenees.
    Does anyone know details about this? I'm leaving the US in eight days. Many thanks!
  33. whariwharangi

    whariwharangi Active Member

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    The idea is to lace your boots tighter at the ankles to help prevent your foot from sliding forward. If your foot slides forward too often your toe strikes the front of the boot blackening toenails due to the bruising. aka hammer toes. You have to remember to loosen the lacing when you get level ground again or you risk increasing rubbing on the heel.
  34. Magwood

    Magwood Active Member Donating Member

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    Here is a useful video
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  35. dougfitz

    dougfitz Active Member Donating Member

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    Another useful resource is here. Go to the link labelled 'Shoelace tips for sports'. A more complete list of lacing techniques is here.
  36. gemini48

    gemini48 New Member

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    Thank you, dougfitz for your advice. I will checkout shoelace tips for sports. I leave the US on 9/23. It's coming soon...:)
  37. tinhipwalker

    tinhipwalker New Member

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    Just got back from walking Sarria to Santiago. Vaseline or Vicks Salve (menthylated) were both recommended by our tour guides. Each morning we massaged our feet with either, before putting on socks and shoes. It helped. Try it before you leave. Compeed, a blister plaster available and used by our tour guides to cover blisters, were used by some walkers every day. Instant pain relief they said when plaster was applied. I checked the ingredients and menthly was one of the first ingredients.
    Also, gave up my polypro liners under hiking socks and on advice of a foot soldier, used women's knee high tights-trouser socks. It works. Give it a try before you go.
    tinhipwalker
  38. pilgrim b

    pilgrim b Active Member Donating Member

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