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Barefoot training

William Garza

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
When i was a young person, i would go everywhere unshod in all weathers and conditions.
And my feet were like what a cave dudes would have been..rough,calloused and tough.
I read about blisters and wondered if a tough foot would not hold off blistering?

Been mulling bare footed walk training to get my Chevrolegs ready to be ready
What say you?
 
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domigee

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2020? Looks like.... nowhere! 😁
I walked with a young bloke who was bare foot. He had been used to it in the mountains somewhere... But then it had been several years previously...
He had to give up quite early on (soon after Pamplona?). His feet were a terrible, terrible mess and his mother (a nurse) was beside herself 🙁
By all means do it if it is what you are used to, but don’t if it is something ‘you once did when you were younger’....
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I have a fond memory of sitting at a table in downtown Fromista, beverage in front of me, watching pilgrims pass, all’s well with my world. And around the corner comes a young male pilgrim, swinging an onion on it’s stalk, a smile on his face, and nothing on his feet.

I think you’d have to do a lot of barefoot walking to toughen up the feet to be strong enough to go the distance. I’m barefoot around home and the farm, but across a country? that would be some feat.
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
I figured that after the feet had "hardened?" enough they would resist blistering in footwear longer from rubbing and such. At least thats my theory.
Lol..with my terrible gait i would not go too far!
 

evanlow

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Year of past OR future Camino
Frances06
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Unless you plan not to wear shoes on the Camino. Wear on your foot what you would when you walk the Camino. Toughen feet in the open doesn't mean the same when enclosed in footwear...
 
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NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I’d worry that a blister could form below the callous and be harder to deal with.

Would the heat of your boots soften those feet?
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
Unless you plan not to wear shoes on the Camino. Wear on your foot what you would when you walk the Camino. Toughen feet in the open doesn't mean the same when enclosed in footwear...
Thats what i was wondering about, i figured callouses would slow down blister formation as well as getting the feet ready by developing them -strength and use wise..
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
I have a fond memory of sitting at a table in downtown Fromista, beverage in front of me, watching pilgrims pass, all’s well with my world. And around the corner comes a young male pilgrim, swinging an onion on it’s stalk, a smile on his face, and nothing on his feet.

I think you’d have to do a lot of barefoot walking to toughen up the feet to be strong enough to go the distance. I’m barefoot around home and the farm, but across a country? that would be some feat.
I miss the feel of the warm fields under my feet, grew up in a rural area
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
With age, we suffer a decrease in the natural fat and cartilage padding of the feet, as well as other joints. (Think about your knees and how you probably need a kneeling pad for working on a hard floor, whereas in your youth years ago you didn't.) Last summer I walked for a couple of km in lovely wet sand at the beach. For days afterward, my feet were sore. I don't think that is "training" so much as it is maybe getting used to suffering - I don't believe it helps my feet in any way. I think my training would be better done in a way that does not aggravate my old bones any more than necessary, so I'll be wearing shoes.
 
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William Garza

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
With age, we suffer a decrease in the natural fat and cartilage padding of the feet, as well as other joints. (Think about your knees and how you probably need a kneeling pad for working on a hard floor, whereas in your youth years ago you didn't.) Last summer I walked for a couple of km in lovely wet sand at the beach. For days afterward, my feet were sore. I don't think that is "training" so much as it is maybe getting used to suffering - I don't believe it helps my feet in any way. I think my training would be better done in a way that does not aggravate my old bones any more than necessary, so I'll be wearing shoes.
Thats-This is why i came to you wonderful guys, real wisdom!!
I walk every nite here at work and upping the distance.its @8\10ths a mile around the yard so its a few laps! Ill have a lot more miles under the belt before i go.
The advice about blisters Under..the callous got to me..i shudder to imagine the work to fix that!
I havent walked in a while on our shoreline,we have a soft or hard mix from the shore to the dunes, and the soft sand was murder on my legs for about a week when shooting Rugby 7s matches..never figured until it was pointed out the unused ,under used muscles were the culprit.

Maybe a mix of sorts to engage all the muscle groups.
I dont want to grow old and miss out on the Caminos
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
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CF SJPDP-SdC
(May 2018)
VdlP (2022?)
I think it would take years to toughen up the feet sufficiently.
And as pointed out by @C clearly , and highlighted by my Podiatrist, as we age, our feet lose a lot of the natural 'padding'. Hence another reason to use orthotics........
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
the soft sand was murder on my legs

Maybe a mix of sorts to engage all the muscle groups.
If your legs are suffering, it seems like a good idea to do muscle conditioning - developed through a mix of training.

But I don't think that muscle development in the feet is a key factor. We don't have huge muscles in our feet! We have 26 bones and 30 joints in each foot, that need cushioning and support. (But I am not a medical person.)

So, I train by getting the absolute best shoes and custom orthotics, for comfort and support, and then I walk. A lot. The limiting factor is the happiness of my feet, not my legs.
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
If your legs are suffering, it seems like a good idea to do muscle conditioning - developed through a mix of training.

But I don't think that muscle development in the feet is a key factor. We don't have huge muscles in our feet! We have 26 bones and 30 joints in each foot, that need cushioning and support. (But that I am not a medical person.)

So, I train by getting the absolute best shoes and custom orthotics, for comfort and support, and then I walk. A lot.
Ime glad you guys gave the wisdom..i would have been a grave mistake-in the final iteration...which would have been the walk... i think it saved me from what could be a painfull mistake.

I do wear boots for the ankle support as i seem to be one of those guys who can roll an ankle on a smooth surface at will in trainers.

Learning lacing to get better support from the footwear now and orthotics.at least in my classic sense dont seem to work as well..i may see a podiatrist to get non commercial versions.

Knee braces for some days.
My cane if needed
A back brace.. which will be needed...i will be a sight!

I feel the insistent ticking of the biology as to my legs as i go...i love the freedom of walking
Its a fear i will face when the time comes to not being able to amble about...courage only goes so far as the damage takes longer to heal.

Its amazing what a freedom walking is.
 
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wayfarer

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2012
Walking barefoot will build up a tough sole on your feet but you can get blisters on your heels, ankle bones and the sides of your small and big toes.
The choice then is to walk all the way barefoot or forget about toughening up your soles and wear shoes/boots IMO.
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
Thats the plan now, i have a curiosity now at the biomechanics involved !

My main object is to train the legs/feet to strengthen them using more muscles,joints etc ...engaging them more than shoe only training.

The callous question i think was answered perfectly..dont want no blisters under toughened skin making 1st aid- care harder.

Sadly,it will be my knees(worn) that will require more attention, figured ide start at the bottom and work up,optimising the systems ina manner of speaking.
Ive already lost about 100 lbs since about a little over a year or so and that helped immensely in wear and tear.
Walking about here at work i like to imagine i am starting or finishing a day somewhere out there...
Right now about 3-4 miles after warming up is perfectly feasable..cant wait to reach five a nite for starters!
 
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trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
My main object is to train the legs/feet to strengthen them using more muscles,joints etc ...engaging them more than shoe only training.
Perhaps you should try minimalist shoes/sandals that encourage the use of more muscles in your feet?
 
Year of past OR future Camino
cf (2), de la plata, cp. (2003 -2018)
With age, we suffer a decrease in the natural fat and cartilage padding of the feet, as well as other joints. (Think about your knees and how you probably need a kneeling pad for working on a hard floor, whereas in your youth years ago you didn't.) Last summer I walked for a couple of km in lovely wet sand at the beach. For days afterward, my feet were sore. I don't think that is "training" so much as it is maybe getting used to suffering - I don't believe it helps my feet in any way. I think my training would be better done in a way that does not aggravate my old bones any more than necessary, so I'll be wearing shoes.
Ay my age I get the screaming ab dabs at the mere mention of suffering! :) I am fascinated however by those who can walk barefooted. I am a flatlander and urban and wouldn't chance it as there are a variety of unmentionables on city pavements and not all dog walkers clean up the shit! Tis a hard life :)

Samarkand.
 

Felice

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
SJPP to Santiago Sept 2014
Thats-This is why i came to you wonderful guys, real wisdom!!
I walk every nite here at work and upping the distance.its @8\10ths a mile around the yard so its a few laps! Ill have a lot more miles under the belt before i go.
The advice about blisters Under..the callous got to me..i shudder to imagine the work to fix that!
I havent walked in a while on our shoreline,we have a soft or hard mix from the shore to the dunes, and the soft sand was murder on my legs for about a week when shooting Rugby 7s matches..never figured until it was pointed out the unused ,under used muscles were the culprit.

Maybe a mix of sorts to engage all the muscle groups.
I dont want to grow old and miss out on the Caminos
I got a blister under the hard skin at the back of my heel, due to the insole not being properly in position for a couple of days. As I was not putting pressure on it, it did not bother me, but it was one heck of a big blister. I drained it each evening. Took ages for it to disappear completely, like several weeks.
 

henrythedog

Loved and fed by David
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2017, 2018, 2019, Ingles 2018, (Madrid 2019 partial - retired hurt!) (more planned)
When i was a young person, i would go everywhere unshod in all weathers and conditions.
And my feet were like what a cave dudes would have been..rough,calloused and tough.
I read about blisters and wondered if a tough foot would not hold off blistering?

Been mulling bare footed walk training to get my Chevrolegs ready to be ready
What say you?
I’ve never gone barefoot for any length of time, but I did spend a month in Namibia in ‘15 wearing sandals pretty much constantly. I found that I developed quite serious heel-cracks and needed to do some fairly serious filing and hard-skin removal.

Being actually barefoot would perhaps abrade and remove hard skin?
 
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David61

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2019
Frances (2020)
I understand that not only can blisters develop under calluses but they are much harder to treat.
I got one under the hard skin on the outside of my foot toward the back. Was really painful and impossible to deal with. Usually burst it, antiseptic, dress, double/treble dress over next few days, sorted. No, just patience and pain!
 

LesR

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2017, 2018; Camino Portuguese 2019
When i was a young person, i would go everywhere unshod in all weathers and conditions.
And my feet were like what a cave dudes would have been..rough,calloused and tough.
I read about blisters and wondered if a tough foot would not hold off blistering?

Been mulling bare footed walk training to get my Chevrolegs ready to be ready
What say you?
If you plan to walk barefoot, train that way.
If you plan to walk in foortwear, train in your intended footwear...

Simple

Is walking barefoot a good idea? - now that is another matter...
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
If you plan to walk barefoot, train that way.
If you plan to walk in foortwear, train in your intended footwear...

Simple

Is walking barefoot a good idea? - now that is another matter...
I realised where my question went south..but the invaluable info kept coming so I let it go.

Sorry, i meant no deception nor disrespect.

But. The intent of the question was based only in the training aspect..toughening up my feet by getting rid of the tenderfoot stage to where my feet were "acclimated"? To the stress xx kilometers a day would place on the mechanisms and making tough what is weak.

Walking barefoot on beach sand and grass works for me, but hard asphault and stuff would kill me. Getting the feet inured to the pain..getting the foot"stuffing" ready by walking over rough and uneven surfaces was my idea..but
Along the way, veterans of long distance gave sage advice on the Tao of Feet
Blisters that would be hard to fix under thick soles
Shoes and foot care. I read your stories about blisters and sprains and broke feet,hearts and bodies from doing feet wrong.

I will toughen up my feet with a balance of barefoot and shod.
I meant no disrespect ,i didnt ask the question the right way I think but got all the right answers from you guys!
 
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William Garza

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
Walking on the beach in a few inches of salt water is a good way to toughen up the feet without getting the hard sole William.
I will do that! Waters at 40f right now because of hard freeze..but thats what makes it fun!
 

Richard of York

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hi all, my first post ever. At last I can offer something.

I got into barefoot walking to help recover after a broken leg, and I go barefoot whenever I can, so in the UK March to October is warm enough. I walked the Dales Way last year. This year I've decided to do the Camino... here's my advice.

You have to train your feet every spring after a winter of being shod - this isn't just newbies, everyone's feet soften.

Start slowly. Grass and soft earth are nice, and grade up to smooth tarmac/paving (careful where it gets hot like maybe Spain in August). Eventually you will be able to deal with dirt tracks, gravel and even woodland paths with woodland detruitus everywhere.

Don't attempt to walk a full day, let alone 30, without being toughened up already.

City streets are variable for safety. Here in the UK there is very little to bother the feet in town, people clear up after dogs etc., In Germany though there is broken glass everywhere because of drinking in the street, so I had to give up while in Leipzig last September. Also, best to carry flipflops to go into shops to avoid people moaning.

Unless this is a penance you don't have to do it all barefoot, take trainers for when it gets too much. It's fun not a lifestyle.

Your gait will change - I land with my feet flat, like walking on ice. Be careful as your feet don't have the same grip as walking shoes. Don't try and keep up with the others if you can't. You will eventually, but you have to take it easy on more challenging surfaces or you will tear your feet or slip - all my incidents have been through carelessness in the early days.

The absolute worst thing is thorns. You can generally spot broken glass, but if you spot a thorn bush be really really careful. Stick to paths in woods for this reason. They are a nightmare to dig out.

Things to take:
- socks and shoes
- flip flops
- cocoa butter or some other moisturiser (heels get calloused - apply daily)
- a nail brush to clean your feet, they will get filthy and stained
- (most important thing) tweezers
- maybe a couple of plasters, your toes may still rub.

I am virtually walking the Camino Francés and I am nearly as far as Burgos by clicking through on Streetview (most of it is there). The surface is mostly flat dirt track with tiny stones, or paved roads/streets. I see no reason not to attempt it, with trainers for when I don't want to.

Good luck
 

Camino Chrissy

Take one step forward...then keep on walking..
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015;
Norte/Primitivo 2016;
Frances 2017;
Le Puy 2018;
Portuguese/FishermanTr. 2019
Welcome to the forum, Richard!
Wow, what an interesting post. You have covered about every possible scenario with tips on walking barefoot. I had not ever contemplated it, even for a mile, although I'm just returning from a lengthy trip where I often walked a soft sand beach barefoot for up to four miles; delightful. I have walked barefoot on gravel across parking lots doing a "dance of pain" with each step...ouch!
I'm sure in time you will be posting a second one before long.
Thank you for your first and very unique contribution to this forum.
 

stinmd

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances - May 2015; Camino del Norte/Primitivo - July/August 2016; Camino Portugues - Sept 2017
I have a fond memory of sitting at a table in downtown Fromista, beverage in front of me, watching pilgrims pass, all’s well with my world. And around the corner comes a young male pilgrim, swinging an onion on it’s stalk, a smile on his face, and nothing on his feet.

I think you’d have to do a lot of barefoot walking to toughen up the feet to be strong enough to go the distance. I’m barefoot around home and the farm, but across a country? that would be some feat.
Shoes were invented for a reason...
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
Shoes were invented for a reason...
I’m sure the fashion industry had a lot to do with some of the torture devices invented and called footwear, but I take your point.
 
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SeaHorse

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015 (SJPDP-Finisterre), planning Norte
Mind that Caminos go also through cities and industrial areas. Lots of motor oil, broken glass, and other things you don't really want to touch with your bare skin.
 

Arn

Veteran Member
I’ve never gone barefoot for any length of time, but I did spend a month in Namibia in ‘15 wearing sandals pretty much constantly. I found that I developed quite serious heel-cracks and needed to do some fairly serious filing and hard-skin removal.

Being actually barefoot would perhaps abrade and remove hard skin?
My mother-in-law is(was) a native of Namibia and swore that neem oil (introduced by Indians working in the Skeleton coast) were the GoTo ointment for many maladies including dry skin.
Never tried it, but this would be the first thing she ever recommended that made sense.
 

Richard of York

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Mind that Caminos go also through cities and industrial areas. Lots of motor oil, broken glass, and other things you don't really want to touch with your bare skin.
There's less than you think, and most of the camino is amongst fields. Where I live I tend to put flipflops on in the city centre so as not to look like a tramp. It is true though I end up looking at the ground ahead of me more than I would normally want to.

Remember it is supposed to be fun, mindful, meditative, grounding, etc... Anything that takes away from that, like tarmac, dog poo, etc. isn't serving you, so put shoes on. It isn't all or nothing.
 

Walkerooni

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
C. Frances SJPdP to Santiago (June-ish 2018)
If you want to walk on sharp vertical rock (think Viskarret to Zubiri), or on baking rock such that your hiking boots are sinking into melting ashphalt (more places than I can name), or walk on sharp gravel for 30km (everywhere), or stub a bare toe into rocks which cause a jolt in hiking boots (more places than I can name), by all means train to walk barefoot. Otherwise, find a suitable option for your footwear, break them in, and have a blessed walk.
 

Ian L

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances summer 2017 (SJPP to Fromista)
Camino Frances summer 2019 (Fromista to Santiago)
I would never actually walk a Camino barefoot or in minimalist footwear, but I have integrated it and other feet strengthening exercises into my training. Foot pain has not been an issue since!

I got the idea for this after reading Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen (by Christopher McDougall).

This book is probably the biggest reason for the barefoot/minimalist running trend in recent years. Don't worry if you're not a runner, it is such an entertaining story that I think just about enyone would enjoy it. There are even plans to make a movie out of it.


 
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SeaHorse

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015 (SJPDP-Finisterre), planning Norte
There's less than you think, and most of the camino is amongst fields.
I don't have to think how much of what there is, I know. There's enough. And "fields" quite often are rocky mountain paths too. No problem with proper footwear but I wouldn't go there even in running shoes. Well, some people do, their choice. But when we discuss things we better give a truthful picture to those who are in planning stages of their camino.
 

Doughnut NZ

From Aotearoa New Zealand
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
I don't have to think how much of what there is, I know. There's enough. And "fields" quite often are rocky mountain paths too. No problem with proper footwear but I wouldn't go there even in running shoes. Well, some people do, their choice. But when we discuss things we better give a truthful picture to those who are in planning stages of their camino.
Most of the comments that are negative about walking a Camino barefoot seem to be from people with a probable habit of wearing shoes and therefore don't know any different from their own experience.

It is correct that if I usually wear shoes then without extensive preparation then I will have many difficulties. I do usually wear shoes these days (or Jandals) and I would not attempt walking a Camino barefoot.

As a child, however, for the first seven years of my life the only time that I wore a pair of shoes was for my Confirmation. My feet were deeply calloused and I could and did walk and run anywhere. On gravel, through thorns, on hot tarmac and everywhere else my fancy took me. I did sometimes need to dig out a thorn with a stick or an old nail but nothing slowed me down and none of it really injured my feet.

I remember when we moved to NZ and some kids at my new school tried to bully me for being from Fiji and tried calling me a fire walker. So one day I took a packet of matches to school and during the lunch break I gathered the chief bullies together and dared them to do what I did.

I lit two matches and held them to the sole of one foot and then did the same to the other foot. I then invited them to do the same. None of them would and the bullying stopped.

I mention this story to illustrate that our feet are quite capable of taking us pretty much anywhere, without the need for shoes, IF we prepare them correctly.

There is nowhere on the Camino Frances that can't be walked in bare feet if our feet are properly prepared, including through the snow.
 

SeaHorse

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2015 (SJPDP-Finisterre), planning Norte
Most of the comments that are negative about walking a Camino barefoot seem to be from people with a probable habit of wearing shoes and therefore don't know any different from their own experience.

It is correct that if I usually wear shoes then without extensive preparation then I will have many difficulties. I do usually wear shoes these days (or Jandals) and I would not attempt walking a Camino barefoot.

As a child, however, for the first seven years of my life the only time that I wore a pair of shoes was for my Confirmation. My feet were deeply calloused and I could and did walk and run anywhere. On gravel, through thorns, on hot tarmac and everywhere else my fancy took me. I did sometimes need to dig out a thorn with a stick or an old nail but nothing slowed me down and none of it really injured my feet.

I remember when we moved to NZ and some kids at my new school tried to bully me for being from Fiji and tried calling me a fire walker. So one day I took a packet of matches to school and during the lunch break I gathered the chief bullies together and dared them to do what I did.

I lit two matches and held them to the sole of one foot and then did the same to the other foot. I then invited them to do the same. None of them would and the bullying stopped.

I mention this story to illustrate that our feet are quite capable of taking us pretty much anywhere, without the need for shoes, IF we prepare them correctly.

There is nowhere on the Camino Frances that can't be walked in bare feet if our feet are properly prepared, including through the snow.
That's a good one! I actually did some firewalking as a teenager, accidentally, but still counts, right?
 

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