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Camino #4 - From zero to hero (everything I learned so far and how you can walk 40+km as well)

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Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
*EDIT* If you want to go 10 km per day and smell the roses, this post in NOT for you, so I shall not answer any such comments anymore. This is for people who are intrigued by the challenge of walking long distances. It is not intended to criticize anyone. If you find it helpful great! If not, that's great as well! Do your thing and let me do mine. Buen Camino to everyone.

Introduction
: I am not a doctor, a professional athlete, or even a frequent hiker. I barely made it through my first camino, that lasted just 8 days (220 km) with 20 km days. My knees were fried, I had severe joint pain, plantar fasciitis and blisters. It took more than a week to recover when I returned.
Fast forward to today, 4 years older: I did what seemed impossible, with virtually NO extra training. I walked 35 – 48 km every single day for 18 consecutive days, with no knee or foot pain, while carrying 9 - 10 kg on my back, including a computer.
So if you are also interested to join the leagues of the crazies disappearing into the sunset… read on, here is my advice to you. I will tell you *exactly* how I did it.
Important note: I make no money if you buy from the links. They are just products I used and that I poked my eyes out to find.

I. Detailed Itinerary

This is my detailed itinerary (over 40k days are circled). I am in my 30’s, I weight 65 kg and my height is 1,65 cm. So a 10 kg backpack is 15.38% of my bodyweight. It’s a lot. I don’t regulary exercise but I like to cycle for recreation.
CAMINO 2021.jpg
I walked 38,6 km on my first day through scorching heat and felt absolutely no pain or fatigue at the end of the day (I had planned a smaller day but I overwalked). Then I arranged to do smaller days to train and adjust my body. For my first marathon (the first I’ve walked in my life) I send my 9 – 10 kg backpack (depending on how much water and food it contained) with correo to my destination and walked with 4-5 kg instead. Day 9 I took the via Romana through a stretch of 20 km of interminable meseta, on thick stones and with no shadow. Still felt fine at the end of the day but the next fatigue caught up with me, so I walked to Leon and took a bus to San Martin (20 km). Day 15 was 38 km, not 46 km, as I chose the 7 km shorter camino route. Other than that I walked all the way with my backpack. On day 17 (48 km) I could have walked more but there was no availabilty on the albergues in front. Since I walked in June, I had to deal with both extreme heat and freezing rain/wind. Most days I started walking at 5:30 in the morning. A few days of cold or lazyness I started as late as 9:00. On one of my marathons I arrived at 15:15. So with no significant stops (1 hour total more or less) you can be at the albergue midday. On other days where I wanted to also do sightseeing (ex. Astorga) I arrived at the albergue at 20:00 – 21:30. My top speed is 6 km/h (speedwalking). In the mornings I could sustain around 2-3 h of 5 km/h walks (with stops). Later with the heat I would drop to 4 km/h or even 3-3,5 on ascents. You need to study how you perform during the course of the day in order to plan accordingly. But as a general rule, as soon as the heat starts (12:30 – 13:00) your speed will fall dramatically.The body doesn’t seem able to deal with heat regulation – homeostasis and athletic performance at the same time. You need to be keep yourself as cool as possible and make sure that your clothes/gear allows for sweat to evaporate (which brings your temperature down) in order to maintain a normal speed.

II. General advice

When you first walk a camino you always carry too much weight. Why? Two reasons, a) lightweight gear is more expensive and you don’t invest in proper equipment since you are just starting out, b) you think you will suffer it out. Well here’s the problem, if you carry too much the problem isn’t your muscles, which get significantly stronger quickly. The problem is inflammation of the ligaments which accumulates over the days, sometimes to the point of you having to stop altogether. Your knees start to hurt, your achilles tendon pinches you, you have pain while stepping on your heels (plantar fasciitis), you might even get shin splits which are microfractions of the tibia. You can’t suffer though these issues, because they can lead to severe damage if ignored. So while it is good to be self sufficient and have everything you need with you, most things you can probably do without if you feel well enough to walk more until you reach a store or albergue that has what you might need. You are not in the wilderness.

So the two more important things are a) carry less and b) take care of your feet every single day. For a) I will give you a detailed packing list. For b) what you have to do is the following:
- Buy expensive athletic socks or merino socks (9 – 20 euros per pair). These should have sewing around the middle of your foot to keep them tight. Your socks should not wrinkle because they will cause blisters. And they shouldn't be hidroscopic (like cotton), meaning they should not swell when getting wet because this also leads to warm feet = blisters. You can get by with only 1 or 2 pairs of proper socks for your whole camino. Make sure to test them beforehand.
- Stop at least twice while walking to apply anti-friction cream on your feet. My routine is 2-fold, first I spray my feet with a cold effect gel from Decathlon and a few seconds later apply this magic, very cheap cream on my feet, that can be bought in many supermarkets in Spain and only costs 2 euros. I went through 2 tubes in 18 days. I do not use vaseline. This cream helps prevent blisters, alleviates pain and also gives you a cooling effect in the scorching heat. Apply liberally.
gel-frio-piernas-cansadas-babaria.png 150-ml-Cold-Spray.jpg

- Take a cold foot bath every day before going to bed, for at least 20 min. For this I carry a foldable water bucket with me (can be found here https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000274436958.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4d6rgqKe for 7 euros). You can also stop during the way and use it in cafeterias while taking your snack outside. If you have blisters add salt to the water to disinfect them.
- Use this massage ball from Decathlon before going to sleep (roll it under your soles applying pressure):
- Use walking sticks
Don’t buy the cheapest ones. Check the handle and make sure it is comfortable to hold. Mine have a handle made out of cork, not plastic. Also check that the height is quickly adjustable, meaning your walking sticks should have crasps and not be the rotating kind. I often adjust height while walking, depending on the elevation and prefered walking style for the road. I’ve made custom protrusions on my handles that precisely fit my index finger using quality air-dry clay (Cleopatre brand, made in France). It stuck on the cork surface on it’s own and it already lasted more than 1000 km of walking. This allows me to swing my sticks with ease without needing to grab them too tightly. Don’t hesitate to tweak and adjust your equipent to your body, it really makes a difference.
- Always wear knee braces
The standard knee brace (that looks like a cylinder you slide on your leg) is difficult to wear over pants and tend to fall as you’ve inevitably lose weight on the camino. So I only recommend it for the afternoon while resting, if you have pain, or if you always walk in shorts. I use this type: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000001859847.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dbHO9LX
This can be very easily be adjusted as needed and can be worn over your pants. The only disadvantage is heat retention. I will be testing this more minimal type for my next camino: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32807478751.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dbHO9LX

That’s it. That’s how you save your feet and knees. I will cover walking styles and shoes/blister prevention in the next section.

III. Feet types and shoes

Observe how people around you walk. Most men tend to point their feet outwards when walking. The pilgrims that did that seemed to suffer less while walking but had knee pain when descending and are more susceptible to shin splits. This is more a walking style of people with “flat feet” and men. Check the following diagram.

41628_49ac5b7ed4bc4e30b4688f9ad3c1c112_1527090379.jpeg

I personally have the opposite problem: a very high arch. The natural position of my feet is slightly inward. This means that most of the weight is carried by my heels which creates imflammation of the plantar fascia, achilles tendon and knee pain. I mostly step with the external part of my foot. This is common in women, as we tend to have a larger pelvis for obvious reasons. Fortunately there is a very easy solution: gel inserts that support the arch of your foot so that the weight gets distributed on a larger part of your foot. I also added an extra gel padding under my heals. Just with these 2 small adjustments I was able to walk 615 km with virtually no foot pain. Study your walking style (look at the soles of a well worn shoe and were you have hard skin on your feet for an easy answer) and understand what is the cause of you pain – your can fix it, promise. Here is an example: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005001459166932.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.57764c4dafzOj5

But no matter what your feet look like the shoes you use need to have *thick* soles. You should be able to walk on stones without feeling them too much. The inside of your shoes should feel soft. First buy your socks and wear them while buying your shoes, which should be at least 1 size bigger than normal, preferably 1,5 size bigger. Check that your toes have room enough to lift and to open side to side. I find hiking boots too warm from the camino (June to October). Hiking shoes that end at ankle should be enough. Also buy a pair of hiking sandals (I recommend the ones from Decathlon that cost 30 euros), also test them wearing the socks.

I woke in my hiking shoes in the morning when it’s cooler and my feet are less swollen. I switch to my sandals for the rest of the day. Having 2 pairs of shoes is essential to prevent blisters. On that note, study your toes and check which ones touch each other – those will probably blister. It’s usually the little toes. Cover them the touching areas with hydrocolloid patches or wear a silicone separator while walking. Patches should be applied *before* a blister forms, not after.

IV. Walking styles

It’s amazing to me how most pilgrims use the same walking style on every surface. Athletic walking isn’t automatic – it requires concentration and conscious stepping. Most people do not seem to know how to use their walking sticks and instead just drag them along with a clacking sound. So let’s start with that.

Walking sticks are there for two reasons. First of all when you have weight on your back you tend to alter your posture by leaning forward. This forces you to bend your knees and put’s stain on the ligaments. By holding the sticks in front of you are able to transfer some of the weight to your hands and stabilise your posture so you can walk more naturally despite the weight. Second there are to help you push the ground the moment you also push the ground with your back foot to propel in forward. This is immensely helpful and if you sychnronise hand and foot this gives you crazy speed. But you need to put some force in your biceps and use the muscles in your hands, they don’t tire so easily, which is very helpful. As a plus you will get some nice, strong arms. Lastly ascents and descends become safer, sticks prevent a fall on slippery ground.

Now about walking… I use four styles, which I named olympic walk, powerwalk, the “swag” and “beach walk”. They are all different from my “normal” walk. They allow me to go faster when I want to or rest some muscles for a while. For the first one lean forward as in a running position and stick your butt out. Stand tall so that the weight is carried by your shoulders, leaving your lower body free to move. Look down (holding your head up is tiresome). Now propel yourself forward walking your feet one in from of the other, taking very big steps by swinging your pelvis. Check videos of “racewalking” on youtube for detailed explanations. Powerwalk in similar but in this case you take big steps without swinging your pelvis too much, which strains the hip joint if you do it too much. The “swag” is a very cool walk where you also swing your shoulders while walking (think rappers walking in videoclips), you are mostly relaxed when doing it. Beach walk is for descends and when you get tired of walking on rocks, mostly works with sandals. You open you toes wide and keep them like that. Then you imagine you are walking on sand trying to feel it with your whole sole. You propel yourself forward by first touching your spread toes and then the ball of the foot.

To maintain rhythm use music. Always step on the beat.
6 km/h songs:
5 km/h songs:
4+ km/h song:

IV. Packing list

1) Backpack: It needs to have side pockets, as well as pockets on the hip straps. You need to be able to grab your water bottle , money and snacks while walking, without having to take the backpack off. Also desirable a space between your back and the backpack for sweat evaporation. I have this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32880245260.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dI8Q1vb
2) Sun hat: With a large brim to cover the backside of your neck and your ears. You survive the meseta by pulling the brim and covering the interminable horizon which makes you feel disheartened with the distance you have to travel. You protect your face from the sun. Foldable. I like this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32982924429.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4d8WSHCc
3) Rain coat & rain cover for your backpack
4) For the feet: Gel frio piernas cansadas, cold spray, foldable water bucket, decathlon small massage ball, gel inserts for the shoes
5) Pharmacy: hidrocolloid patches, large hanzaplast that you can cut to size, needle and dental floss to thread blisters, magnesium pills (prevent cramps), Brexin (strong antiflammatory), paracetamol (mild antiflammatory/pain killer), mesulid (strong pain killer),caffeine pills (optional when tired), small scissors, sunscreen
6) Hiking shoes and hiking sandals
7) Toiletries: Beware, these can get heavy very quickly. I have only a good quality bar of soap that is used as shampoo, shower gel and for washing clothes. Toothpaste transfered in small plastic container. Toothbrush with container. Small face cream (coconut oil) and lipbalm. Perfume in a small container: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000835004711.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dwPCa0K
If you feel like taking more things transfer them in small plastic containers. Nail clipper.
8) Feminine hygiene: reusable menstual cup (does not bother you at all while walking), washable pad (for the night)
9) For sleeping: Silk liner (30 euros from decathlon), a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, eye mask, earplugs (2 pairs)
10) Clothes:
2 pairs of quality socks, 1 pair yoga pants, 1 pair hiking pants with detachable sleeves, 2 hiking t-shirts, 2 pairs of underware (choose shorts with sweat evaporation and antibacterial treatment to prevent rushes), 2 pairs of athletic bras, 1 white long sleeve blouse with hood (can be worn in the sun), 2 bandanas, 1 thick fleece jacket for the cold, 1 multiway dress, sunglasses, 1 big travel towel (whole body)

Note on the 2 bandanas: amazingly useful. One is used as a head band to protect your ears from cold and heat and to hold your hair. The other goes around the neck for the same reasons, can be pulled over your nose when needed. In the heat wet them both – they will keep you cool.
11) Water bottle that closes securely (3 euro from decathlon). I always carry 800 ml to 1,300 ml of water with me.
12) Food: This can be salty nuts, chocolate, tuna can, chorizo, bread, candy, fruit.
13) Small backpack that foldes tiny (for grocery shopping and if you need to send your backpack forward)
14) Walking sticks
15) Mobile and charger

Buen camino and see you on the way!

The (now) veteran :)
 
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Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I can’t remember what it was like to be making my first decisions for my first camino, but I remember tendinitis below my knees that made me weep… and skin rubbed raw at the end from a combination of weight loss and extreme heat and a cotton T (I didn’t have wool T’s at the time).
Our mileage may vary, and choices too, but there’s lots of wisdom in here. I’ve never used music for walking, but I will give your list a try, just to see how it is.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
Well done, @Tantalu!
And thank you for the informative post.
Everyone's way to minimize suffering will be a bit different, but the footbath and massageball are really good ideas that don't get mentioned in most posts here about footcare.

So if you are also interested to join the leagues of the crazies disappearing into the sunset
Not really. ;)
For me walking a camino has never been about speed. Anyway those 35+km days are fast disappearing into the rearview mirror, with age and approaching decrepitude.

Edited to add...on reflection, I begin to wonder if this is possible anymore. And am inspired to try, next camino.
 
Last edited:

trecile

Camino Addict
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
Wow, you packed a lot into this post! But one little quibble - you did your math backward
I weight 65 kg and my height is 1,65 cm. So a 10 kg backpack is 6,5% of my bodyweight. It’s a lot.
Your backpack is actually a little more than 15% of your body weight.

I have that same massage ball from Decathlon - I love it!
 
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Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
Wow, you packed a lot into this post! But one little quibble - you did your math backward

Your backpack is actually a little more than 15% of your body weight.

I have that same massage ball from Decathlon - I love it!
Jaja you are right of course! Damn 4:00 am posts... Thank you for the correction :) I've inserted the right math in the post as well.
 

Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
Well done, @Tantalu!
And thank you for the informative post.
Everyone's way to minimize suffering will be a bit different, but the footbath and massageball are really good ideas that don't get mentioned in most posts here about footcare.


Not really. ;)
For me walking a camino has never been about speed. Anyway those 35+km days are fast disappearing into the rearview mirror, with age and approaching decrepitude.
Oh course *the* camino isn't about speed. I did it to test my limits and theories about the root of foot problems. It worked. But the side advantage was meeting a whole different set of pilgrims and places. I almost never stayed in the normal etapas which led me to discover some marvelously beautiful albergues. A few of the people I met were:
- A kind Valencian man, who walked his first camino after retirement. Since then, 5 years ago, he has been walking 3 camino's per year. Despite being a man of small stature he was carrying 14 kg on his back. He was still able to do 51 km/a day.
- A very fit Swedish who walked 50 - 60 km per day. We swom together in a freezing river.
- Two french men walking from France with custom gear. Both had constructed their own version of a trolley, attached to their back with springs and carabiners. They both carried tents and one even had a portable cloth string/drier build into his trolley.

My point is that if you want to walk this fast - you can. You don't have to be a 19 year old professional athlete to do it. Unfortunately I didn't meet any women this year walking marathons, but it would have been lovely. As you can see, women can do it as well. :)
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
Wonderful vignettes, @Tantalu. Sometimes people sneer at fast walkers, or those who can cover huge distances in a day - but I often think it's just envy.
Many distance walkers are just built to be comfortable with that, without any training or agenda to be 'fast.'

As you can see, women can do it as well.
Yup! We can.

I did it to test my limits and theories about the root of foot problems
A very good thing to do, and you definitely saw something about limits.
 
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Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
All so complicated. I just walk and let my body adjust.
It's great if it works for you! For me it didn't. I had to bring some science into the equation to do what I did. I do realize that all these will actually appeal to very few pilgrims - but everybody matters. So even if very few use this advise, it was still worth the effort. Cheers and buen camino!
 
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Jennylee

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Introduction: I am not a doctor, a professional athlete, or even a frequent hiker. I barely made it through my first camino, that lasted just 8 days (220 km) with 20 km days. My knees were fried, I had severe joint pain, plantar fasciitis and blisters. It took more than a week to recover when I returned.
Fast forward to today, 4 years older: I did what seemed impossible, with virtually NO extra training. I walked 35 – 48 km every single day for 18 consecutive days, with no knee or foot pain, while carrying 9 - 10 kg on my back, including a computer.
So if you are also interested to join the leagues of the crazies disappearing into the sunset… read on, here is my advice to you. I will tell you *exactly* how I did it.
Important note: I make no money if you buy from the links. They are just products I used and that I poked my eyes out to find.

I. Detailed Itinerary

This is my detailed itinerary (over 40k days are circled). I am in my 30’s, I weight 65 kg and my height is 1,65 cm. So a 10 kg backpack is 15.38% of my bodyweight. It’s a lot. I don’t regulary exercise but I like to cycle for recreation.
View attachment 104086
I walked 38,6 km on my first day through scorching heat and felt absolutely no pain or fatigue at the end of the day (I had planned a smaller day but I overwalked). Then I arranged to do smaller days to train and adjust my body. For my first marathon (the first I’ve walked in my life) I send my 9 – 10 kg backpack (depending on how much water and food it contained) with correo to my destination and walked with 4-5 kg instead. Day 9 I took the via Romana through a stretch of 20 km of interminable meseta, on thick stones and with no shadow. Still felt fine at the end of the day but the next fatigue caught up with me, so I walked to Leon and took a bus to San Martin (20 km). Day 15 was 38 km, not 46 km, as I chose the 7 km shorter camino route. Other than that I walked all the way with my backpack. On day 17 (48 km) I could have walked more but there was no availabilty on the albergues in front. Since I walked in June, I had to deal with both extreme heat and freezing rain/wind. Most days I started walking at 5:30 in the morning. A few days of cold or lazyness I started as late as 9:00. On one of my marathons I arrived at 15:15. So with no significant stops (1 hour total more or less) you can be at the albergue midday. On other days where I wanted to also do sightseeing (ex. Astorga) I arrived at the albergue at 20:00 – 21:30. My top speed is 6 km/h (speedwalking). In the mornings I could sustain around 2-3 h of 5 km/h walks (with stops). Later with the heat I would drop to 4 km/h or even 3-3,5 on ascents. You need to study how you perform during the course of the day in order to plan accordingly. But as a general rule, as soon as the heat starts (12:30 – 13:00) your speed will fall dramatically.The body doesn’t seem able to deal with heat regulation – homeostasis and athletic performance at the same time. You need to be keep yourself as cool as possible and make sure that your clothes/gear allows for sweat to evaporate (which brings your temperature down) in order to maintain a normal speed.

II. General advice

When you first walk a camino you always carry too much weight. Why? Two reasons, a) lightweight gear is more expensive and you don’t invest in proper equipment since you are just starting out, b) you think you will suffer it out. Well here’s the problem, if you carry too much the problem isn’t your muscles, which get significantly stronger quickly. The problem is inflammation of the ligaments which accumulates over the days, sometimes to the point of you having to stop altogether. Your knees start to hurt, your achilles tendon pinches you, you have pain while stepping on your heels (plantar fasciitis), you might even get shin splits which are microfractions of the tibia. You can’t suffer though these issues, because they can lead to severe damage if ignored. So while it is good to be self sufficient and have everything you need with you, most things you can probably do without if you feel well enough to walk more until you reach a store or albergue that has what you might need. You are not in the wilderness.

So the two more important things are a) carry less and b) take care of your feet every single day. For a) I will give you a detailed packing list. For b) what you have to do is the following:
- Buy expensive athletic socks or merino socks (9 – 20 euros per pair). These should have sewing around the middle of your foot to keep them tight. Your socks should not wrinkle because they will cause blisters. And they shouldn't be hidroscopic (like cotton), meaning they should not swell when getting wet because this also leads to warm feet = blisters. You can get by with only 1 or 2 pairs of proper socks for your whole camino. Make sure to test them beforehand.
- Stop at least twice while walking to apply anti-friction cream on your feet. My routine is 2-fold, first I spray my feet with a cold effect gel from Decathlon and a few seconds later apply this magic, very cheap cream on my feet, that can be bought in many supermarkets in Spain and only costs 2 euros. I went through 2 tubes in 18 days. I do not use vaseline. This cream helps prevent blisters, alleviates pain and also gives you a cooling effect in the scorching heat. Apply liberally.
View attachment 104083 View attachment 104084

- Take a cold foot bath every day before going to bed, for at least 20 min. For this I carry a foldable water bucket with me (can be found here https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000274436958.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4d6rgqKe for 7 euros). You can also stop during the way and use it in cafeterias while taking your snack outside. If you have blisters add salt to the water to disinfect them.
- Use this massage ball from Decathlon before going to sleep (roll it under your soles applying pressure):
- Use walking sticks
Don’t buy the cheapest ones. Check the handle and make sure it is comfortable to hold. Mine have a handle made out of cork, not plastic. Also check that the height is quickly adjustable, meaning your walking sticks should have crasps and not be the rotating kind. I often adjust height while walking, depending on the elevation and prefered walking style for the road. I’ve made custom protrusions on my handles that precisely fit my index finger using quality air-dry clay (Cleopatre brand, made in France). It stuck on the cork surface on it’s own and it already lasted more than 1000 km of walking. This allows me to swing my sticks with ease without needing to grab them too tightly. Don’t hesitate to tweak and adjust your equipent to your body, it really makes a difference.
- Always wear knee braces
The standard knee brace (that looks like a cylinder you slide on your leg) is difficult to wear over pants and tend to fall as you’ve inevitably lose weight on the camino. So I only recommend it for the afternoon while resting, if you have pain, or if you always walk in shorts. I use this type: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000001859847.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dbHO9LX
This can be very easily be adjusted as needed and can be worn over your pants. The only disadvantage is heat retention. I will be testing this more minimal type for my next camino: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32807478751.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dbHO9LX

That’s it. That’s how you save your feet and knees. I will cover walking styles and shoes/blister prevention in the next section.

III. Feet types and shoes

Observe how people around you walk. Most men tend to point their feet outwards when walking. The pilgrims that did that seemed to suffer less while walking but had knee pain when descending and are more susceptible to shin splits. This is more a walking style of people with “flat feet” and men. Check the following diagram.

View attachment 104085

I personally have the opposite problem: a very high arch. The natural position of my feet is slightly inward. This means that most of the weight is carried by my heels which creates imflammation of the plantar fascia, achilles tendon and knee pain. I mostly step with the external part of my foot. This is common in women, as we tend to have a larger pelvis for obvious reasons. Fortunately there is a very easy solution: gel inserts that support the arch of your foot so that the weight gets distributed on a larger part of your foot. I also added an extra gel padding under my heals. Just with these 2 small adjustments I was able to walk 615 km with virtually no foot pain. Study your walking style (look at the soles of a well worn shoe and were you have hard skin on your feet for an easy answer) and understand what is the cause of you pain – your can fix it, promise. Here is an example: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005001459166932.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.57764c4dafzOj5

But no matter what your feet look like the shoes you use need to have *thick* soles. You should be able to walk on stones without feeling them too much. The inside of your shoes should feel soft. First buy your socks and wear them while buying your shoes, which should be at least 1 size bigger than normal, preferably 1,5 size bigger. Check that your toes have room enough to lift and to open side to side. I find hiking boots too warm from the camino (June to October). Hiking shoes that end at ankle should be enough. Also buy a pair of hiking sandals (I recommend the ones from Decathlon that cost 30 euros), also test them wearing the socks.

I woke in my hiking shoes in the morning when it’s cooler and my feet are less swollen. I switch to my sandals for the rest of the day. Having 2 pairs of shoes is essential to prevent blisters. On that note, study your toes and check which ones touch each other – those will probably blister. It’s usually the little toes. Cover them the touching areas with hydrocolloid patches or wear a silicone separator while walking. Patches should be applied *before* a blister forms, not after.

IV. Walking styles

It’s amazing to me how most pilgrims use the same walking style on every surface. Athletic walking isn’t automatic – it requires concentration and conscious stepping. Most people do not seem to know how to use their walking sticks and instead just drag them along with a clacking sound. So let’s start with that.

Walking sticks are there for two reasons. First of all when you have weight on your back you tend to alter your posture by leaning forward. This forces you to bend your knees and put’s stain on the ligaments. By holding the sticks in front of you are able to transfer some of the weight to your hands and stabilise your posture so you can walk more naturally despite the weight. Second there are to help you push the ground the moment you also push the ground with your back foot to propel in forward. This is immensely helpful and if you sychnronise hand and foot this gives you crazy speed. But you need to put some force in your biceps and use the muscles in your hands, they don’t tire so easily, which is very helpful. As a plus you will get some nice, strong arms. Lastly ascents and descends become safer, sticks prevent a fall on slippery ground.

Now about walking… I use four styles, which I named olympic walk, powerwalk, the “swag” and “beach walk”. They are all different from my “normal” walk. They allow me to go faster when I want to or rest some muscles for a while. For the first one lean forward as in a running position and stick your butt out. Stand tall so that the weight is carried by your shoulders, leaving your lower body free to move. Look down (holding your head up is tiresome). Now propel yourself forward walking your feet one in from of the other, taking very big steps by swinging your pelvis. Check videos of “racewalking” on youtube for detailed explanations. Powerwalk in similar but in this case you take big steps without swinging your pelvis too much, which strains the hip joint if you do it too much. The “swag” is a very cool walk where you also swing your shoulders while walking (think rappers walking in videoclips), you are mostly relaxed when doing it. Beach walk is for descends and when you get tired of walking on rocks, mostly works with sandals. You open you toes wide and keep them like that. Then you imagine you are walking on sand trying to feel it with your whole sole. You propel yourself forward by first touching your spread toes and then the ball of the foot.

To maintain rhythm use music. Always step on the beat.
6 km/h songs:
5 km/h songs:
4+ km/h song:

IV. Packing list

1) Backpack: It needs to have side pockets, as well as pockets on the hip straps. You need to be able to grab your water bottle , money and snacks while walking, without having to take the backpack off. Also desirable a space between your back and the backpack for sweat evaporation. I have this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32880245260.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dI8Q1vb
2) Sun hat: With a large brim to cover the backside of your neck and your ears. You survive the meseta by pulling the brim and covering the interminable horizon which makes you feel disheartened with the distance you have to travel. You protect your face from the sun. Foldable. I like this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32982924429.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4d8WSHCc
3) Rain coat & rain cover for your backpack
4) For the feet: Gel frio piernas cansadas, cold spray, foldable water bucket, decathlon small massage ball, gel inserts for the shoes
5) Pharmacy: hidrocolloid patches, large hanzaplast that you can cut to size, needle and dental floss to thread blisters, magnesium pills (prevent cramps), Brexin (strong antiflammatory), paracetamol (mild antiflammatory/pain killer), mesulid (strong pain killer),caffeine pills (optional when tired), small scissors, sunscreen
6) Hiking shoes and hiking sandals
7) Toiletries: Beware, these can get heavy very quickly. I have only a good quality bar of soap that is used as shampoo, shower gel and for washing clothes. Toothpaste transfered in small plastic container. Toothbrush with container. Small face cream (coconut oil) and lipbalm. Perfume in a small container: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000835004711.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dwPCa0K
If you feel like taking more things transfer them in small plastic containers. Nail clipper.
8) Feminine hygiene: reusable menstual cup (does not bother you at all while walking), washable pad (for the night)
9) For sleeping: Silk liner (30 euros from decathlon), a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, eye mask, earplugs (2 pairs)
10) Clothes:
2 pairs of quality socks, 1 pair yoga pants, 1 pair hiking pants with detachable sleeves, 2 hiking t-shirts, 2 pairs of underware (choose shorts with sweat evaporation and antibacterial treatment to prevent rushes), 2 pairs of athletic bras, 1 white long sleeve blouse with hood (can be worn in the sun), 2 bandanas, 1 thick fleece jacket for the cold, 1 multiway dress, sunglasses, 1 big travel towel (whole body)

Note on the 2 bandanas: amazingly useful. One is used as a head band to protect your ears from cold and heat and to hold your hair. The other goes around the neck for the same reasons, can be pulled over your nose when needed. In the heat wet them both – they will keep you cool.
11) Water bottle that closes securely (3 euro from decathlon). I always carry 800 ml to 1,300 ml of water with me.
12) Food: This can be salty nuts, chocolate, tuna can, chorizo, bread, candy, fruit.
13) Small backpack that foldes tiny (for grocery shopping and if you need to send your backpack forward)
14) Walking sticks
15) Mobile and charger

Buen camino and see you on the way!

The (now) veteran :)
How incredibly helpful. Thanks
 

Patricia43

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
October 2017
Introduction: I am not a doctor, a professional athlete, or even a frequent hiker. I barely made it through my first camino, that lasted just 8 days (220 km) with 20 km days. My knees were fried, I had severe joint pain, plantar fasciitis and blisters. It took more than a week to recover when I returned.
Fast forward to today, 4 years older: I did what seemed impossible, with virtually NO extra training. I walked 35 – 48 km every single day for 18 consecutive days, with no knee or foot pain, while carrying 9 - 10 kg on my back, including a computer.
So if you are also interested to join the leagues of the crazies disappearing into the sunset… read on, here is my advice to you. I will tell you *exactly* how I did it.
Important note: I make no money if you buy from the links. They are just products I used and that I poked my eyes out to find.

I. Detailed Itinerary

This is my detailed itinerary (over 40k days are circled). I am in my 30’s, I weight 65 kg and my height is 1,65 cm. So a 10 kg backpack is 15.38% of my bodyweight. It’s a lot. I don’t regulary exercise but I like to cycle for recreation.
View attachment 104086
I walked 38,6 km on my first day through scorching heat and felt absolutely no pain or fatigue at the end of the day (I had planned a smaller day but I overwalked). Then I arranged to do smaller days to train and adjust my body. For my first marathon (the first I’ve walked in my life) I send my 9 – 10 kg backpack (depending on how much water and food it contained) with correo to my destination and walked with 4-5 kg instead. Day 9 I took the via Romana through a stretch of 20 km of interminable meseta, on thick stones and with no shadow. Still felt fine at the end of the day but the next fatigue caught up with me, so I walked to Leon and took a bus to San Martin (20 km). Day 15 was 38 km, not 46 km, as I chose the 7 km shorter camino route. Other than that I walked all the way with my backpack. On day 17 (48 km) I could have walked more but there was no availabilty on the albergues in front. Since I walked in June, I had to deal with both extreme heat and freezing rain/wind. Most days I started walking at 5:30 in the morning. A few days of cold or lazyness I started as late as 9:00. On one of my marathons I arrived at 15:15. So with no significant stops (1 hour total more or less) you can be at the albergue midday. On other days where I wanted to also do sightseeing (ex. Astorga) I arrived at the albergue at 20:00 – 21:30. My top speed is 6 km/h (speedwalking). In the mornings I could sustain around 2-3 h of 5 km/h walks (with stops). Later with the heat I would drop to 4 km/h or even 3-3,5 on ascents. You need to study how you perform during the course of the day in order to plan accordingly. But as a general rule, as soon as the heat starts (12:30 – 13:00) your speed will fall dramatically.The body doesn’t seem able to deal with heat regulation – homeostasis and athletic performance at the same time. You need to be keep yourself as cool as possible and make sure that your clothes/gear allows for sweat to evaporate (which brings your temperature down) in order to maintain a normal speed.

II. General advice

When you first walk a camino you always carry too much weight. Why? Two reasons, a) lightweight gear is more expensive and you don’t invest in proper equipment since you are just starting out, b) you think you will suffer it out. Well here’s the problem, if you carry too much the problem isn’t your muscles, which get significantly stronger quickly. The problem is inflammation of the ligaments which accumulates over the days, sometimes to the point of you having to stop altogether. Your knees start to hurt, your achilles tendon pinches you, you have pain while stepping on your heels (plantar fasciitis), you might even get shin splits which are microfractions of the tibia. You can’t suffer though these issues, because they can lead to severe damage if ignored. So while it is good to be self sufficient and have everything you need with you, most things you can probably do without if you feel well enough to walk more until you reach a store or albergue that has what you might need. You are not in the wilderness.

So the two more important things are a) carry less and b) take care of your feet every single day. For a) I will give you a detailed packing list. For b) what you have to do is the following:
- Buy expensive athletic socks or merino socks (9 – 20 euros per pair). These should have sewing around the middle of your foot to keep them tight. Your socks should not wrinkle because they will cause blisters. And they shouldn't be hidroscopic (like cotton), meaning they should not swell when getting wet because this also leads to warm feet = blisters. You can get by with only 1 or 2 pairs of proper socks for your whole camino. Make sure to test them beforehand.
- Stop at least twice while walking to apply anti-friction cream on your feet. My routine is 2-fold, first I spray my feet with a cold effect gel from Decathlon and a few seconds later apply this magic, very cheap cream on my feet, that can be bought in many supermarkets in Spain and only costs 2 euros. I went through 2 tubes in 18 days. I do not use vaseline. This cream helps prevent blisters, alleviates pain and also gives you a cooling effect in the scorching heat. Apply liberally.
View attachment 104083 View attachment 104084

- Take a cold foot bath every day before going to bed, for at least 20 min. For this I carry a foldable water bucket with me (can be found here https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000274436958.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4d6rgqKe for 7 euros). You can also stop during the way and use it in cafeterias while taking your snack outside. If you have blisters add salt to the water to disinfect them.
- Use this massage ball from Decathlon before going to sleep (roll it under your soles applying pressure):
- Use walking sticks
Don’t buy the cheapest ones. Check the handle and make sure it is comfortable to hold. Mine have a handle made out of cork, not plastic. Also check that the height is quickly adjustable, meaning your walking sticks should have crasps and not be the rotating kind. I often adjust height while walking, depending on the elevation and prefered walking style for the road. I’ve made custom protrusions on my handles that precisely fit my index finger using quality air-dry clay (Cleopatre brand, made in France). It stuck on the cork surface on it’s own and it already lasted more than 1000 km of walking. This allows me to swing my sticks with ease without needing to grab them too tightly. Don’t hesitate to tweak and adjust your equipent to your body, it really makes a difference.
- Always wear knee braces
The standard knee brace (that looks like a cylinder you slide on your leg) is difficult to wear over pants and tend to fall as you’ve inevitably lose weight on the camino. So I only recommend it for the afternoon while resting, if you have pain, or if you always walk in shorts. I use this type: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000001859847.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dbHO9LX
This can be very easily be adjusted as needed and can be worn over your pants. The only disadvantage is heat retention. I will be testing this more minimal type for my next camino: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32807478751.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dbHO9LX

That’s it. That’s how you save your feet and knees. I will cover walking styles and shoes/blister prevention in the next section.

III. Feet types and shoes

Observe how people around you walk. Most men tend to point their feet outwards when walking. The pilgrims that did that seemed to suffer less while walking but had knee pain when descending and are more susceptible to shin splits. This is more a walking style of people with “flat feet” and men. Check the following diagram.

View attachment 104085

I personally have the opposite problem: a very high arch. The natural position of my feet is slightly inward. This means that most of the weight is carried by my heels which creates imflammation of the plantar fascia, achilles tendon and knee pain. I mostly step with the external part of my foot. This is common in women, as we tend to have a larger pelvis for obvious reasons. Fortunately there is a very easy solution: gel inserts that support the arch of your foot so that the weight gets distributed on a larger part of your foot. I also added an extra gel padding under my heals. Just with these 2 small adjustments I was able to walk 615 km with virtually no foot pain. Study your walking style (look at the soles of a well worn shoe and were you have hard skin on your feet for an easy answer) and understand what is the cause of you pain – your can fix it, promise. Here is an example: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005001459166932.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.57764c4dafzOj5

But no matter what your feet look like the shoes you use need to have *thick* soles. You should be able to walk on stones without feeling them too much. The inside of your shoes should feel soft. First buy your socks and wear them while buying your shoes, which should be at least 1 size bigger than normal, preferably 1,5 size bigger. Check that your toes have room enough to lift and to open side to side. I find hiking boots too warm from the camino (June to October). Hiking shoes that end at ankle should be enough. Also buy a pair of hiking sandals (I recommend the ones from Decathlon that cost 30 euros), also test them wearing the socks.

I woke in my hiking shoes in the morning when it’s cooler and my feet are less swollen. I switch to my sandals for the rest of the day. Having 2 pairs of shoes is essential to prevent blisters. On that note, study your toes and check which ones touch each other – those will probably blister. It’s usually the little toes. Cover them the touching areas with hydrocolloid patches or wear a silicone separator while walking. Patches should be applied *before* a blister forms, not after.

IV. Walking styles

It’s amazing to me how most pilgrims use the same walking style on every surface. Athletic walking isn’t automatic – it requires concentration and conscious stepping. Most people do not seem to know how to use their walking sticks and instead just drag them along with a clacking sound. So let’s start with that.

Walking sticks are there for two reasons. First of all when you have weight on your back you tend to alter your posture by leaning forward. This forces you to bend your knees and put’s stain on the ligaments. By holding the sticks in front of you are able to transfer some of the weight to your hands and stabilise your posture so you can walk more naturally despite the weight. Second there are to help you push the ground the moment you also push the ground with your back foot to propel in forward. This is immensely helpful and if you sychnronise hand and foot this gives you crazy speed. But you need to put some force in your biceps and use the muscles in your hands, they don’t tire so easily, which is very helpful. As a plus you will get some nice, strong arms. Lastly ascents and descends become safer, sticks prevent a fall on slippery ground.

Now about walking… I use four styles, which I named olympic walk, powerwalk, the “swag” and “beach walk”. They are all different from my “normal” walk. They allow me to go faster when I want to or rest some muscles for a while. For the first one lean forward as in a running position and stick your butt out. Stand tall so that the weight is carried by your shoulders, leaving your lower body free to move. Look down (holding your head up is tiresome). Now propel yourself forward walking your feet one in from of the other, taking very big steps by swinging your pelvis. Check videos of “racewalking” on youtube for detailed explanations. Powerwalk in similar but in this case you take big steps without swinging your pelvis too much, which strains the hip joint if you do it too much. The “swag” is a very cool walk where you also swing your shoulders while walking (think rappers walking in videoclips), you are mostly relaxed when doing it. Beach walk is for descends and when you get tired of walking on rocks, mostly works with sandals. You open you toes wide and keep them like that. Then you imagine you are walking on sand trying to feel it with your whole sole. You propel yourself forward by first touching your spread toes and then the ball of the foot.

To maintain rhythm use music. Always step on the beat.
6 km/h songs:
5 km/h songs:
4+ km/h song:

IV. Packing list

1) Backpack: It needs to have side pockets, as well as pockets on the hip straps. You need to be able to grab your water bottle , money and snacks while walking, without having to take the backpack off. Also desirable a space between your back and the backpack for sweat evaporation. I have this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32880245260.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dI8Q1vb
2) Sun hat: With a large brim to cover the backside of your neck and your ears. You survive the meseta by pulling the brim and covering the interminable horizon which makes you feel disheartened with the distance you have to travel. You protect your face from the sun. Foldable. I like this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32982924429.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4d8WSHCc
3) Rain coat & rain cover for your backpack
4) For the feet: Gel frio piernas cansadas, cold spray, foldable water bucket, decathlon small massage ball, gel inserts for the shoes
5) Pharmacy: hidrocolloid patches, large hanzaplast that you can cut to size, needle and dental floss to thread blisters, magnesium pills (prevent cramps), Brexin (strong antiflammatory), paracetamol (mild antiflammatory/pain killer), mesulid (strong pain killer),caffeine pills (optional when tired), small scissors, sunscreen
6) Hiking shoes and hiking sandals
7) Toiletries: Beware, these can get heavy very quickly. I have only a good quality bar of soap that is used as shampoo, shower gel and for washing clothes. Toothpaste transfered in small plastic container. Toothbrush with container. Small face cream (coconut oil) and lipbalm. Perfume in a small container: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000835004711.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dwPCa0K
If you feel like taking more things transfer them in small plastic containers. Nail clipper.
8) Feminine hygiene: reusable menstual cup (does not bother you at all while walking), washable pad (for the night)
9) For sleeping: Silk liner (30 euros from decathlon), a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, eye mask, earplugs (2 pairs)
10) Clothes:
2 pairs of quality socks, 1 pair yoga pants, 1 pair hiking pants with detachable sleeves, 2 hiking t-shirts, 2 pairs of underware (choose shorts with sweat evaporation and antibacterial treatment to prevent rushes), 2 pairs of athletic bras, 1 white long sleeve blouse with hood (can be worn in the sun), 2 bandanas, 1 thick fleece jacket for the cold, 1 multiway dress, sunglasses, 1 big travel towel (whole body)

Note on the 2 bandanas: amazingly useful. One is used as a head band to protect your ears from cold and heat and to hold your hair. The other goes around the neck for the same reasons, can be pulled over your nose when needed. In the heat wet them both – they will keep you cool.
11) Water bottle that closes securely (3 euro from decathlon). I always carry 800 ml to 1,300 ml of water with me.
12) Food: This can be salty nuts, chocolate, tuna can, chorizo, bread, candy, fruit.
13) Small backpack that foldes tiny (for grocery shopping and if you need to send your backpack forward)
14) Walking sticks
15) Mobile and charger

Buen camino and see you on the way!

The (now) veteran :)
Saving this! will have to check w MD as I have hip replacements. Being a slow walker usually means I walk alone (which I usually like - but can be lonely)
 

RENSHAW

Official Camino Vino taster
Year of past OR future Camino
2003 CF Roncesvalles to Santiago
2/4 weeks on the CF frequently.
Hospitalero San Anton June 2016.
Thanx for the share , but not for me. 10 km per day is enough for me and I experience more.
 
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stinmd

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances - May 2015; Camino del Norte/Primitivo - July/August 2016; Camino Portugues - Sept 2017
Introduction: I am not a doctor, a professional athlete, or even a frequent hiker. I barely made it through my first camino, that lasted just 8 days (220 km) with 20 km days. My knees were fried, I had severe joint pain, plantar fasciitis and blisters. It took more than a week to recover when I returned.
Fast forward to today, 4 years older: I did what seemed impossible, with virtually NO extra training. I walked 35 – 48 km every single day for 18 consecutive days, with no knee or foot pain, while carrying 9 - 10 kg on my back, including a computer.
So if you are also interested to join the leagues of the crazies disappearing into the sunset… read on, here is my advice to you. I will tell you *exactly* how I did it.
Important note: I make no money if you buy from the links. They are just products I used and that I poked my eyes out to find.

I. Detailed Itinerary

This is my detailed itinerary (over 40k days are circled). I am in my 30’s, I weight 65 kg and my height is 1,65 cm. So a 10 kg backpack is 15.38% of my bodyweight. It’s a lot. I don’t regulary exercise but I like to cycle for recreation.
View attachment 104086
I walked 38,6 km on my first day through scorching heat and felt absolutely no pain or fatigue at the end of the day (I had planned a smaller day but I overwalked). Then I arranged to do smaller days to train and adjust my body. For my first marathon (the first I’ve walked in my life) I send my 9 – 10 kg backpack (depending on how much water and food it contained) with correo to my destination and walked with 4-5 kg instead. Day 9 I took the via Romana through a stretch of 20 km of interminable meseta, on thick stones and with no shadow. Still felt fine at the end of the day but the next fatigue caught up with me, so I walked to Leon and took a bus to San Martin (20 km). Day 15 was 38 km, not 46 km, as I chose the 7 km shorter camino route. Other than that I walked all the way with my backpack. On day 17 (48 km) I could have walked more but there was no availabilty on the albergues in front. Since I walked in June, I had to deal with both extreme heat and freezing rain/wind. Most days I started walking at 5:30 in the morning. A few days of cold or lazyness I started as late as 9:00. On one of my marathons I arrived at 15:15. So with no significant stops (1 hour total more or less) you can be at the albergue midday. On other days where I wanted to also do sightseeing (ex. Astorga) I arrived at the albergue at 20:00 – 21:30. My top speed is 6 km/h (speedwalking). In the mornings I could sustain around 2-3 h of 5 km/h walks (with stops). Later with the heat I would drop to 4 km/h or even 3-3,5 on ascents. You need to study how you perform during the course of the day in order to plan accordingly. But as a general rule, as soon as the heat starts (12:30 – 13:00) your speed will fall dramatically.The body doesn’t seem able to deal with heat regulation – homeostasis and athletic performance at the same time. You need to be keep yourself as cool as possible and make sure that your clothes/gear allows for sweat to evaporate (which brings your temperature down) in order to maintain a normal speed.

II. General advice

When you first walk a camino you always carry too much weight. Why? Two reasons, a) lightweight gear is more expensive and you don’t invest in proper equipment since you are just starting out, b) you think you will suffer it out. Well here’s the problem, if you carry too much the problem isn’t your muscles, which get significantly stronger quickly. The problem is inflammation of the ligaments which accumulates over the days, sometimes to the point of you having to stop altogether. Your knees start to hurt, your achilles tendon pinches you, you have pain while stepping on your heels (plantar fasciitis), you might even get shin splits which are microfractions of the tibia. You can’t suffer though these issues, because they can lead to severe damage if ignored. So while it is good to be self sufficient and have everything you need with you, most things you can probably do without if you feel well enough to walk more until you reach a store or albergue that has what you might need. You are not in the wilderness.

So the two more important things are a) carry less and b) take care of your feet every single day. For a) I will give you a detailed packing list. For b) what you have to do is the following:
- Buy expensive athletic socks or merino socks (9 – 20 euros per pair). These should have sewing around the middle of your foot to keep them tight. Your socks should not wrinkle because they will cause blisters. And they shouldn't be hidroscopic (like cotton), meaning they should not swell when getting wet because this also leads to warm feet = blisters. You can get by with only 1 or 2 pairs of proper socks for your whole camino. Make sure to test them beforehand.
- Stop at least twice while walking to apply anti-friction cream on your feet. My routine is 2-fold, first I spray my feet with a cold effect gel from Decathlon and a few seconds later apply this magic, very cheap cream on my feet, that can be bought in many supermarkets in Spain and only costs 2 euros. I went through 2 tubes in 18 days. I do not use vaseline. This cream helps prevent blisters, alleviates pain and also gives you a cooling effect in the scorching heat. Apply liberally.
View attachment 104083 View attachment 104084

- Take a cold foot bath every day before going to bed, for at least 20 min. For this I carry a foldable water bucket with me (can be found here https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000274436958.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4d6rgqKe for 7 euros). You can also stop during the way and use it in cafeterias while taking your snack outside. If you have blisters add salt to the water to disinfect them.
- Use this massage ball from Decathlon before going to sleep (roll it under your soles applying pressure):
- Use walking sticks
Don’t buy the cheapest ones. Check the handle and make sure it is comfortable to hold. Mine have a handle made out of cork, not plastic. Also check that the height is quickly adjustable, meaning your walking sticks should have crasps and not be the rotating kind. I often adjust height while walking, depending on the elevation and prefered walking style for the road. I’ve made custom protrusions on my handles that precisely fit my index finger using quality air-dry clay (Cleopatre brand, made in France). It stuck on the cork surface on it’s own and it already lasted more than 1000 km of walking. This allows me to swing my sticks with ease without needing to grab them too tightly. Don’t hesitate to tweak and adjust your equipent to your body, it really makes a difference.
- Always wear knee braces
The standard knee brace (that looks like a cylinder you slide on your leg) is difficult to wear over pants and tend to fall as you’ve inevitably lose weight on the camino. So I only recommend it for the afternoon while resting, if you have pain, or if you always walk in shorts. I use this type: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000001859847.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dbHO9LX
This can be very easily be adjusted as needed and can be worn over your pants. The only disadvantage is heat retention. I will be testing this more minimal type for my next camino: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32807478751.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dbHO9LX

That’s it. That’s how you save your feet and knees. I will cover walking styles and shoes/blister prevention in the next section.

III. Feet types and shoes

Observe how people around you walk. Most men tend to point their feet outwards when walking. The pilgrims that did that seemed to suffer less while walking but had knee pain when descending and are more susceptible to shin splits. This is more a walking style of people with “flat feet” and men. Check the following diagram.

View attachment 104085

I personally have the opposite problem: a very high arch. The natural position of my feet is slightly inward. This means that most of the weight is carried by my heels which creates imflammation of the plantar fascia, achilles tendon and knee pain. I mostly step with the external part of my foot. This is common in women, as we tend to have a larger pelvis for obvious reasons. Fortunately there is a very easy solution: gel inserts that support the arch of your foot so that the weight gets distributed on a larger part of your foot. I also added an extra gel padding under my heals. Just with these 2 small adjustments I was able to walk 615 km with virtually no foot pain. Study your walking style (look at the soles of a well worn shoe and were you have hard skin on your feet for an easy answer) and understand what is the cause of you pain – your can fix it, promise. Here is an example: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005001459166932.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.57764c4dafzOj5

But no matter what your feet look like the shoes you use need to have *thick* soles. You should be able to walk on stones without feeling them too much. The inside of your shoes should feel soft. First buy your socks and wear them while buying your shoes, which should be at least 1 size bigger than normal, preferably 1,5 size bigger. Check that your toes have room enough to lift and to open side to side. I find hiking boots too warm from the camino (June to October). Hiking shoes that end at ankle should be enough. Also buy a pair of hiking sandals (I recommend the ones from Decathlon that cost 30 euros), also test them wearing the socks.

I woke in my hiking shoes in the morning when it’s cooler and my feet are less swollen. I switch to my sandals for the rest of the day. Having 2 pairs of shoes is essential to prevent blisters. On that note, study your toes and check which ones touch each other – those will probably blister. It’s usually the little toes. Cover them the touching areas with hydrocolloid patches or wear a silicone separator while walking. Patches should be applied *before* a blister forms, not after.

IV. Walking styles

It’s amazing to me how most pilgrims use the same walking style on every surface. Athletic walking isn’t automatic – it requires concentration and conscious stepping. Most people do not seem to know how to use their walking sticks and instead just drag them along with a clacking sound. So let’s start with that.

Walking sticks are there for two reasons. First of all when you have weight on your back you tend to alter your posture by leaning forward. This forces you to bend your knees and put’s stain on the ligaments. By holding the sticks in front of you are able to transfer some of the weight to your hands and stabilise your posture so you can walk more naturally despite the weight. Second there are to help you push the ground the moment you also push the ground with your back foot to propel in forward. This is immensely helpful and if you sychnronise hand and foot this gives you crazy speed. But you need to put some force in your biceps and use the muscles in your hands, they don’t tire so easily, which is very helpful. As a plus you will get some nice, strong arms. Lastly ascents and descends become safer, sticks prevent a fall on slippery ground.

Now about walking… I use four styles, which I named olympic walk, powerwalk, the “swag” and “beach walk”. They are all different from my “normal” walk. They allow me to go faster when I want to or rest some muscles for a while. For the first one lean forward as in a running position and stick your butt out. Stand tall so that the weight is carried by your shoulders, leaving your lower body free to move. Look down (holding your head up is tiresome). Now propel yourself forward walking your feet one in from of the other, taking very big steps by swinging your pelvis. Check videos of “racewalking” on youtube for detailed explanations. Powerwalk in similar but in this case you take big steps without swinging your pelvis too much, which strains the hip joint if you do it too much. The “swag” is a very cool walk where you also swing your shoulders while walking (think rappers walking in videoclips), you are mostly relaxed when doing it. Beach walk is for descends and when you get tired of walking on rocks, mostly works with sandals. You open you toes wide and keep them like that. Then you imagine you are walking on sand trying to feel it with your whole sole. You propel yourself forward by first touching your spread toes and then the ball of the foot.

To maintain rhythm use music. Always step on the beat.
6 km/h songs:
5 km/h songs:
4+ km/h song:

IV. Packing list

1) Backpack: It needs to have side pockets, as well as pockets on the hip straps. You need to be able to grab your water bottle , money and snacks while walking, without having to take the backpack off. Also desirable a space between your back and the backpack for sweat evaporation. I have this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32880245260.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dI8Q1vb
2) Sun hat: With a large brim to cover the backside of your neck and your ears. You survive the meseta by pulling the brim and covering the interminable horizon which makes you feel disheartened with the distance you have to travel. You protect your face from the sun. Foldable. I like this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32982924429.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4d8WSHCc
3) Rain coat & rain cover for your backpack
4) For the feet: Gel frio piernas cansadas, cold spray, foldable water bucket, decathlon small massage ball, gel inserts for the shoes
5) Pharmacy: hidrocolloid patches, large hanzaplast that you can cut to size, needle and dental floss to thread blisters, magnesium pills (prevent cramps), Brexin (strong antiflammatory), paracetamol (mild antiflammatory/pain killer), mesulid (strong pain killer),caffeine pills (optional when tired), small scissors, sunscreen
6) Hiking shoes and hiking sandals
7) Toiletries: Beware, these can get heavy very quickly. I have only a good quality bar of soap that is used as shampoo, shower gel and for washing clothes. Toothpaste transfered in small plastic container. Toothbrush with container. Small face cream (coconut oil) and lipbalm. Perfume in a small container: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000835004711.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dwPCa0K
If you feel like taking more things transfer them in small plastic containers. Nail clipper.
8) Feminine hygiene: reusable menstual cup (does not bother you at all while walking), washable pad (for the night)
9) For sleeping: Silk liner (30 euros from decathlon), a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, eye mask, earplugs (2 pairs)
10) Clothes:
2 pairs of quality socks, 1 pair yoga pants, 1 pair hiking pants with detachable sleeves, 2 hiking t-shirts, 2 pairs of underware (choose shorts with sweat evaporation and antibacterial treatment to prevent rushes), 2 pairs of athletic bras, 1 white long sleeve blouse with hood (can be worn in the sun), 2 bandanas, 1 thick fleece jacket for the cold, 1 multiway dress, sunglasses, 1 big travel towel (whole body)

Note on the 2 bandanas: amazingly useful. One is used as a head band to protect your ears from cold and heat and to hold your hair. The other goes around the neck for the same reasons, can be pulled over your nose when needed. In the heat wet them both – they will keep you cool.
11) Water bottle that closes securely (3 euro from decathlon). I always carry 800 ml to 1,300 ml of water with me.
12) Food: This can be salty nuts, chocolate, tuna can, chorizo, bread, candy, fruit.
13) Small backpack that foldes tiny (for grocery shopping and if you need to send your backpack forward)
14) Walking sticks
15) Mobile and charger

Buen camino and see you on the way!

The (now) veteran :)
My question is: why in such a hurry; the Camino is not a race. But that's just me :)
 

Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
One question. Why on earth do you think it's a good idea to walk 40K days? do you even recognise where you have been? Sorry two questions.
Well, to quote myself above.. "Oh course *the* camino isn't about speed. I did it to test my limits and theories about the root of foot problems. It worked. But the side advantage was meeting a whole different set of pilgrims and places."

This is my 4rth camino. Every year I have a different goal. And this was it this year. Depending on how you walk and where you stop the camino is always a very different experience. If you are curious about my previous one, I've detailed my experience here: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/com...walked-gijon-to-finisterre-august-2020.68411/
 

Prentiss Riddle

Aprendiz de todo, maestro de nada
Year of past OR future Camino
Poco a poco: we're nibbling away at the Francés. Hoping to go back in 2022.
Lots to read and think about here. Thank you!

One quibble to take up: it's often said that blisters are a result of heat. That's just not true - you can get blisters literally walking in ice water with a skin temperature of 0°C/32°F. Yes, a hot frying pan can make your skin blister, but that's not the same thing as a friction blister (blisters can also be caused by a chemical burn, poison ivy, or a number of other hazards which have nothing to do with walking).

Walking blisters are your skin's response to microabrasions. They are your skin's first line of defense to protect the tissue underneath from damage and they also contribute to the creation of callouses which provide longer-term protection.

Heat isn't the direct cause of walking blisters but can contribute to their formation because hot feet sweat and wet skin is more vulnerable to abrasions than dry skin.

So in the end advice that encourages cool, dry feet is correct - but as they say about the weather, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity." :)
 

C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Thanks for all the detailed description of what worked for you. There are many good suggestions in the post. I just wish you had presented it a little more modestly instead of saying what people "must" do and how that guarantees that they'll achieve your success. Generally things are not that simple or clear cut! Maybe the following line was a factor that many of us don't have on our side! :)
I am in my 30’s
 

HaveringRob

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I discovered the joys of a massage ball/roller bar when I was walking ten miles a day in Japan. At the end of the day, it really helped my poor aching feet. Got mine for 1.50 at Daiso. I never travel without it -- mine is already packed in the "camino box."
 
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Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
Lots to read and think about here. Thank you!

One quibble to take up: it's often said that blisters are a result of heat. That's just not true - you can get blisters literally walking in ice water with a skin temperature of 0°C/32°F. Yes, a hot frying pan can make your skin blister, but that's not the same thing as a friction blister (blisters can also be caused by a chemical burn, poison ivy, or a number of other hazards which have nothing to do with walking).

Walking blisters are your skin's response to microabrasions. They are your skin's first line of defense to protect the tissue underneath from damage and they also contribute to the creation of callouses which provide longer-term protection.

Heat isn't the direct cause of walking blisters but can contribute to their formation because hot feet sweat and wet skin is more vulnerable to abrasions than dry skin.

So in the end advice that encourages cool, dry feet is correct - but as they say about the weather, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity." :)
You are right of course. But one follows the other - if your feet are too warm they both swell and sweat. When your skin is too moist for a long time (like when you stay in the bathtub too long) it becomes sensitive. That in combination with the swelling makes feet rub against your shoes and leads to blisters.
I am only saying this because I've had the experience in a previous camino of getting blisters on every single toe, both feet, wearing precisely the same boots and socks I had been walking in for the previous 10 days with no problems. I have not had this problem ever since I switch to my sandals as soon as enviromental heat starts.
 

HaveringRob

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Toiletries: Beware, these can get heavy very quickly. I have only a good quality bar of soap that is used as shampoo, shower gel and for washing clothes.

May I ask what kind of soap you used?
 

Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
Thanks for all the detailed description of what worked for you. There are many good suggestions in the post. I just wish you had presented it a little more modestly instead of saying what people "must" do and how that guarantees that they'll achieve your success. Generally things are not that simple or clear cut! Maybe the following line was a factor that many of us don't have on our side! :)
Hey HaveringRob, I am concerned it might have come across this way but in no way am I suggesting that one should follow my itinerary. I just explained how I did it in case someone might want to. Actually most of the people I've met last year and this year that where walking 40 - 50k per day where aged 50 - 70+. From what I've read long distance endurance actually increases with age. Of course everyone has their own set of health problems. My point was that my feet are not made for long distance walking - but apparently it is possible to tweek things enough so that it does become possible.

I am sure there are more ways to pull that off and my tips might also not work for everyone. There might not even be any desire for them to do so. I just didn't want to overburden my post with if's and maybe's for the sake of readability and conciseness, since I imagined (perhaps wrongly) that these are always implied in any text one reads. :)
 

Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
Toiletries: Beware, these can get heavy very quickly. I have only a good quality bar of soap that is used as shampoo, shower gel and for washing clothes.

May I ask what kind of soap you used?
Sure! It's nothing special, just a soap that is made for the face so that it makes your skin soft. I don't remember where I bought it from. But a lot of people actually buy shampoo in bar form, there is a company in Spain called Lush that sells them for 10 euro/bar and they are very concentrated.
 

Oxford Alice

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(Bits of) Camino Frances (2001)
Camino Frances (2014)
Camino Frances (2018)
That was a fun post. I'm hoping to do my 4th camino next spring .... lots to agree with in what you've said, and some new products to consider. Thanks for sharing!
 
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CaptBuddy

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Fall 2012, again Fall 2014.
Nice write up. I am sure you had a great experience.

Our second Camino (my wife and I) was in the Fall of 2016. It came right after my two failed ablation procedures to correct the atrial fibrillation in my then 68-year-old heart.

To complicate matters, my wife has a bad knee, so we were concerned about that. We had done a Camino two years before, so we had a rather good idea of what was ahead of us.

We stayed mostly in private accommodations. Carried our own packs, except for a couple of days when one of us needed a break. We took time to have a good breakfast every morning, a nice lunch, and a rest each day, and the best dinner we could find each night. We often walked, ate, and stayed with new friends we met along the Way. Oh, and we enjoyed the best beer and wine travelers could find anywhere.

On most hills, I had to stop and catch my breath, at least once. We had a couple of rest days, for Beth’s knee. Two days in Burgos, and two days in Astorga were wonderful. Another two days in Leon, because we love that city. We loved the Meseta best of all, and we talk about going back just to do that again.

We doctored ourselves with what we could get from the Farmacia, washed our meager wardrobe however we could, and changed to clean, dry merino wool socks everyday at 1300 (no blisters, no problems).

I do not recall what day we walked into Obradoiro, somewhere between day 35 and day 40 (?), but it was raining, and we were so happy and so hungry.

So you can see that our Camino was somewhat different than yours.
But I assure you, it was the best experience we ever had.
 

HaveringRob

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
Hey HaveringRob, I am concerned it might have come across this way but in no way am I suggesting that one should follow my itinerary. I just explained how I did it in case someone might want to. Actually most of the people I've met last year and this year that where walking 40 - 50k per day where aged 50 - 70+. From what I've read long distance endurance actually increases with age. Of course everyone has their own set of health problems. My point was that my feet are not made for long distance walking - but apparently it is possible to tweek things enough so that it does become possible.

I am sure there are more ways to pull that off and my tips might also not work for everyone. There might not even be any desire for them to do so. I just didn't want to overburden my post with if's and maybe's for the sake of readability and conciseness, since I imagined (perhaps wrongly) that these are always implied in any text one reads. :)
I didn't take it like these are "must dos," more that these are things that helped you. I try to learn from other people's experiences as much as possible, knowing that my experience may be very different. I appreciate the information, but more importantly that you took the time to help other people. I thought it was very useful, even though I don't intend to go toooo fast. I don't have unlimited time and I don't want to injure myself, so it is all good. I may not be walking 50 km a day, but I want to be able to do so if necessary. (oh, and we have Lush out here, too. was it just regular bar soap or a shampoo bar?)
 

Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
I used a regular soap bar but the ones from Lush I mentioned are special shampoo bars. :)
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
Introduction: I am not a doctor, a professional athlete, or even a frequent hiker. I barely made it through my first camino, that lasted just 8 days (220 km) with 20 km days. My knees were fried, I had severe joint pain, plantar fasciitis and blisters. It took more than a week to recover when I returned.
Fast forward to today, 4 years older: I did what seemed impossible, with virtually NO extra training. I walked 35 – 48 km every single day for 18 consecutive days, with no knee or foot pain, while carrying 9 - 10 kg on my back, including a computer.
So if you are also interested to join the leagues of the crazies disappearing into the sunset… read on, here is my advice to you. I will tell you *exactly* how I did it.
Important note: I make no money if you buy from the links. They are just products I used and that I poked my eyes out to find.

I. Detailed Itinerary

This is my detailed itinerary (over 40k days are circled). I am in my 30’s, I weight 65 kg and my height is 1,65 cm. So a 10 kg backpack is 15.38% of my bodyweight. It’s a lot. I don’t regulary exercise but I like to cycle for recreation.
View attachment 104086
I walked 38,6 km on my first day through scorching heat and felt absolutely no pain or fatigue at the end of the day (I had planned a smaller day but I overwalked). Then I arranged to do smaller days to train and adjust my body. For my first marathon (the first I’ve walked in my life) I send my 9 – 10 kg backpack (depending on how much water and food it contained) with correo to my destination and walked with 4-5 kg instead. Day 9 I took the via Romana through a stretch of 20 km of interminable meseta, on thick stones and with no shadow. Still felt fine at the end of the day but the next fatigue caught up with me, so I walked to Leon and took a bus to San Martin (20 km). Day 15 was 38 km, not 46 km, as I chose the 7 km shorter camino route. Other than that I walked all the way with my backpack. On day 17 (48 km) I could have walked more but there was no availabilty on the albergues in front. Since I walked in June, I had to deal with both extreme heat and freezing rain/wind. Most days I started walking at 5:30 in the morning. A few days of cold or lazyness I started as late as 9:00. On one of my marathons I arrived at 15:15. So with no significant stops (1 hour total more or less) you can be at the albergue midday. On other days where I wanted to also do sightseeing (ex. Astorga) I arrived at the albergue at 20:00 – 21:30. My top speed is 6 km/h (speedwalking). In the mornings I could sustain around 2-3 h of 5 km/h walks (with stops). Later with the heat I would drop to 4 km/h or even 3-3,5 on ascents. You need to study how you perform during the course of the day in order to plan accordingly. But as a general rule, as soon as the heat starts (12:30 – 13:00) your speed will fall dramatically.The body doesn’t seem able to deal with heat regulation – homeostasis and athletic performance at the same time. You need to be keep yourself as cool as possible and make sure that your clothes/gear allows for sweat to evaporate (which brings your temperature down) in order to maintain a normal speed.

II. General advice

When you first walk a camino you always carry too much weight. Why? Two reasons, a) lightweight gear is more expensive and you don’t invest in proper equipment since you are just starting out, b) you think you will suffer it out. Well here’s the problem, if you carry too much the problem isn’t your muscles, which get significantly stronger quickly. The problem is inflammation of the ligaments which accumulates over the days, sometimes to the point of you having to stop altogether. Your knees start to hurt, your achilles tendon pinches you, you have pain while stepping on your heels (plantar fasciitis), you might even get shin splits which are microfractions of the tibia. You can’t suffer though these issues, because they can lead to severe damage if ignored. So while it is good to be self sufficient and have everything you need with you, most things you can probably do without if you feel well enough to walk more until you reach a store or albergue that has what you might need. You are not in the wilderness.

So the two more important things are a) carry less and b) take care of your feet every single day. For a) I will give you a detailed packing list. For b) what you have to do is the following:
- Buy expensive athletic socks or merino socks (9 – 20 euros per pair). These should have sewing around the middle of your foot to keep them tight. Your socks should not wrinkle because they will cause blisters. And they shouldn't be hidroscopic (like cotton), meaning they should not swell when getting wet because this also leads to warm feet = blisters. You can get by with only 1 or 2 pairs of proper socks for your whole camino. Make sure to test them beforehand.
- Stop at least twice while walking to apply anti-friction cream on your feet. My routine is 2-fold, first I spray my feet with a cold effect gel from Decathlon and a few seconds later apply this magic, very cheap cream on my feet, that can be bought in many supermarkets in Spain and only costs 2 euros. I went through 2 tubes in 18 days. I do not use vaseline. This cream helps prevent blisters, alleviates pain and also gives you a cooling effect in the scorching heat. Apply liberally.
View attachment 104083 View attachment 104084

- Take a cold foot bath every day before going to bed, for at least 20 min. For this I carry a foldable water bucket with me (can be found here https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000274436958.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4d6rgqKe for 7 euros). You can also stop during the way and use it in cafeterias while taking your snack outside. If you have blisters add salt to the water to disinfect them.
- Use this massage ball from Decathlon before going to sleep (roll it under your soles applying pressure):
- Use walking sticks
Don’t buy the cheapest ones. Check the handle and make sure it is comfortable to hold. Mine have a handle made out of cork, not plastic. Also check that the height is quickly adjustable, meaning your walking sticks should have crasps and not be the rotating kind. I often adjust height while walking, depending on the elevation and prefered walking style for the road. I’ve made custom protrusions on my handles that precisely fit my index finger using quality air-dry clay (Cleopatre brand, made in France). It stuck on the cork surface on it’s own and it already lasted more than 1000 km of walking. This allows me to swing my sticks with ease without needing to grab them too tightly. Don’t hesitate to tweak and adjust your equipent to your body, it really makes a difference.
- Always wear knee braces
The standard knee brace (that looks like a cylinder you slide on your leg) is difficult to wear over pants and tend to fall as you’ve inevitably lose weight on the camino. So I only recommend it for the afternoon while resting, if you have pain, or if you always walk in shorts. I use this type: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000001859847.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dbHO9LX
This can be very easily be adjusted as needed and can be worn over your pants. The only disadvantage is heat retention. I will be testing this more minimal type for my next camino: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32807478751.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dbHO9LX

That’s it. That’s how you save your feet and knees. I will cover walking styles and shoes/blister prevention in the next section.

III. Feet types and shoes

Observe how people around you walk. Most men tend to point their feet outwards when walking. The pilgrims that did that seemed to suffer less while walking but had knee pain when descending and are more susceptible to shin splits. This is more a walking style of people with “flat feet” and men. Check the following diagram.

View attachment 104085

I personally have the opposite problem: a very high arch. The natural position of my feet is slightly inward. This means that most of the weight is carried by my heels which creates imflammation of the plantar fascia, achilles tendon and knee pain. I mostly step with the external part of my foot. This is common in women, as we tend to have a larger pelvis for obvious reasons. Fortunately there is a very easy solution: gel inserts that support the arch of your foot so that the weight gets distributed on a larger part of your foot. I also added an extra gel padding under my heals. Just with these 2 small adjustments I was able to walk 615 km with virtually no foot pain. Study your walking style (look at the soles of a well worn shoe and were you have hard skin on your feet for an easy answer) and understand what is the cause of you pain – your can fix it, promise. Here is an example: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/1005001459166932.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.57764c4dafzOj5

But no matter what your feet look like the shoes you use need to have *thick* soles. You should be able to walk on stones without feeling them too much. The inside of your shoes should feel soft. First buy your socks and wear them while buying your shoes, which should be at least 1 size bigger than normal, preferably 1,5 size bigger. Check that your toes have room enough to lift and to open side to side. I find hiking boots too warm from the camino (June to October). Hiking shoes that end at ankle should be enough. Also buy a pair of hiking sandals (I recommend the ones from Decathlon that cost 30 euros), also test them wearing the socks.

I woke in my hiking shoes in the morning when it’s cooler and my feet are less swollen. I switch to my sandals for the rest of the day. Having 2 pairs of shoes is essential to prevent blisters. On that note, study your toes and check which ones touch each other – those will probably blister. It’s usually the little toes. Cover them the touching areas with hydrocolloid patches or wear a silicone separator while walking. Patches should be applied *before* a blister forms, not after.

IV. Walking styles

It’s amazing to me how most pilgrims use the same walking style on every surface. Athletic walking isn’t automatic – it requires concentration and conscious stepping. Most people do not seem to know how to use their walking sticks and instead just drag them along with a clacking sound. So let’s start with that.

Walking sticks are there for two reasons. First of all when you have weight on your back you tend to alter your posture by leaning forward. This forces you to bend your knees and put’s stain on the ligaments. By holding the sticks in front of you are able to transfer some of the weight to your hands and stabilise your posture so you can walk more naturally despite the weight. Second there are to help you push the ground the moment you also push the ground with your back foot to propel in forward. This is immensely helpful and if you sychnronise hand and foot this gives you crazy speed. But you need to put some force in your biceps and use the muscles in your hands, they don’t tire so easily, which is very helpful. As a plus you will get some nice, strong arms. Lastly ascents and descends become safer, sticks prevent a fall on slippery ground.

Now about walking… I use four styles, which I named olympic walk, powerwalk, the “swag” and “beach walk”. They are all different from my “normal” walk. They allow me to go faster when I want to or rest some muscles for a while. For the first one lean forward as in a running position and stick your butt out. Stand tall so that the weight is carried by your shoulders, leaving your lower body free to move. Look down (holding your head up is tiresome). Now propel yourself forward walking your feet one in from of the other, taking very big steps by swinging your pelvis. Check videos of “racewalking” on youtube for detailed explanations. Powerwalk in similar but in this case you take big steps without swinging your pelvis too much, which strains the hip joint if you do it too much. The “swag” is a very cool walk where you also swing your shoulders while walking (think rappers walking in videoclips), you are mostly relaxed when doing it. Beach walk is for descends and when you get tired of walking on rocks, mostly works with sandals. You open you toes wide and keep them like that. Then you imagine you are walking on sand trying to feel it with your whole sole. You propel yourself forward by first touching your spread toes and then the ball of the foot.

To maintain rhythm use music. Always step on the beat.
6 km/h songs:
5 km/h songs:
4+ km/h song:

IV. Packing list

1) Backpack: It needs to have side pockets, as well as pockets on the hip straps. You need to be able to grab your water bottle , money and snacks while walking, without having to take the backpack off. Also desirable a space between your back and the backpack for sweat evaporation. I have this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32880245260.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dI8Q1vb
2) Sun hat: With a large brim to cover the backside of your neck and your ears. You survive the meseta by pulling the brim and covering the interminable horizon which makes you feel disheartened with the distance you have to travel. You protect your face from the sun. Foldable. I like this one: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/32982924429.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4d8WSHCc
3) Rain coat & rain cover for your backpack
4) For the feet: Gel frio piernas cansadas, cold spray, foldable water bucket, decathlon small massage ball, gel inserts for the shoes
5) Pharmacy: hidrocolloid patches, large hanzaplast that you can cut to size, needle and dental floss to thread blisters, magnesium pills (prevent cramps), Brexin (strong antiflammatory), paracetamol (mild antiflammatory/pain killer), mesulid (strong pain killer),caffeine pills (optional when tired), small scissors, sunscreen
6) Hiking shoes and hiking sandals
7) Toiletries: Beware, these can get heavy very quickly. I have only a good quality bar of soap that is used as shampoo, shower gel and for washing clothes. Toothpaste transfered in small plastic container. Toothbrush with container. Small face cream (coconut oil) and lipbalm. Perfume in a small container: https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000835004711.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.27424c4dwPCa0K
If you feel like taking more things transfer them in small plastic containers. Nail clipper.
8) Feminine hygiene: reusable menstual cup (does not bother you at all while walking), washable pad (for the night)
9) For sleeping: Silk liner (30 euros from decathlon), a pair of shorts, a t-shirt, eye mask, earplugs (2 pairs)
10) Clothes:
2 pairs of quality socks, 1 pair yoga pants, 1 pair hiking pants with detachable sleeves, 2 hiking t-shirts, 2 pairs of underware (choose shorts with sweat evaporation and antibacterial treatment to prevent rushes), 2 pairs of athletic bras, 1 white long sleeve blouse with hood (can be worn in the sun), 2 bandanas, 1 thick fleece jacket for the cold, 1 multiway dress, sunglasses, 1 big travel towel (whole body)

Note on the 2 bandanas: amazingly useful. One is used as a head band to protect your ears from cold and heat and to hold your hair. The other goes around the neck for the same reasons, can be pulled over your nose when needed. In the heat wet them both – they will keep you cool.
11) Water bottle that closes securely (3 euro from decathlon). I always carry 800 ml to 1,300 ml of water with me.
12) Food: This can be salty nuts, chocolate, tuna can, chorizo, bread, candy, fruit.
13) Small backpack that foldes tiny (for grocery shopping and if you need to send your backpack forward)
14) Walking sticks
15) Mobile and charger

Buen camino and see you on the way!

The (now) veteran :)
Some very good information here. Your post is proof that everyone walks their own camino at their own pace. Even in my younger days I would have never wanted to walk those distances. Now as I mellow with age I try to keep my first 10 days at about 20K and then maybe up to 25K. But always listening to my body. Distances will also vary depending on which camino you take. A 25k day on the Meseta is nothing like a 25k day the first weeks out of Le Puy or Irun. But if this is the way you want to go. Buen Camino Pilgrim and enjoy. Maybe you can wave to me as you go by.;)
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
A few times
Not sure I would consider anyone who walks 20 km days on the Camino to be a zero, or anyone who walks 40 km ones to be a hero. I do know that just about everyone I met while on various Caminos who had walking injuries so bad they had to quit early, had them because they walked too far too fast. Went beyond their limitations. I would caution any prospective pilgrims to keep that in mind. I did a few 30+ kilometre days in order to catch up due to shorter days because of severe weather. While interesting to walk that far daily, I did find it to cause less time to smell the roses so to speak. Did not take as many coffee or beer breaks. Stopped less in the smaller churches etc. Did not enjoy it as much, and as I hanged up my competitive nature beside my football cleats decades ago I have no internal drive to walk farther and faster everyday. Try to do new personal bests etc. Infantry life may have snuffed that fire as well. Long hikes, road marches. Very, very heavy rucks, equipment and no choice in the matter lol.
Also, I would advise prospective pilgrims that if you walk with headphones/earphones on listening to music you will not hear oncoming bicycles behind you, not to mention there's a lot of urban/city walking on the Camino and you won't hear vehicular traffic as well. Dangerous.
 
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stevelm1

Recovering Perigrino
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sep-Oct 2015, Camino Portuguese in Sep-Oct 2019. I might have one more Camino in me.
For those with limited time and are in a hurry to finish this is really great advice. For me though I take it slow. First Camino I walked 20k days, my second 16k days, with lots of days off. I may go even slower for the next one. However I will have fun taking photos of your back. ;-) 0'PilgrimsEnteringCastrojepiz.JPG
 

Lydia Gillen

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2007/8/9, 2011 , 2012/13/14. C.F 2015
Camino Portugues 2017,2018,2019
volunteering
Very impressive Tantalu, and lots of facts and advice. But as I have often said on this forum age matters and makes a big difference. Also height and length of arms. I for example have both short legs and arms, I could never reach a pocket in my backpack and yet for you it seems easy. 20 and 30 year old recover quickly for the days walk , those in 70 and 80 age group need more time to rest in the afternoons. I have seen tall young people take one stride where I need two steps sometimes three. So i would be cautious about taking advice unless I know a little more about the adviser. however Buen Camino.
 

Richard Smith

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2016
Kumano Kodo 2014
Another problem with 4am post?
>>my first camino, that lasted just 8 days (220 km) with 20 km days.
your average was 27.5 km per day
 

Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
Very impressive Tantalu, and lots of facts and advice. But as I have often said on this forum age matters and makes a big difference. Also height and length of arms. I for example have both short legs and arms, I could never reach a pocket in my backpack and yet for you it seems easy. 20 and 30 year old recover quickly for the days walk , those in 70 and 80 age group need more time to rest in the afternoons. I have seen tall young people take one stride where I need two steps sometimes three. So i would be cautious about taking advice unless I know a little more about the adviser. however Buen Camino.
Lydia I am 1,65 m and have notoriously short legs and arms as well as small feet (37) and am in my late 30's. If you have pockets on your hip straps you should be able to reach them unless you have.. no arms at all? Also the side pockets of my backpack are positioned towards me and are made of elastic mesh. I do believe it's more about the backpack and less about how you are built. I've added a link with my exact backpack. Needing to constantly take your backpack off to search for things is quite tiresome in the long run. For ex. water, snacks, hat, sun sleeves, mobile and sunscreen are placed in such a way that I can grab them while walking.
My advice had more to do about how to save energy and prevent inflammation even on long distances rather than anything else. And it is certainly not meant to criticize anyone.
Of course everyone does their own thing!
Wish you all the best and buen camino!
 
D

Deleted member 61803

Guest
Music to walk to? I use the old double March tunes, Blue Bonnets, Blaydon Races and if I really really need to speed up then the old DLI tunes Moneymusk and the Keel Row. I don't need ear phones I have known these tunes from infancy and internally hum them when I need to speed up. I would only walk at that stupid speed if the weather was really bad or I was really late getting to my bed because there were just too many roses to smell. I never, ever try to speedwalk up hills, ambling is a great word for this action, but often trot down them, zig zagging.
 
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Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
Another problem with 4am post?
>>my first camino, that lasted just 8 days (220 km) with 20 km days.
your average was 27.5 km per day
Perhaps I am ignorant but I truly fail to see how this nitpicking is in anyway relevant to my post: how to prevent injury and inflammation, with very specific methods and very specific results even on long distances.

If it is that relevant to you for some reason, I walked Pomferrada to Santiago in 8 days on my first camino. My compostellana says it's 218 km. If you search google they all give the distance to be 200 km more or less. I distinctly remember my longest day to be 30 km. So if you take out this statistical anomaly out 170km/7 days amounts to 24.28 km/per day which is both quantitatively and qualitatively incredibly less than my daily quota this year. Plus we are talking about 8 days versus 18 and most importantly: I was in a looot of pain. Next year I walked Pamplona to Leon. It took 18 days. I had blisters on all my toes. One day my knee stopped fuctioning after the longest day (34 km) to the point where I had to drag my foot along and take strong antiflammatories to be able to walk at all the next day. I was forced to walk this much on that day because all the albergues were full. Last year I walked Gijon to the first 2 days to Finisterre, in 18 days. My Compostellana says it was 350 km to Santiago. This year I walked 615 km in 18 days. With almost no pain, no blisters, no knee problems and still walking like a normal person and not a duck when I came back.

I did not train at all during this year. If anything I ate like a pig during the pandemic. Plus I am 4 years older than I was on my first camino. The *only* thing that changed is gear and the methods that I detailed in my post. This is what made this stark difference. Gear is replicable. Taking care of your feet and my packing list are replicable. This is why I wrote this post.

But apparently phychically challenging yourself, walking long distances and most of all avoiding pain is taboo in this community. So please go on doing 10 km days and smelling the roses. I already regret spending valuable time writing this post for people who apparently think that their way of doing things is the only "right" way and walking fast is "stupid". And yes I have met people who were in their 70's walking 50 km days, of small stature and with 14 kg on their back. My whole inspiration for attempting this came from a post on this very forum, a 57 year old man that walked Pamplona to Santiago in 19 days (!) and had his detailed itinerary posted here. I thought, ok, if he can, I can too! But if that is not your cup of tea, then just don't. It's totally fine. Just don't take the people who do it as a personal insult - it is not and it shouldn't be. Do your thing and let the rest do theirs.
 

MikeJS

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francis (2011), Norte (12), VdlP (16). Sureste/Invierno (17). Olvidado/San Salvador/Primitivo (19)
One question. Why on earth do you think it's a good idea to walk 40K days? do you even recognise where you have been? Sorry two questions.
I normally walk 40km plus per day. I tend to start around 0730 as I am a early riser and my natural walking pace is about 5km per hour. Therefore i am at my destination 1530 onward which for me is a perfect time to get washed and do my washing before I walk out for the evening. I would not want to stop any earlier in the day, not least because most of the places I choose to stop at are very small with little specific to see. I do not much like cities.
 
D

Deleted member 61803

Guest
Step away from the fire if you don't want to be burned.

Your opinions are useful to you and others. But please be kind to those who don't share your opinions.

You have no proof that your methods works for anyone other than yourself, some of your ideas are not tested, proven or even reproducible in the majority of others. So interesting as your ideas may be then others have the right to question them and point out obvious errors, caused in one case, by a lack of explanation on your behalf.
No need to smell the roses, in many ways I like what you wrote. Not too sure I like the tenor of a couple of your replies.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
@Tantalu has enthusiastically shared information with the intention to be helpful.

It's not required that everyone agree with it.
Nor that everyone would want to walk long distances every day. But some people can and do, and they are no less pilgrims for that.

If you want to smell the roses good.
If you want to walk 60km days, good.
Pilgrimage is heart work not just body work. And the heart work takes precedence. So we can't assume fast walkers are not coming from a heartfelt place, nor doing the same kind of profound inner work slower walkers do.
So brava, @Tantalu!
And pax everyone.

If you feel like 'piling on' the OP, it might help to remember we are all pilgrims facing the same task and there are many roads to Santiago.
But if that is not your cup of tea, then just don't. It's totally fine. Just don't take the people who do it as a personal insult - it is not and it shouldn't be. Do your thing and let the rest do theirs.

Edited to add: I've never walked a 40+km day on the camino and may never do that. In fact my personal bias tends to be with the slower crowd. But I know some very fast, and very good, peregrinas. And peregrinos.
Speed has nothing to do with it.
 
Last edited:
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
I'm curious, @Tantalu. What do you think made the most difference?
Taking care of inflammation or adjusting the way you walk?

Fortunately there is a very easy solution: gel inserts that support the arch of your foot so that the weight gets distributed on a larger part of your foot. I also added an extra gel padding under my heals. Just with these 2 small adjustments I was able to walk 615 km with virtually no foot pain.
On the camino after a long day it sometimes takes a while for me to drop off to sleep because my feet are throbbing. This is definitely worth a try next time..
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
For those with limited time and are in a hurry to finish this is really great advice
As someone who started walking longer distances at age 64 or so, maybe I’m a bit overly sensitive, but the attitude that whose who walk long distances must be in a hurry is really mssing the point.

Some of you may like arriving at your destination, spending the afternoon in a cafe talking with other peregrinos, cooking a communal meal, or whatever you understand smelling the roses to entail. That’s fine, no one is critical of that approach. But for me, walking is where I disengage, where I ponder, where I grieve, where I celebrate. That’s how I want to spend my time on the camino. I enjoy the human encounters as much as the next person, but it’s not the point of my camino. I do enjoy the physical challenge of pushing my body (I am surely not a super athlete by any means), but that’s not why I walk longer stages. I do it because walking and thinking are the reason I came to the camino in the first place, and as long as my body cooperates that’s how I want to spend my days.
 

Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
That's a good question! Let me think... If I had to choose just 2 important parameters I think it would be starting way earlier (5:30) to avoid the heat. Having more "cool" hours in the morning has definitely helped me maintain speed and suffer less. And the second would be the gel inserts for the arch. I tried walking without them for a few hours and I got cramps quite quickly.

The next 2 things on my list would be carrying less weight (I had 12 kg on my first camino!) and doing something about it as soon as I felt any pain whatsoever in my feet. On previous caminos I would suffer through it. Now I stopped everytime and applied cold spray/creme, checked if I was getting a blister, changed to my sandals... basically I made sure that things never got too bad the minute they started going bad, so amazingly they never did :) This might also be a benefit of walking alone. You can stop anytime you need to without incommodating anyone else. You can always meet your friends at your destination or at intermediate stops.

And by the way, I really do have short legs. The men that walked with me always made fun of me needing to move my feet so fast in order to maintain the same rythm as them - one of their steps is 3 of mine. So the only thing I can do is take bigger steps and use my arms (walking sticks) to propel myself forward.
 

Tantalu

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances(2018, 2019), about to walk Camino Norte
peregrina2000 I love how poetically you explained things, thank you so much for that. <3
I am very curious of your experience!


Did you find it difficult transcending into walking long distances? Do you have any tips to share? Did you have any particular age-related challenges you had to overcome? I am so glad to be meeting other women here and being able to discuss this! I have to admit until now all the long distance walkers I encountered on the way were exclusively men.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
2019
We need to bring @LTfit into this discussion, because she is a natural at distance, with expertise to boot. So I bet she would have something interesting to add. I always assumed (@peregrina2000 and @LTfit) that you can so much more easily glide through long distances than I because of your longer legs. So my interest is piqued by your experience, @Tantalu, because I'm no beanpole.
 

stevelm1

Recovering Perigrino
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances Sep-Oct 2015, Camino Portuguese in Sep-Oct 2019. I might have one more Camino in me.
As someone who started walking longer distances at age 64 or so, maybe I’m a bit overly sensitive, but the attitude that whose who walk long distances must be in a hurry is really mssing the point.

Some of you may like arriving at your destination, spending the afternoon in a cafe talking with other peregrinos, cooking a communal meal, or whatever you understand smelling the roses to entail. That’s fine, no one is critical of that approach. But for me, walking is where I disengage, where I ponder, where I grieve, where I celebrate. That’s how I want to spend my time on the camino. I enjoy the human encounters as much as the next person, but it’s not the point of my camino. I do enjoy the physical challenge of pushing my body (I am surely not a super athlete by any means), but that’s not why I walk longer stages. I do it because walking and thinking are the reason I came to the camino in the first place, and as long as my body cooperates that’s how I want to spend my days.
It is true that in my short post I did not include every reason someone might want to walk further than me in a day. It is not my place to decide how far anyone walks, but for myself. I am sorry that you viewed my message as negative, that was not my intent.
 
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