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Deciding when to go

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Camino Frances topics' started by StepheninDC, Dec 12, 2016.

  1. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    Hi, everyone. This is my first post. I recently decided to do my first Camino in 2017 and am looking for suggestions on when to go. I realize after reading lots of discussions and other posts on here that things like sleeping bags, backpacks and even footwear depend a lot on when one is planning to walk the Camino. For now, I am planning to walk the Camino Frances, but haven't made up my mind exactly how long I'll be gone. I have a lot of vacation time at work I can use, but don't necessarily want to blow it all on one trip (my wife won't be coming along, but she and I do plan to do some traveling in 2017 together). Anyway, the last two times I was in Spain were during the winter (Feb 2014 and Feb 2016). It was COLD, so I think I'll try for late spring, summer, or early fall in terms of time frames. If I were to go in late May or early September, for instance, would I need a downfilled sleeping bag? I'm guessing that June-August would be warmer and so I might not need as warm of a sleeping bag. I have been reading lots on here about backpacks and it sounds like the lighter, the better. I'm 5'4" and weigh 135 lbs, I work out a lot and am very fit but I don't want to be too weighed down by gear. I can walk for long distances but I want to enjoy the scenery, as I'm very much a Europhile (I've been coming to Europe since 1984, on average once or twice a year). Looking forward to going on this very much and meeting other peregrinos! My mom passed away last year and I'm dedicating the trip to her memory. I'm also a major polyglot (I speak fluent German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Norwegian), and I can figure out Galician and Catalan, if necessary, haha. Thanks! :)
     
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  2. Purky

    Purky Active Member

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    I tried to plan around the school summer holiday in Spain as much as I could, in fear of refugio's full of partying Spanish students. Other than that, it rained in Galicia anyway. Have fun!
     
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  3. whariwharangi

    whariwharangi Veteran Member

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    You will likely be staying in Albergues. Temperatures will not go below 0 C because the Albergues will be heated enough to at least keep pipes from freezing. Even in summer, mountains can be cold at night. I would base sleeping bag selection on these criteria.

    That being said, anyone can be uncomfortable on the camino. You likely won't die for not having a sleeping bag. Try sleeping outside in cool weather or in a cold room using gear you plan to take with you.

    Down fill is the lightest sleeping bag material in terms of weight vs warmth. The only downside is that down loses its loft if it gets wet. Make sure you get a waterproof valise for your sleeping bag.

    John Brierley has written a good guide book. I would suggest getting a copy and reading on his insights as to when to go and how much time to allow.
     
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  4. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    Thank you! I just put Brierley's book on my Amazon wish list about an hour ago. I'm looking forward to getting and reading it. I'm going to visit a sporting goods store today to try on some backpacks just to see how they feel, hopefully with some filler material so I can see how heavy it might be with supplies and stuff.
     
  5. C clearly

    C clearly Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Late May and early September are possibly the two busiest times of the year on the Camino Frances. Followed only by mid-summer. I still say "go for it" if that is the best or only time that fits your schedule.

    However, winter in Spain does not last 7 months! How about March, April, October, early November? That is excellent weather for walking, and you don't need a down bag intended for sub-freezing weather. On a few mornings, you might find the air nippy and getting down close to freezing (so bring layers and some light gloves), and maybe even a night or 2 when you think "I could have used an extra blanket." I travel in those months with a synthetic sleeping bag rated to 7C (45C). I would often be walking in a t-shirt in the afternoons, and I am not a hardy Canadian. (I am from Vancouver.)

    I would take virtually the same equipment and clothes at any time of year, with only some minor adjustments. My spring/fall kit can span the full range of weather, and weighs less than 6.5 kg (excluding water).

    For me, the ideal time would be to start in mid-to-late March or mid-October.

    P.S. Welcome to the forum, and happy planning!
     
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  6. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    Thank you so much! I've seen some of your postings already and am honored to have a seasoned veteran helping me out. :D Thank you for the tips, it's really helpful. I am toying with the idea of going in June, basically leaving at the beginning of the month and going for 28 days or so. I've seen some suggestions regarding backpack size (25L, 30L, etc.). Also that I should aim for 10% of my bodyweight, or even lower. How did you get along? That would be just under 14 lbs for me. Is that reasonable?
     
  7. C clearly

    C clearly Veteran Member Donating Member

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    I comfortably carried 6 kg plus water, in a 31 L backpack and had everything I needed. I am about the same size as you, with a couple of extra pounds around the middle. I am moderately fit 68 year old. In practice, the 10% rule simply means that you will probably be able to carry 12-18 pounds (5-8 kg) comfortably all day, if you have no particular back problem and if you have a properly fitting backpack. And, fortunately, we can assure you that you can include everything you need on the camino, within that weight. I do weigh everything as I select and pack it, because that discipline forces me to be really efficient with the weight. (And I enjoy the detail.;))
     
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  8. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    Thanks, I think that after deciding which backpack to buy, I'll practice walking with several kgs stuffed inside so I can get a real feel for what it's like to wear it all day. I've done lots of walking in Europe, but never with a full backpack, and certainly not 700km! Do you have a preference for shoes vs boots? I'm starting to think June would be a good month for me, warm but not too warm.
     
  9. C clearly

    C clearly Veteran Member Donating Member

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    I walk in early spring or late fall (my choice of the "best time", as I am retired and can go whenever I choose). The weather is unpredictable and can be wet, so I wear light waterproof boots - but only because they are equal in comfort to any shoe I have tried. If shoes were more comfortable, I would wear them. Here is my general advice, copied from another post:

    Shoes are the most important decision. Choice of socks is also important, once you've picked the shoe. The absolute top priority is that the shoes or boots be a comfortable fit/shape to suit your foot. Once you find something that just "feels" right on your foot, try it in the next size larger. If the larger size is wearable (maybe with a thicker sock) then you should buy the larger size. Buy it from a store that has a good return policy. Test it first by walking briskly in a shopping mall or indoor location so you can return it to the store if it isn't right. Maybe test 2 sizes or 2 models. Boot vs shoe, waterproof vs not, are secondary decisions and either can work fine. I use a lightweight waterproof boot. Heavy hiking boots are not necessary. Many people wear trail runners.
     
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  10. frida1

    frida1 Active Member

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    I walked my first camino starting on April 10, 2014 on the Frances. I'm about the same size as you, 60 at that time, and active, although far from peak condition at the time I did the camino. For personal reasons, it was a spur of the moment decision. I carried a 34l pack and a light sleeping bag of about 1 lb. I had about 13 lb not including food and water. While I had some painful moments, I completed the walk without major problems. I think April is a wonderful time, although you could need to modify if it's a snowy year in the Pyrenees. I carried silk long underwear, a cap and thin gloves, along with a fleece vest and rain jacket. There were plenty of people, but no crowding at that time. Last year I walked the Portuguese from Santarem, and this May I'm doing the Arles Way in full. I hope camino captures your heart the way it has mine! Although it's good to be reasonably prepared, a normally fit person of common sense is unlikely to experience major problems, I think.
     
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  11. MTtoCamino

    MTtoCamino Veteran Member

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    I recommend mid April to Mid May
     
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  12. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    Thanks, I saw that post earlier and liked what it had to say. I plan to test some hiking shoes very soon. At lunchtime today I had the opportunity to test out some backpacks at a local REI store. The Osprey Manta 36 fit me really well-I tried on others but they were way too big for my small frame. I also saw a couple of nice, lightweight sleeping bags. My biggest concern where shoes are concerned is blisters. It looks like many people do a combination of the right socks/liners and some daily TLC with Vaseline or aloe vera. Any advice on albergues in terms of whether to book ahead of time or not? I suppose that partly depends on how busy of a season it is.
     
  13. AlwynWellington

    AlwynWellington Active Member Donating Member

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    @StepheninDC, hi. I cant help you much with times to go: my experience is too limited.

    Think on what @C clearly says about just a t-shirt. It wouldn't do you any harm to train in your northern winter wearing the least you can. That is a sure fire way to limit what you put in your pack.

    But something to think about for packs: most of the over the counter brands at around 30 litres or so seem to weigh around 1.5 kg (3 lb). In my view that is a very significant proportion of the 6 to 7 kg suggested overall weight, including water. And these tend to be back hugging devices, with no space for your back and clothing to breathe. There are packs from bespoke manufacturers, with frames that provide airspace to your back, that weigh considerably less than 1 kg and some closer to 0.6 kg, that you may wish to consider.

    Kia kaha (take care, be strong, get going)
     
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  14. AlwynWellington

    AlwynWellington Active Member Donating Member

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    Many say blisters are a product of either:
    • close fitting shoes causing chafing; or
    • heat build up causing sweating of the feet; or
    • both.

    For the former I suggest you consider wide fittings and longer fittings that you would use in your normal day.

    For the latter I suggest you consider a shoe with woven uppers with built in small holes that will allow heat out easily.

    I ford streams in such shoes: yes the water gets in and, yes, it dries out quite quickly as you keep going: the small holes see to that. So walking in the rain is not a big issue.

    Kia kaha (take care, be strong get going)
     
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  15. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    Thank you for that advice,
    Thank you very much for that! I will keep that in mind. I have seen others recommending buying shoes a bit larger than normal so as to leave room for thick socks and a sock liner. So many things to think about. Nice to hear from a Kiwi! My sister spent a year living in Granada, Spain and had a good friend from NZ. Thanks again.
     
  16. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    Just had a quick conversation with my boss at work and it looks like I'll be doing the Camino in overlapping months, meaning, say June 17-July 15 or something like that. (it's a work-related issue) I could go at other times during the year, too, but essentially I'd need to do two weeks at the end of one month through 2 weeks of the following one, assuming I'm gone a month. That's neither here nor there, as far as the weather goes, I guess.
     
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  17. MTtoCamino

    MTtoCamino Veteran Member

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    From fixing my own feet & others during my Camino avoid heavy leather boots. Especially now that you have your dates to prepare for. I walked 15 miles a day prior to leaving testing full leather Aslo then tried Nike running shoes, then settled on Keens with no goretex type waterproofing. They were held together with super glue & duct tape when I reached the ocean. But they were comfy. So now my search continues for a lightweight boot that has a Vibram sole that I will replace the inside cushion with Blue sole footbeds.
    You won't need a sleeping bag for the dates you mentioned just a liner. Make sure you follow the bed bug info provided by some on this forum. As you will have them around that time of year.
    Buen Camino
     
  18. nycwalking

    nycwalking Active Member

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    StepheninDC,

    June-July will be hot and busy time. If you are sun sensitive you may want a lightweight sun hat. I walked summer 2001, started Roncesvalles with black hair, arrived in Santiago with a wheat-blond hairline.

    Enjoy camino.
     
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  19. Anemone del Camino

    Anemone del Camino Anemone

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    Late May and Late September are my favourites, actually the only times I have, and would, consider walking a northern Camino such as the Frances. This would almost garantee warm days, cool nights, without being cold. This being said, May 2103 was COLD and September 201x? was HOT on the Norte.

    If ot were not for outlyers like May 2013 you would not need a down sleeping bag. In fact, all I had brought with me was a liner. I had to buy a bag when I finally hit a large city that would have one for sale.

    So now I carry my Costco down throw, adapted with snap buttons to turn it into a sleeping bag, if I need ot, and need it closed up. Some albergues have blankets, bit not all do, and certainly not clean ones you would not mind pulling up on your face.

    This being said, other than that what to bring is about the same, unless walking in winter. Pants, synthetic or merino Ts, a light fleece and rain gear. Shoes are the same: Gortex train runners unless your feet sweat a lot, or you have weak ankles.
     
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  20. Anemone del Camino

    Anemone del Camino Anemone

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    If you haven't bought your Brierley yet perhaps you would consider buiying from the Forum, and as a bonus you'll receive a credencial.

    8 kg will allow you to carry all you need and then some, regardless of your weight. I walked part of the Norte with 11kg because I brought reading with me - now my mini Ipad comes with me.

    For me the most important thing to bring is anti-caffing ointment, for feet, groin and any other area that might start acting up. I now buy Proshield plus, a product used in hospitals to prevent bedsores and that does not stain. For feet I have also used Vick's Vapour Rub, Vaseline or Bagbalm, which is also antibiotic what have you.

    Regarding socks, I once tried medium weight Injinjis. Good thing I tried them at home before Caminoing because they kept too much moisture and cause the skin of my toes to part. Thin weight work very well. Lesson? Try everything you plan on bringing for a few days, including undies.
     
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  21. sitges54

    sitges54 New Member

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    Is the reason for buying one size larger footwear, because of wearing thicker or double socks, or because of foot swelling? Too big a shoe, to me, means friction thus blisters.
     
  22. C clearly

    C clearly Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Both of these reasons. Also, slight pressure points that will not be noticeable on a 1 or 2-day walk may become problematic after many days. I have always been uncomfortable with the blanket recommendation to "get shoes that are a size larger than normal." It depends on what you "normally" wear and whether your feet do swell. My feet do not seem to swell much, and I wear the same shoes around home as I do on the camino. But I do wear a very roomy shoe. I buy the biggest shoe I can, that does not slide around on my foot when laced comfortably but firmly.

    I do not like a thick sock. However, I've had to get a slightly thicker sock since my latest shoes fit a bit bigger than my old ones and it feels better to fill the space a bit.
     
  23. AlwynWellington

    AlwynWellington Active Member Donating Member

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    @sitges54, thanks. What works for A may not work for B. Or C's meat maybe D's poison. You have to find what works for you, being open to experiment.

    The idea seems to have a large space for the toes and immediately behind. Laces tied firmly will normally minimise the foot moving around/forward. Having said that, on many occasions at least one of my laces is undone, without dire consequences.

    Walking 20 + km per day is not what you usually do. Whether it is allowing extra space for liner plus hose, or providing air space to let heat move away easily or whether it is providing for the feet to swell or ... One day it may be one aspect, on another day yet another aspect that the extra sizing is coping with. Only if fitting shoes were an exact science!

    What I can say from my experience is this: during the northern summer of 2016 and for a total distance of around 1,300 km, the larger internal front space and the very breathable uppers, for me, meant no blisters.
     
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  24. MTtoCamino

    MTtoCamino Veteran Member

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    Your feet swell, the skin gets so thick on the bottom of your feet you can comfortably run barefoot on gravel. Your toes get larger skin gets thicker. Your feet take a picture of them before you start. Then after your Camino.
    You are correct too much room you will get blisters I simply took extra shoe cushions & built up the shoe then reduced as needed. Our feet seem to be as unique as each of us are. The key is keeping them happy.
    Buen Camino
     
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  25. Anemone del Camino

    Anemone del Camino Anemone

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    On my first C. I brought thick socks, and liners. What a mistake. I now wear light weight merino or synthetic socks. Cannot stand having my toes feeling all tied up. Again, trial and error. Start trying and making mistakes, until you find what works for you.
     
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  26. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    I had the opportunity to try on several backpacks and pairs of shoes yesterday. What an experience that was! For the most part, the backpacks were good, if a little too large at first. I was at REI, and the very helpful salesman showed me several styles by Osprey (which seems to get good reviews here, although I know it's ultimately a personal choice). The first couple were way too big, both in terms of capacity (50L and up) and size (too long for my rather short torso). I eventually got a size small in the Osprey Manta 36 and really liked it. I especially liked the many pockets and the inclusion of a water reservoir and tube. Some people don't seem to like the fact that the bladder isn't removable, but that isn't a concern for me. The shoes were harder to figure out. I definitely want a shoe that feels light and comfortable, something that breathes since I'll probably be there in the summer, but I worry about comfort vs support. I don't want to end up with a comfy shoe that allows me to feel every rock and pebble along the Camino. Trying on shoes is very tricky for me, especially since the carpeted floor of a shoe store is very different from the asphalt, gravel, dirt, etc I'll be encountering along the way. I'll try on lots of shoes to see what I like best.
     
  27. Suzanne Millar

    Suzanne Millar kiwigirl

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    Hi, I walked this year (feels so long ago though). Left last week of May and finished end of June. Didn't take a sleeping bag , just a thermal liner which was great as not as heavy an did not take room in the bag. Occasionally if it was cold used a blanket that most Albergues seemed to provide. As far as being 'busy' I did not find it. I stayed 'between' recommended stops and for lots of the time walked by myself. Still people around but never felt inundated by people. Never booked ahead and only once was there an occasion of 'no room at the inn" so had to walk an extra 6 kms that day. This was only because an albergue had closed in a small village leaving the remaining one full. The only time I had concerns were from Sarria onward but really other than a couple of days where there were more on the roads I had a great relatively 'quiet' camino. Weather-wise was fantastic....but thinking every year is different. It is amazing what you can do without in your pack and lighter is definitely better. Your language skill swill take you a long way
     
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  28. Anemone del Camino

    Anemone del Camino Anemone

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    Stephenindc,

    You may want to consider changing the insoles that come with the trail runners with better ones. The ones that come with the shoes are really there for hygene, not fit, comfort nor support. I found out the hard way I have flat feet, by suggering through two350km stretches of the Frances not understanding why my feet were constantly hurting.

    Now, when I need a new pair of trail runners I buy the pairs I'm considering and show them to my podiatrist who then advises me on the best pair for me, free of charge.

    Because feet change, I now go see her 2 months or so before any Camino to see if I also need new orthotics.
     
  29. MTtoCamino

    MTtoCamino Veteran Member

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    Missoula Mt
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    Francis SJPdP to Finnestere April(2014)
    Big fan of Osprey. If you find a shoe that is comfy but thin you can use inserts to like the "Sole" brand to keep from feeling rocks thru the shoe. If you can find a lightweight hiker with Vibram soles they will or should last the entire walk. My Keens were very comfy but I had no sole left & no lining left They were done 2 weeks before the Ocean (duct tape is great!). Part of the fun is finding what will work buying @ REI & returning after 45 days, think of it as quality control for the MFG.
    Buen Camino
    Keith
     
  30. Kanga

    Kanga Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    @StepheninDC you are right about making a decision on when you will go before you buy any gear. Even shoes.

    I've walked the CF in all seasons except winter. May and September are the most popular months for leaving SJPDP and it can be crowded. The weather is always unpredictable but
    June, July or August can be pretty well relied on to be hot. You definitely do not need a down sleeping bag during those months - a silk liner or sheet will be plenty. I enjoyed my walk starting at the beginning of June. It was hot but we always seemed to get a breeze on the meseta, and the rain in Galicia was quite a pleasure! I would avoid a start in mid July going into August as just too hot.

    If you do decide to walk in summer, consider hiking sandals. I love 'em!
     
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  31. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    I did put a sleeping bag on an online wishlist, but now I'm thinking about just a silk liner, since, as many have suggested, it'll be too warm for me to need a sleeping bag. I'm planning on trying on more shoes, too. Initially I only tried on waterproof styles, but now think I'll just go for comfort and breathability-I'll keep in mind the possibility of new insoles. I plan to do more shoe searching this weekend when I'm visiting family back home. Also want to try more backpacks, as well. For the moment, my favorite is the Osprey, but I want to compare it to other models. I'm sure other peregrinos have faced this, but I'm trying to reconcile being prepared with packing light. When I start hearing about bringing medicines, laundry detergent, toilet paper, bug spray, sunblock, etc. I just imagine my pack getting heavier and heavier. I also plan to start doing some training walks fairly soon, first without a load on my back, and then with. Someone mentioned hiking sandals. Do they offer support, grippiness, and what about dealing with mud? This is all new to me. I'm having a travel agent friend of mine look into flight possibilities. I live in the DC area and am trying to decide how to get there. (Biarritz, Madrid, Paris, etc.) So many options!
     
  32. Kanga

    Kanga Moderator Staff Member Donating Member

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    @StepheninDC I wear Ecco Off-Road sandals. I think in the US they are called Ecco Yucatan sandals. Solid well built sole, sufficient cushioning, have lasted me over 2000km on all kinds of terrain. I wade through mud and wash it off after - it is actually easier than boots or shoes from that perspective, although the sole does take a little while to dry (surprisingly the fastest drying shoes I have had were Asics lightweight runners). My Ecco sandals are really like a trail shoe but with a sandal top. Others prefer water sandals or sandals with front toe protection. I like being able to kick out any little pebbles, which would be difficult with something over the toes.

    But what suits my foot may not suit yours. My husband likes his normal leather shoes!
     
  33. willydp

    willydp Active Member Donating Member

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    Programmed CF for "2018"
    I trained with merino mediumweight socks.
    They are comfy and keeping my feet dry, except for the time they were wet due to heavy rainfall (bad boots).
    They were wet but my feet stayed comfy, not cold and not soaking wet.
    It didn't feel like wet when I was walking.
    Heavyweight are not comfy for my and lightweight are a bit to thin.
    A good book for blister prevention:https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B016R6YAIS/?tag=camidesant-21
     
  34. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    So the shoe dilemma continues. I tried on several styles yesterday at REI. I feel like Goldilocks, i.e. this one's too tight, this one's too loose, this one is too stiff, on this one the tongue pushes down on the top of my foot, etc. I tried on about 6 pairs today at another store, from Salomon, Oboz, and Merrill. I liked the Moab Ventilator a lot but had a hard time finding the right size. I tried on 8's, 81/2's, and eventually bought the 9's, because after measuring my feet with one of those old-school metal Brannock shoe sizers, it turns out I'm between 8 and 8 1/2. The problem is that my heel is slipping ever so slightly, which tends to be a sign of blisters to come. But I'm wearing different socks now than when I tried them on, and the other socks were smart wool (more like what I'll be wearing on the Camino), so maybe it's the socks. I liked the 8.5's, but there wasn't much space between my big toe and the end of the shoe, so I'm worried about insufficient space to allow for swelling. What to do? Good thing is, I can return these if I don't like them.
     
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  35. C clearly

    C clearly Veteran Member Donating Member

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    Sounds to me like they might be a good choice, based on your comments. It is better to buy a bit too big than too small. Now the challenge is to fill in that extra bit of room. I had to do that very recently - my new boots are about 1/4 size too big but I don't think I can find better. So, I've put a piece of flooring underlay (some kind of plasticky-foam about 1-2 mm thick that I found in the basement) under the inner sole and have started wearing a medium weight sock instead of light weight.

    So far they are good as long as I take care to lace them evenly and firmly.
     
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  36. StepheninDC

    StepheninDC Active Member

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    After walking in them for a couple of hours now, I think they're the right size shoes. For one thing, it seems as though my right foot is slightly shorter than my left one. There's no movement at all in my left heel, whereas there's a tiny bit in the right. Also, I was speaking with my wife, who wears orthotics in her shoes, and she says it's possible to put extra material in to make up the difference, just as you've suggested.
     
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  37. falcon269

    falcon269 sidra; no commercial interests

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    Swelling is rarely a concern for the length of your foot. It is more an issue of width normally. However, a shoe that is too short will cause your toenails to hit the end of the boot on the downhill sections. Black toenails may result! If your footwear is a bit long, use a lacing technique that limits sliding around in the heel. A bit of room for the toes is a good idea.
     
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  38. Sue Kranz

    Sue Kranz Member

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    Camino(s) past & future:
    I am planning to walk El Camino in May of 2017
    I have enjoyed reading your comments. I will start off in SJDPP on May 18 and still deciding whether a silk liner will be enough. I am still using five blankets and it's mid-April! (I do live in Massachusetts, though :))

    Thoughts?
    Thanks!
     

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