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Footwear Question

Brad Chatellier

New Member
I'll be hiking the Camino in May/June and am looking to purchase a pair of hiking shoes or lightweight boots. My question is this:

Do I want the waterproofness of Goretex, or do the cons (not breathable, hot sweaty feet) outweigh the potential benefit in rainy conditions. Otherwise, is there another solution for breathability and waterproofness.

Thanks :)
How to Successfully Prepare for Your Camino
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
I wear Gore Tex boots and yes... You'll roast.. leather boots might be a worthy option... Remember though, it's not just about your boots, also think about your socks. Bridgedale do some excellent liners and Smartwool woolen mix socks are also excellent. They're the best I've found...

Also, make sure you look after your feet when you've stopped. I would strongly recommend taking some Vaseline with you to avoid blisters and air your feet whenever you can. Clean and dry feet are happy feet!
How about these:

These boots have lots of mesh panels for breathability, but they have a Goretex liner underneath (the newer Goretex extended comfort range variety). Anyone have any ideas about these?

Also, I'm curious Minkey, what temperatures did your feet roast in, and what temps were they comfortable in, in your Gore Tex boots.

I still might go with leather, but those boots all seem to be bigger and heavier.

Thanks everyone, for your help,
Brad Chatellier said:
How about these:

Also, I'm curious Minkey, what temperatures did your feet roast in, and what temps were they comfortable in, in your Gore Tex boots.

Thanks everyone, for your help,

Well it was in Summer so about 30 or so degrees... Didn't really notice it that much until I took my socks off. There were loads of people wearing Gore Tex boots and loads of people wearing leather boots. You can get lightweight leather boots now, don't forget!
Dear Brad,
I've walked the Camino twice in June and July, which are dryer than May and June, but as the saying goes, it always rains in Galicia.

I wore leather New Balance running shoes the first year and leather and mesh the second year. When I go back this year in September and October, I'll be wearing all leather shoes again. The waterproofness was more important to me than the breathability.

I want to stress the importance of socks. I strongly recommend the Spanish system which consists of an outer layer of very heavy 100% wool socks (which can be hard to find in stores, but can be ordered on line), and an inner layer of very thin 100% cotton socks with no seam over the toe. In my opinion, synthetics and miracle fibers are vastly overrated--they're like wearing plastic bags on your feet--and those fancy wool blend hiking socks with the special padding chewed holes in my feet until I got smart and turned them inside out.

Listen and learn! Pay attention to your feet. Change your socks as soon as your liners become wrinkled or wet. Take an upholstery needle and a spool of upholstery thread or buttonhole twist for sewing your blisters. Leave the skin on the blisters until it sloughs off. Avoid Compeeds at all costs. Make sure your shoes are big enough in the toes. (I buy my shoes a full size larger than my dress shoes.) Avoid shoes with lightweight soles--they don't provide enough cushioning. Spenco insoles are good. Magnetic insoles are good.

And should you ignore my excellent advice and end up with a royal crop of blisters, stop. Yes, that's right. Stop. Give your feet two or three days to heal. Believe it or not, there are worse things than stopping for a few days. Cuz blisters might put you out of action briefly, but tendinitis can end your camino for good.

If you come from snow country, you already know that you can dry your shoes out overnight by stuffing them with newspapers. Newspapers are hard to come by in Spain. Pick one up early on a rainy day, so you'll have one on hand when you reach your destination.

Hiking boots are unnecessary (imho), waffle soles serving mostly to trap the mud, but if you feel you must, at the start of your camino you can mail a pair of walking shoes to yourself in care of general delivery in Puente la Reina,--you'll probably want your hikers for the bajada after Cizur Menor-- and at Puente you can mail your hiking boots to Ponferrada, where you can mail your walking shoes to Santiago.
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Clearing out some books before my move to the new office in a few weeks.
Thanks for the advice.

The boots I linked to up above are leather and mesh with a Gore-Tex XCR liner, so I'm hoping they are the best of all worlds. I was planning on using Smartwool heavy trekking socks, but will look into the close to 100% wool ones.

the socks i took were champions
they were the kind of socks we used to wear for gym
back in the olden days
and i think you're right
i think they may be 15% nylon
Hi all

I suspect that those of us who are not foot obsessed at the start of the pilgrimage, may well be at the end.

I once met a girl in the Chilean mountains, two days from civilization, who had put on a new pair of woolen socks that morning, and by the time she decided that she should do something about them, her feet were wrecked. Therefore I agree with Leslie that you should stop and sort out problems as soon as they make themselves known.

I always use Bridgedale socks now and put a pair of thin Coolmax socks inside them if conditions are difficult. I wouldn't be happy with cotton ones, but that may just be me. Also I'm wearing in two pairs of boots, one leather and one composite. I expect to take the leather ones, but time will tell.

The really, really important lesson, though, is that the camino is not the place to experiment. Do it at home so that when you start, you have a good chance to get into the rhythm of things without big problems.

I am starting from St Jean on 15/16th May and look forward to talking of many things - but hopefully not feet!

Buen Camino! - (by the way, can anyone explain why I should not say Buen Caminando?)
paulmack said:
Buen Camino! - (by the way, can anyone explain why I should not say Buen Caminando?)

you can say it if you like but don't expect anyone to know what you're talking about :)

Assuming you're thinking of it as the equivalent of 'Good Walking', Spanish doesn't use the gerund/participle as a noun in that way. In English, -ing words are multi-purpose (The Leaving of Liverpool, leaving it to you, walking is fun, I'm walking on my hands (whereas 'I'm walking on your hands' would probably have a different meaning :) ), I was walking for hours, I sing while walking, just keep on walking, etc), but in Romance languages they're much less versatile, in fact, not much used at all. You could easily listen to Spaniards talking for a long time without hearing them use an -ando word at all.
Footwear and socks

The best way to get good socks is to knit them yourself........
I use a wool nylon blend (75 percent wool) knit TIGHT on small needles (fingering weight, 2mm needles) make them short, and wear them over thin cotton or silk socks. They do not need to be thick.....If your socks fit they won't wrinkle, and they rub on each other rather than your feet. Even if they are wet they stay comfortable, and neither pair has any elastic to bind if your feet swell, which they will. The undersocks are tiny, not even any leg part, the sort of thing you buy to wear in plimsols. Oh yes, and silk underwear is good in hot or cold weather, better than any synthetic. In 2004 I walked from Hendaye to Santiago without a single blister, in lightweight boots because I like ankle support, alternating with ordinary flat shoes in the evenings or on easy surfaces.
Dubbin is good if you use leather boots, mine have a goretex lining but nothing is TOTALLY waterproof except wellies :D
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Brad Chatellier said:
Do I want the waterproofness of Goretex, or do the cons (not breathable, hot sweaty feet) outweigh the potential benefit in rainy conditions.

I think you're getting confused, Brad. Goretex is the original 'breathable' membrane - the standard to which all the other breathable fabrics compare themselves. It contains micropores, small enough to prevent water from coming in but large enough to enable the vapour from sweat to get out. However, the 'wicking' of sweat works through temperature differentials, so it only really works when the outside temperature is less than that generated by your body within the fabric. This means breathable fabrics are pretty useless in hot weather, whether on your feet or anywhere else. In addition, it only really works if all your clothing is breathable; there's no point wearing a breathable inner layer and putting a non-breathable layer on top.

So, I would recommend breathable fabrics for winter walking on the camino, but for summer they're a waste of money (Goretex itself is very expensive). I personally always walk in leather boots, which is the most watertight option (apart from wellies, as Barbara says), but I have to put up with sweaty feet if it's hot. At the other extreme you can wear sandals, which removes the sweat problem, but is a bit of a problem if it rains. There are various other options in between, but they're all a compromise between waterproofness and sweatiness, and I don't think you can get away from that. The only solution I've found to sweaty feet in hot weather is not to go walking in hot weather. :)
Here's my two cents (for what it's worth:

I put a thin layer of patroleum jelly over my feet (inbetween toes too) and then put on a thin synthetic sock liner - which I then slid into a heavy cotton sock. At the end of my walking day I'd wash my feet then rub them with ISO alcohol.

Managed no blisters.

John P.
Peter Robins said:
So, I would recommend breathable fabrics for winter walking on the camino, but for summer they're a waste of money.

How about for late spring, when I'm going? I'm planning for a total mix of hot and cold, dry and rain.

In rain it would seem that either leather or Gore Tex will keep your feet dry. In heat, feet sweat in either material, but hopefully the mesh of these boots will keep them cooler than full leather, even if the wicking doesn't work as well. In cold, the Gore Tex would seem to be an advantage.

This thread has sold me on liner socks. I'm planning a CoolMax liner under my SmartWool heavy trekking socks. The vaseline still has me a little squeemish, but in the end I'm sure I'd choose anything over blisters.

Thanks everyone!
Brad Chatellier said:
How about for late spring, when I'm going? I'm planning for a total mix of hot and cold, dry and rain.

yes, I think that's wise :)

Brad Chatellier said:
In rain it would seem that either leather or Gore Tex will keep your feet dry. In heat, feet sweat in either material, but hopefully the mesh of these boots will keep them cooler than full leather, even if the wicking doesn't work as well. In cold, the Gore Tex would seem to be an advantage.

I'm afraid nothing is ideal. Go to a quality outdoor gear shop, and they should be able to advise you.

Brad Chatellier said:
This thread has sold me on liner socks. I'm planning a CoolMax liner under my SmartWool heavy trekking socks. The vaseline still has me a little squeemish, but in the end I'm sure I'd choose anything over blisters.

The principle of both the 2 layers of socks and the Vaseline is the same: to dissipate the friction that causes blisters. If you wear 1 layer, the sweaty sock sticks to both your foot and the shoe, pulling your skin in various different directions at once -> blister. With 2 layers, 1 sticks to your foot and the other to the shoe - or at any rate that's the theory. With Vaseline the sock is less likely to stick to your foot. But again, nothing is perfect. I personally dislike having my feet coated with vaseline, but some people swear by it.

Take it easy to start with. After some time walking, your feet will harden, making blisters less likely.
i'm getting such a kick out of watching this thread!

is there any other topic as likely to arouse such passion
as footwear and foot care?

there's an alternative to petroleum jelly called body glide
it's made by sternoff (1-888-263-9454) and it's available at rei
it's made of caprylic/capric triglycerides, tribehnin, c18-36 acid trigycerides, aloe vera, and tocophyrl acetate

that all sounds very spooky but the capr-something triglycerides
sound like they might be some kind of goat fat
ie the goat version of lanolin
and tocophyrl is vitamin e
so it might actually be better than rubbing a petroleum product
on your feet

there's also benzoin and talcum powder
the benzoin toughens the skin
the powder reduces friction

i also take moleskin and lambswool, just in case
as one guy said on my first camino
somos todos botiquines ambulantes

but the bottom line is
it all comes down to fit
if your shoes fit, you won't get blisters
if your shoes don't fit, you will

how i do it

i go the the new balance store in sf
(they have all the styles and sizes there
and the sales guys really know their product)

i take my magnetic soles, my spencos,
my wool socks and my cotton socks with me
i buy shoes with lots and lots and lots of room in the toes
a full size longer than my regular shoes
so that my toes won't be jamming against the front
of my shoes on the bajadas
and that lace up tight around the ankles
so they won't rub my heels
then i lace'em up with spiral laces
so they'll fit snugly but have some give
and are faster to get on and off

How to avoid failure "be prepared"
3rd Edition. More content, training & pack guides avoid common mistakes, bed bugs etc
What ABOUT sandals?

Hi everyone -

I've just signed up today, and I have already learnt a great deal from the posts I've read this evening. Thank you!

I have read in several places about people who did the Camino in June/July wearing sandals. In fact somewhere on the web I read about a guy who did the 5-day Camino Ingles (the one I am planning on doing) in Tevas. Is this nuts? It would seem to address the blister problem, at least in part.

Thanks again!
i met a belgian guy who was making his fifth camino
he said that he had done them all in sandals
and that he had never had any trouble with his feet
until that year when he was wearing hi-tech sandals
rather than leather

why sandals wouldn't work for me is that
much of the camino is unpaved
(i don't know about the camino ingles)
and i know i would be constantly having to
stop and shake the pebbles out

and then there's rain
you never know
you might never see any
or you might be wet
the whole time you're in galicia

why not take shoes AND sandals?
you'll need sandals anyway
for the evening
and to wear in the shower
Having grown up in a small country town with a creek running at the bottom of my street, it has always been problematic trying to get me to keep my shoes on. Despite owning many pairs of shoes, I only wear shoes when I have to. If I'm at home I go completely barefoot, and if I am running errands or just goofing about town, I wear sandals without socks, unless it's below 40 degrees. Interesting that the Belgian guy you met only developed problems from the manmade fiber, not the leather sandals.

The Camino Ingles is quite short compared to the Frances, and from the photos I've seen of both looks a lot less arduous. The stages are 18 miles the first day, then 11, then 18, then 18, then 10. At least half or more of it appears to be along paved roads.

So you were able to do the Camino each time in leather running shoes? That's pretty neat. I would much rather take a pair of those as a backup then boots, especially if I'm doing it in June/July.
How to Successfully Prepare for Your Camino
The focus is on reducing the risk of failure through being well prepared. 2nd ed.
Check out the Chaco Z-1 hiking sandal, they seem to be very popular with backpackers here even on long distance hikes like the AT or PCT. I'm not daring enough to try but they look interesting.

I own a pair of heavy leather boots as well as pair of light weight boots but except in extreme conditions I prefer running shoes. In the last few months preparing for our camino I've hiked 100 miles or so with no problems. But last summer while wearing them hiking, I turned my ankle on a rock and broke my leg.

As we say in the states, you pay your money and you take your chances. I'm still planning on running shoes, and my daughter has a pair of trail runners but we're looking at ankle braces as a way of providing extra support for rougher terrain.
Boots AND Sandals!

This thread went already astray with the initial question, boots OR light shoes.
The answer is AND, namely hiking boots AND hiking sandals.

Sandals one has to bring anyway, for the evenings, everybody does that. But if you do not bring the odd flip-flops which are -at best- good only for the evenings and nothing else, but sandals you can also walk a few miles on when needed, you really have the best of BOTH worlds, and not too much extra weight besides.

By the way, someone here mentioned that hiking sandals can get pebbles in on gravel paths. True. But in practice that happens surprisingly seldom. And what's even better: From sandals these pebbles get out again as well, in a very short time, automatically, amazing. Whilst, when we got pebbles into our boots, which happens quite frequently, dunno how, it`s stopping, backpack off, boots off, upside down, on again, on. Worse, if its raining and you have the cape on, takes ten minutes then.

So again, don`t wreck your brains over deciding bringing boots OR sandals, simply bring BOTH.
And enjoy, whatever the path or the weather, or time of day. :D

Paul, IN answer to your sock question. Buy socks and try them out before you go. My recommendation is the smartwool sock, medium.
These socks are amazing. I tryed them in my hiking boots while walking my route which was 3 1/2 hours!! My feet felt GREAT!!!! Yesterday i used liners and a synthetic pair, my toes were rubbing and my feet tired. The shop recommended not to wear liners with the smartwool sock. I am going to bring a liner just in case, However I am buying another pair smartwool. How many socks should one bring??
Hi Brad,

Myself and Shell will be doing the Camno in may/june 2007 so we're looking at the same things as you. I've taken a LOT of advice on this, partly from the good people in forums like this and partly from friends who are either just rabid climbers/hikers or they actually work in the industry.

I've discussed gore-tex at length with one friend in particular...he went from a sales assistant for field & trek shops - to area manager - to being headhunted by north face - and now works for a smaller specialist manafacturer of outdoor gear. The bottom line on gore tex is this: If you're going to walk every day, in hot conditions - gore tex is a no no on your feet. Dust, dirt and the like will cut down the breathability - and at that point, as leslie said, your feet may as well be in plastic bags. Not good im sure you'll agree!!

For outerwear gore tex is great - and eVent even more so (gore tex without a membrane on it). But again - in very hot weather it may be too much.

For what its worth I would say:

Boots - if you're only planning to use them mainly for one camino trip, then the boots you looked at would be fine - but they probably wont last as long as a pair of lightweight leather boots. Leather (properly cared for) will last for years, is breathable and waterproof. I have to disagree with leslie on this one - modern leather boots are extremely ggod and very light. I've seen reviews of Meindl or Scarpa boots that people have only had to replace after 10 years regular use! You simply wont get that with running shoes or approach shoes.
I'm going to take leather boots (no gore tex) and Merrel Aquasports - they're incredibly light and comfy and i can wear them in the shower!

Outerwear - gore tex all the way - just get a very lightweight jacket with good venting and you'll be fine.

Just my two pennies worth!! :D
One last quick point..... (should have mentioned this earlier) I have to say cotton socks are not a good suggestion. It seems they work for leslie and I guess they will for some others, which is fair enough - but for almost everyone they will be a bad idea. Cotton holds up to ten times its own weight in water and it is not inclined to give it up easily. Feet will easily produce ten times the weight of a pair of cotton liner socks in sweat - ergo - you will have water trapped against your feet.

I admit there are ways round this but I would personally say, excpet for day treks - cotton is a terrible fabric for hiking in. I like it....just not for things like this.
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Shoes, Socks, and Inserts

For my camino, I purchased a pair of New Balance 766 running shoes.
I usually wear size 6, but I purchased a 7EE (REALLY wide).

With those, I began wearing a pair of Wigwam inner socks and SmartWool Adrenylene outer socks.

I started training by walking 2 to 5 miles per day with no problems and they felt really comfortable. No blisters.

Yesterday, we went to the New Balance store to buy Joe's shoes, and the New Balance 766 were on SALE! So you know what? I bought another pair! Hahaha! They didn't have the size I purchased before, so this time I bought a size 7.5 D. Guess what.... they fit TOO! So I'll wear these for training and save the ones that are a bit wider for the Camino, when my feet will be expected to swell.

I guess my point here is, don't listen to the salesperson who says they don't have your size.. try variations of size & width. These fit just as nicely as the other pair.

Secondly... we purchased some inner soles called Motion Control. These things ROCK! They give more support in the instep and center of the foot. I actually can feel my toe bones spread nicely as I walk so my toes don't rub together. It's amazing. Before I got them, I did get a wee hotspot on the pad walking on a 4 mile downhile grade. But with these Motion Controls, no hot spot. They seem to keep your foot in place, plus the shock absorbtion is absolutely amazing! You just take out the regular insole and put in the new one. I'm going to carry the regular insole to exchange out occasionally but I'm in love with Motion Control. They're not cheap, but I think they're going to be worth their weight in gold.

Anyway.. so that's my vote. NewBalance shoes are awesome. No breaking in.. none.. just wear them out of the store and onto the Camino.

Someone asked how many socks?
I'm taking 2 pair of Smartwools - one to wear and one to wash. I think you can wear these several days OVER your liners with no problem.
I'm taking 3 pair of liners simply so I don't have to wash one pair every single night.

Honestly, try the Motion Controls.
Happy Feet!

Oh, by the way, I saw these funny socks at REI with all the toes in them.
We took them out of the package and tried them on. Interesting, but although their purpose is to prevent blisters, I was concerned about circulation. So we voted against them.

I can't stress enough to TRY OUT YOUR EQUIPMENT.
I've gone through 3 sleeping bags and 2 packs before deciding.

On training, I read that 5 to 7 miles thrice a week will give you pretty good training for a 20 km per day hike. So I'm trying to do at least that.
more on the boot saga

well just completed the camino here are my 2 cents worth re: boots

I wore New Balance gortex hiking boots that went to the ankle. i was VERY happy with them. they are made of a soft material. for the night i wore tevas. They are lousy to do a long distance in, great for the night.
so i would recommend getting a pair of very good hiking sandals, sorry can't recommend any, that way if one gets a blister there are good sandals to wear.
talking of blisters, i did get one on the side of my big toe AFTER 2 weeks. it was because i got a hot spot from wearing my wooley sock and i didn't stop. So stop and change if this happens.
I also used body glide. . whenever skin got red i wrapped the area in white tape as a protector. i hear duck tape works great.
and for me , it doesn't RAIN IN GALIcia. would you believe 3 hours rain in 40 days!!!!
the importance of good shoes and socks

Hi everyone,

I am planning my second Camino for September, and having done it in May of 2001, I will tell you, the single most difficult part of the entire Camino for me was: the blisters! It nearly ruined everything for me - and believe it or not, I thought I had the right boots and had even practiced walking in them for a few weeks before I left home.

I can't tell you the agony I went through after the first few blisters began - they were with me and got worse during the entire 32 days I walked!

Advice: really reserch the boots you want to wear ( NO ONE wore sneakers), wear the right socks, and take some kind of powder to keep them dry. ALso, some first aid to help at the end of the day.

Seriously, take this foot thing to heart. It will make or break a good part of your experience.

Also, my econd best advice: travel lightly! YOu will be surprised, by the second day out, what you will really need and what you won't. By day 2 - I had thrown out small items and the third day - I sent the rest home!


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