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John Tringham

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I do a lot of race walking here - 25Kms in about 3 hours 10 minutes - i do about 4 to 6 events every month but these are all on hard surfaces and of course without a back pack. I use New Balance running shoes for thes events. I still cant get any clarity on what is best to walk in - some people say that open toe sandals are OK, whereas others say that ridgid hiking boots are the way to go ! I'm planning to go the whole route from Roncevalles to Santiago in April next year when hopefuly its not too hot and maybe not so crowded, but I'm really stressed that if I get the wrong type of footwear, I'll be on the plane back here a lot earlier than I plan as i wont walk with blisters - they only get more painful the longer you walk, so its no fun at all.
Also - is April a good time, or would March be better ?
Thanks for your input, guys -

Regards - John
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Hola John,
I am a Rambler but I cannot wear boots. As a result, I have done a number of long distance walks (incl 2 caminos - ±800kms and over 1 000kms) in New Balance All Terrain running shoes. Most of my walking has been done in May/June/July.
I always take neoprene ankle guards (those lightweight, bright blue, pull ons) just in case my ankles get sore.
You will be fine with your running shoes.
We embark in a couple of days for a month on the Camino starting at Pamplona. We're taking light weight hiking boots and teva sandals. We'll let you know how we feel about the choices when we finish (or are finished off) end of September. Chris

From what we have seen I guess that 9 out of 10 pilgrims arrive in Santiago on serious hiking boots, the remainder come through in sandals, sneakers, whatever.

So, yes sure, you MAY be able to make it OK in light shoes, but the question is, where it would be wise to put your money. Decision up to you.

Talking about April or even March: Be prepared for some serious rain, pools and muddy stretches on the way. Our daughter had below-ankle Goretex but otherwise serious walking shoes. They filled quickly with water, from above, the skin got soft, bad blisters, bus.

Kerryman said:
From what we have seen I guess that 9 out of 10 pilgrims arrive in Santiago on serious hiking boots, the remainder come through in sandals, sneakers, whatever.

So, yes sure, you MAY be able to make it OK in light shoes, but the question is, where it would be wise to put your money. Decision up to you.
Totally agree... also I would walk a couple of times with a backpack just to get the feeling of it. My guess is that it's totally different from what you are used to now.
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Shamanca wrote:
I would walk a couple of times with a backpack just to get the feeling of it. My guess is that it's totally different from what you are used to now.

Good point. Totally agree.
Though ... even if you test-hike a couple of times OK with a backpack, you may still be in for a surprise on the Camino, because what also makes a big difference is that there you walk many hours every day, and that day after day. That increases the wear even more.

Typically, on day one you start totally euphoric, you don't walk, you dance. Very different on day three and four and ..... !

Hi John,

Don't worry. I've walked from St Jean to Santiago 3 times, am bursting to go again! You are likely to get every possible type of weather from snow to pouring rain to heavy mud to boiling hot sun; it is all part of the fun and you will be amazed at how little it will bother you. Just take your time and go with the flow...

I wore hiking boots the first time, wore them for part of the second trip, and abandoned them in favour of ultra light running shoes the last time. My choice is now the ultra light running shoes, but my advice is that you should wear whatever you have worn before and find comfortable; forget every one else's opinion. It sounds like you are comfortable in the shoes you use for your race walking, they are tried and tested for you, why change?

Contrary to what one would expect I found that my ultra light runners actually kept my feet drier than my boots - I think because although it takes a while for boots to become wet, it also takes a long time for them to dry. The runners had light mesh uppers and moisture just evaporated quickly. Ankle support is interesting, in light runners I am more sure footed so did not need it, whereas in rigid boots I did sometimes turn my ankle (but was protected by the boot). So both have advantages and disadvantages.

Second point, blisters will not bring your camino to an end. If you know how to treat them they are perfectly manageable - this I know from personal experience. In the first place, obviously, try to prevent getting them. Blisters are caused by heat, moisture and friction - minimise any of those and you minimise chances of getting blisters. Some people swear by vaseline; I haven't tried that but think good socks are just as important as shoes. However, if you do get blisters, they are not a problem if promptly attended to - prick them with a sterile needle as soon as they appear to let out ALL the liquid (which is what causes the pain) - you might need to prick them in several places as the worst blisters are in pockets, but keep the skin intact. If treated properly eventually the skin will harden and form a protective barrier. Change your socks frequently (I take my shoes off, air my feet and change my socks every two or three hours in summer, letting the socks dry out on my backpack and washing them every night).
The simplest way of dealing with blisters is to just sit and wait - they will go away of their own accord. Patience is a forgotten virtue in our over-hurried world.

Blisters are a symptom of a problem, not a cause. If you lance blisters without dealing with the underlying cause, you are not addressing the real issue (likely to be poorly fitting shoes or socks, or attempting to do too much with feet that aren't used to it) - a bit like treating measles by painting over the rash. If you don't address the problem, it may very well occur again - and again, and again . . .
How long do you suggest he waits, Peter? And where?
as long as it takes - unlikely to be more than a day or two unless your feet are in a terrible mess (in which case you'd probably be better stopping altogether).
As to where, wherever you are: take a look round, sit in a cafe, talk to people, take a bus to somewhere interesting . . .
After all, there's no hurry, is there?
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The issue of 'Footwear' seems to center around light 'OR' heavy shoes resp. boots.
Just found the ideal solution: It's 'AND'.

One pair of hiking boots for the mountainous stretches with steep ascents and descents, mud and rain, and one pair of trekking sandals (not flip-flops!) for the more even stretches and surfaces, for the evenings, and for when the blisters have come.

One has to bring sandals anyway, so if they are not just flip-flops but hiking sandals, they can serve as alternative means of transport, giving you both options of 'light' and 'heavy'.

I always use heavy army boots -- many people think I'm crazy to do so, but as soon as you get used to the weight they're like any other type of footwear, plus they protect your ankles, plus they are great on ANY surface, plus they protect your feet, socks, and skin from the rain (and the occasional large puddle or stream).

Last days on the Camino this year (couple weeks back), I was so happy to have them while I was walking in the true Galician downpour we experienced -- so many other pigrims, even people who had been walking for weeks without problems, got blisters on those days from their sopping wet hiking shoes and socks...

Personally, I would only recommend ordinary, soft hiking boots in the summer months ...

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