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Just back from doing first aid and "female" footwear!

David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Hi. I am just back from my first aid mission on the Camino. This year, instead of staying to the first week from St Jean, I used Rabanal as my base, travelling east of Astorga and as far west as Ponferrada.

I converted my little Citroen Berlingo into a micro camping car, very cute and Lilliputian, so was pretty independent.

At the Gaucelmo refugio in Rabanal two of the hospitelaros, friends of mine, went down with a vicious flu-like virus. One, Jenny, had to go back home to Australia as hers morphed into bronchitus and she had trouble breathing, and the other, Angela, from Canada, I brought home with me to Weston-super-Mare in England. I had caught the bug too so immediately stopped doing first aid as it was contagious, and decided that I had better get the long drive over before it really kicked in and she elected to come with me as she couldn’t work, didn't want to spread the plague to pilgrims, nor did she want to be stranded in Spain suffering in a hotel bed somewhere after her refugio stint ended.

I most likely contracted mine during a long late night hospital visit drive to Ponferrada for Jenny, closed windows and all that - no fault, just an implicit part of doing first aid!!

Anyway, the virus has nearly gone, though the rascal is hanging in there.

First aid. Not so many casualties at this section of the Camino. Those who had started far upstream tended to have sorted themselves and become seasoned pilgrims but I did have a number who had started at places such as Leon who had problems.

Very few knees, tendons, or shin splints, perhaps because the terrain east of Rabanal and Astorga is so forgiving - unlike the mountainous area from Roncesvalles that I usually go to. I found, again, that there seemed to be a direct correlation between heavily blistered feet (and other physical problems) and monstrously heavy rucksacks.

The feet were the usual mix of blisters in various areas .. with some it was one or two, with others there were so many that I couldn’t understand how they had kept walking.

I did my usual thing - clean, empty, iodone, cover, cushion, and hand over a few spares so that they could replace on the way to a pharmacist to buy more. I also relaced a number of boots so that they were opened at the front, giving wiggle room for the toes.

And this is the thing - why do they keep walking? Right at the beginning, when there is a hot spot, that burning feeling, why don’t they stop, take their boots off, and stick a plaster over the rubbing point? Why do they ignore it?

As for blisters - and multi-blisters - why don’t they treat themselves? Why do they just let their feet get worse and worse and do almost nothing about it? I just don’t understand.

Also, so many novice pilgrims lace their boots up really tight in the morning and don’t take them off or relace them until they finish in the afternoon, completely ignoring their swelling feet and the pain they are feeling ... such a good idea to take the boots and socks off every hour and a half or so and let those pinkies feel the air.

This ignoring blisters thing ...

Is it because they think that getting blisters is ‘normal’ so they put up with them?

Is it because they think that treating them will hurt more?

Is it because they think that pain is ‘normal’ on pilgrimage?

You tell me!

Most of the multiples of blisters were at the front and front sides of the foot and most were caused by footwear that were too narrow and/or too short, and most were worn by females. I met just one male whose boots were too narrow and too short - A German lad in complete denial who disagreed with me, even when I held the sole of one boot up to his foot and clearly showed that his foot was bigger than the boots that were crushing his feet .. he still refused to believe me, so nothing I could do there really.

But this thing with females and trekking footwear, shoes or boots ... this isn’t sexist nor anti-feminist, this is from observation ...

some females have almost parallel feet, narrow feet, and they can wear “female” boots with no problems but most have feet that are wider at the toe roots and they need footwear that are the same shape. In shops assistants, unless they are properly trained and look at the feet first, always offer from the female range and these are always narrower than from the male range .. so the unexperienced female will trust the seller, buy those, and then suffer.

Also, the female range tend to be in “female colours”, pinks and lavender and so on .. and I have this suspicion that some females go for the colour rather than the fit.

Also, time and again I have met women whose footwear are just too small, really small. What happens here? Do they put on the right size and then discard them because they look too big in the mirror?

I took an Austrian girl to Astorga to buy new footwear as hers were ridiculously tiny for her and her feet were terribly damaged. The owner of the shop was extremely experienced in trekking footwear and pilgrims with problems and offered various styles. She gave her foot size, the owner and I both looked at each other, and then he produced some that were two and three sizes larger, and these fit her. Even then it came down to a choice of two. A truly comfortable and perfect fit male style and a pink female style that although they fit weren’t as good as the men’s ones. Which did she choose? The pink ones.

So - I would say to all female pilgrims out there, and I am only speaking to the inexperienced and the unconverted here!! ... forget the image, forget looking in the mirror, forget going for “ladies” footwear .. ignore untrained assistants .. and go for footwear that fits and fits well, footwear that is comfortable in all areas, then put on really thick socks and buy the size that fits comfortable with those socks on. (for those who don’t yet know, your feet will expand by about one size or more after a few days walking with a pack).

It really is terribly unfair how this “female” thing is carried out and carried on - I mean, this is 2016!

So - it is like this - if you go into a trekking shop and there isn’t a foot measuring device on display be cautious .. ask for one and if they don’t have one then you are in the wrong shop, go elsewhere.

If possible - sorry guys - and there is a choice, have a female assistant who is trained and actually walks for pleasure. If not - look, you are the customer - ask the assistant if they trek on their holidays or are just doing a job ... you want someone with practical experience, your feet are important.

Go for footwear that is the same shape as your feet, ignore any gender labelling, ignore “feminine” colours (they are all ghastly colours anyway).

And whatever you do, do not look into those low mirrors that allow you to see what they look like on you; it isn’t to do with how they look, it is to do with how they feel.

In the trekking shop I go to (Cotswolds Outdoors) all their staff are trained and all of them are outdoors people with lots of experience. They fit footwear, measuring, comparing, and just won’t let you buy what is wrong for you (they are really strict!) and with backpacks they do the same, measuring back length, explaining and demonstrating how to wear it and they will load it so you can feel it on your back properly; a good shop.

I wonder if a post on “female” rucksacks is worth doing ... and on how to wear a rucksack. I saw a few pilgrims (all female again) having a terrible time with their packs cinched tightly around their ribs rather than resting on their hip bones - and I blame, specifically blame, those untrained and uncaring shop assistants.

Buen Camino!
 
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SYates

Camino Fossil AD 1999, now living in Santiago de C
Year of past OR future Camino
First: Camino Francés 1999
...
Last: Santiago - Muxia 2019

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@David I so agree with you, the sad truth is we women are still conditioned that 'looks' are important for success. I guess many women truly believe that to be successful in anything you have to look good doing it. Which leads to the things/extremes you observed. On the plus side many peregrinas learn on the Camino that looks matter far less than they ever imagined ;-) Buen Camino, SY
 

kelleymac

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
March/April 2015, Late April 2016, Sept/Oct 2017, April 2019.
A few thoughts which summarize my experience, and hours of thinking and looking at shoes:

-Women's normal shoe width is a "B". Men's normal shoe width is a "D".
-Women's shoes have little toe room, allowing for few foot muscles to work well. (The last three toes are scrunched up and under the foot.)
-Women are used to this scrunched foot feeling and believe that their foot should feel scrunched if the shoe fits. Foot muscles have atrophied and it feels uncomfortable for the foot not to have the "support" of the shoe holding the foot in this odd shape.
-Men and women who have spent a lot of money on their hiking shoes don't want to admit their shoes don't fit.
-People continue walking with hot spots because they are afraid if they stop walking they will not be able to start again.
-Sometimes people have to loose a few toenails before they give up on pink hiking boots, and get ones that are wide enough and have a big toe box.
-I advise my scouts (I'm a scout leader) that before we hike, they should always take out their hiking shoe's insole and place their foot on it and see if their foot overlaps the insole. If so, their shoes are too small. (Boys feet grow quickly.)
-I have met women on the camino who tell me that their feet are prone to blisters, I have tried to show them that their shoes are too short and too narrow. They explain to me that all their shoes give them blisters, I reply that maybe all their shoes are too small. They don't believe me. :(
- Since changing to wearing men's shoes (or wide women's shoes) my feet are stronger, I can feel my whole foot maintaining balance as I walk or stand. My feet no longer fit in my pre-camino shoes.
 
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GreatDane

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF to Burgos Sept/Oct 2014, Burgos to Astorga April 2016, Astorga to SdC 2017
... such a good idea to take the boots and socks off every hour and a half or so and let those pinkies feel the air....I wonder if a post on “female” rucksacks is worth doing ... and on how to wear a rucksack.
My girly hiking boots (Keen Verdi II mids) are grey on brown. And I do not take them off or adjust from the time I put them on in the morning until afternoon when I shower. They are a full size larger than my usual boot size, I lace tight at the ankle, loose from there on down and have never ever had a blister or hot spot.

I agree that there needs to be shop keepers trained in fitting rucksacks to women!!!! The "kids" bless their little hearts at my local REI keep steering women to brands that carry women's packs in pinks and purples and light blues with flowers when they really need to steer the women to packs that have the appropriate torso length, shoulder straps that fit them correctly at the top, sternum straps that fit where it needs to and a ventilated back that fits comfortably when loaded with camino kit (which is different from backpacking or day hiking kit). I happen to find such (not at REI, no flowers, can't even feel my load when camino packed). YMMV!!
 
W

whariwharangi

Guest
It isn't just a problem for women.

I am a man. I have trouble getting hiking boots that fit.

They feel good walking around in the store. Then there is a break-in period where there is some friction. Then the true test of wilderness (or Camino) travel shows how even broken in and trusted day walking gear doesn't really fit.

I'm at the point where if they give me blisters or even too much rubbing on the first time walking then its time for another pair. Unfortunately that workout renders them unfit to return to the store.

As a result I have more hiking boots than Imelda Marcos had shoes.

A common problem is that stores only have a limited stock of boot sizes ... they are an expensive investment ... and the boots with the wider toe boxes are commonly not available.

I had boots on the camino that I had worn once a week for a three hour day hike on moderate terrain. I never used them with a pack on prior to walking the camino. They got soaked the first day on Route Napoleon and my feet got softened ... and I think that was the cause of the problems with blisters that never went away the whole trip.

I finally bought walking shoes in Santiago for the leg to Fisterra ... tossing the boots ... and my feet felt better for it.
 
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jo webber

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Sept 9th 2017
To get hiking shoes that fit, I buy boys shoes. They are wider in the toe. (men's sizes are too big) My heels are narrow and the front of my foot is wide. The best shoes for me are sandals. With good hiking sandals I can wear socks and adjust with the Velcro straps as needed depending on sock thickness or any swelling. If it's hot I can take the socks off all together. Yes my feet will get wet when it rains and I will take a second pair of sandals.

If you have weak or injured ankles, sandals won't work.
 

good_old_shoes

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
Yes, this is a problem. If your feet are not standard shape, it's difficult to find shoes that fit, especially if you can't spend a lot of money.

My feet are very wide in the toe area and very narrow at the back towards my ankles. It's almost impossible to find shoes/boots that fit (and are in my price range). Almost all are too narrow in the toe area, or, when they fit there, too wide in the back. On top of that my left foot is a bit larger than the right one. Which means I get blisters in almost all kinds of shoes I can afford. So, for a long time, all I did was manage the blisters, which worked, kind of. Now that I found a solution, I wonder why I ever put up with that, though!

(The only pair of shoes that doesn't give me blisters are my 100 year old antiques, and I decided I ruined those enough on the last camino - thanks to the shoemaker who repaired them when I thought they couldn't be saved anymore).


My solution are sandals, too!!! I hike with very light Teva sandals now, all the time. Haven't had a blister since! I did not try the sandals in very cold winter weather yet, but bought neoprene socks to put over the wool ones for that purpose... it's a fashion disaster, but I hope it works out.


Also, what is it with the colours for women's outdoor gear? If you're female and like to dress in plain colours, you'll have a hard time finding anything! Even if it's black, often there's at least pink zippers or something... or you have to buy tent size men's clothes *sigh*. As if all women like to dress in pink*ish colours ect!
 

David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Yes, I have feet like a clowns feet .. really wide .. my answr for the last two years is Keens Newport sandals - they are SO marvellous, the only footwear that I have ever had that after just a couple of minutes I have no awareness at all that I am wearing footwear.

You are all aware and are all problem solvers - my post was due to observation of first time female pilgrims in inappropriate footwear
 

jo webber

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Sept 9th 2017
Yes, this is a problem. If your feet are not standard shape, it's difficult to find shoes that fit, especially if you can't spend a lot of money.

My feet are very wide in the toe area and very narrow at the back towards my ankles. It's almost impossible to find shoes/boots that fit (and are in my price range). Almost all are too narrow in the toe area, or, when they fit there, too wide in the back. On top of that my left foot is a bit larger than the right one. Which means I get blisters in almost all kinds of shoes I can afford. So, for a long time, all I did was manage the blisters, which worked, kind of. Now that I found a solution, I wonder why I ever put up with that, though!

(The only pair of shoes that doesn't give me blisters are my 100 year old antiques, and I decided I ruined those enough on the last camino - thanks to the shoemaker who repaired them when I thought they couldn't be saved anymore).


My solution are sandals, too!!! I hike with very light Teva sandals now, all the time. Haven't had a blister since! I did not try the sandals in very cold winter weather yet, but bought neoprene socks to put over the wool ones for that purpose... it's a fashion disaster, but I hope it works out.


Also, what is it with the colours for women's outdoor gear? If you're female and like to dress in plain colours, you'll have a hard time finding anything! Even if it's black, often there's at least pink zippers or something... or you have to buy tent size men's clothes *sigh*. As if all women like to dress in pink*ish colours ect!

My sandals do have tiny pink strips of decoration. It's silly. The shoes will get dirty and muddy and worn.

The neoprene socks sound great. I will investigate, thanks for letting me know. We live in the desert, so dealing with rain and hiking will be a new experience.
 

jo webber

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Sept 9th 2017
David, your observations will help many women choose the right shoes. I thank you for your post and sharing your experience, you will save people from unneeded pain. Both men and women.
 
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good_old_shoes

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
@jo webber, If it's not too cold, wet feet in sandals aren't really a problem - they stay warm enough as long as you keep walking (with the right kind of sandals they dry quickly, anyway). I do put on warm, dry socks when I rest, that's usually enough.

I read first of neoprene socks on the internet, if I remember correctly, it was an article written by someone who hiked the Appalachian trail or something similar using those. I put them on to try, but so far - in spring and summer - I find them far too warm. That's why I hope it might work in colder seasons.

@David
Thanks again for the work you're doing on the camino to help others. I guess many first time pilgrims simply haven't figured out, yet, what works best for their feet in the long term. It certainly needs some time to find out! I remember how I got bad blisters the first day from St Jean to Valcarlos... but at least I knew how to manage them (because I expected it). Saw many who simply put on some compeed and walked on not changing anything else, ruining their feed completely. I found that strange, but we all do have different strategies on how to deal with problems...


More or less off topic, but one thing more about sandals: I grew up with the notion that sandals should never, ever be worn in any kind of rough or even mountainous terrain, and definitely not when carrying a heavy backpack. That was one reason for me not to try hiking in them earlier. I could imagine more people not trying different kind of footwear because you grow up connecting certain footwear to certain activities.

Try hiking in the Alps in sandals - even on the very easy fool proof tourist paths people will look at you like you lost your mind!

Recently I ran into a pilgrim group who, on a very warm summer day, all wore heavy hiking boots. They looked at my sandals and couldn't believe I hiked in those without a pair of heavy boots for backup- "but it will be muddy!" :rolleyes: :D
 
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BeatriceKarjalainen

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Finished: See post signature.
Upcoming: Nothing planned
Sandals ftw! Just skip boots at least on Camino Norte. I asked a couple who were wearing boots what they would use at home for walking 25 km on asphalt and they said trainers or sandals. And here they were wearing hiking boots for mountains. My feet would kill me in those on asphalt. In the muddy parts i just pulled on my goretex socks (will look into neoprene next time). Choose your footwear according to the surface and weather. And never buy shoes in the morning. Walk with a backpack or walk a long distance before heading to the store, swollen/used feet are the best to try on hiking footwear with.

I so agree with OP. As a woman it is really hard to find shoes thou, they are seldom made for anything else then looking pretty. The same goes for most outdoor wear, pink pink pink and no pockets and no function at all. Just for looking good on the streets. Im very unfashioned on the camino in my Macabi skirt and Houdini wool/silk shirt. But it is comfortable and I don't care how it looks and there is absolutely no pink.

I helped a lot of pilgrims with blisters this camino. 2 of them took my advice to try their sandals /they had really good hiking sandals), when I met them 2 days later they thanked me. A lot of people doesn't seems to know what to do with blisters, how to treat them. My own philosophy if I get a blister and it doesn't bother me is to let it be as long as possible, letting my body produce new skin. If it is a problem then clean, cut clean/empty, iodone, cover, cushion as the OP. I carry a small pharmacy in my backpack just to be able to treat my or others feet if necessary. I met a lot of pilgrims without any first aid kits at all. Scary!

A funny thing, I had absolutely no blisters on my camino wearing injinji toe socks under a pair of wool socks in my sandals (brand new when I started and I even switched to another brand new pair half ways). When I landed at Luleå Airport I decided to walk into town only 7 km. I had been without sock in the plane and didn't put a pair on before I started to walk. My backpack was a little bit heavier due to some tax free shopping to my family. When I had walked 2,95 km I had a hotspot. I immediately stopped and took of the sandals. Red skin and a blister to be. But on the socks and continued the walk and I was all fine. The redness was gone when I reached town.
 

NorthernLight

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy to Santiago via the Frances 2012-2013. EPW2015
Aragonese & Frances 2016
Burgos to Muxia 2017
I once walked up a volcano in Indonesia and on the way back down, I was passed by local men, who were running downhill carrying firewood and wearing flip flops. We in the rich west have been deluded into thinking we need expensive high tech gear.

Good thread, and good work!

I am preparing for my next camino and road-testing new footwear. I am a fan of trail running shoes, for their mix of support, grip and ventilation. It is interesting, even in specialty running stores, how little sales people know about the kinds of support needed and the specifications of their stock.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
@David, I'm sorry you got the bug and am glad it's clearing up!
I'm also one of the duck-footed brigade; I wear Keens too--they're the only ones that fit; even men's sizes in most other brands tend to be too narrow. And yes. sandals or water shoes are much better.
I can't speak much to the aesthetic traps many seem to be falling into--I got off that treadmill too long ago to remember what it felt like to wear scrunchy pointed-toe heels. But do I agree about your observations about sexist "girl's" color choices. I go for brown...not pastels, thank you. :confused:
And why people don't stop to take care of blisters? Who knows...deluded laziness may be part of it (that's my excuse). But I wonder...perhaps people who don't take care of their feet are not really in touch with their bodies--being more used to living in cyberspace than in the physical world. It's just a hunch; I've met several people like this, and they were all plugged in to their iPhones as they walked, and most didn't even carry the most basic first aid supplies. But they did have their electronics. Boredom? Distract yourself. Pain? Distract yourself. Blisters? Maybe they'll get better on their own? But then they don't.
To those of you who carry plenty of electronics and don't do this, please know I'm not pointing at everyone, or you. I know sound like an old curmudgeon, but it was an observation, and a consistent one.
 

SabineP

Camino = Gratitude + Compassion.
Year of past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
Well I must be one of those women that does not particularly likes the trendy colours.
With my European size 41 for walking shoes and the combination of hallux valgus toes and pes cavus ( high arch ) I go for the very brown or grey Hanwag brand. Cheers to Bob's Adventurestore where they give you a wealth of information ;)
 
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Diane Kinney

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Leon to Santiago May 21 to June 3, 2014
Ponferrada to Santiago September 2015
I once walked up a volcano in Indonesia and on the way back down, I was passed by local men, who were running downhill carrying firewood and wearing flip flops. We in the rich west have been deluded into thinking we need expensive high tech gear.

Good thread, and good work!

I am preparing for my next camino and road-testing new footwear. I am a fan of trail running shoes, for their mix of support, grip and ventilation. It is interesting, even in specialty running stores, how little sales people know about the kinds of support needed and the specifications of their stock.
I spent a week in Paris and walked at least 15 km every day; one day 25k. Wore flip flops all the time and my feet felt great!
One my first Camino wore trail shoes that were too small and lost two toe nails. Spent the rest of the Camino in hiking sandals and socks for walking and flip flops at night. Second Camino, properly sized trail shoes and alternated between those and my trusty hiking sandals. Night time was still my trusty flip flops. No blisters!
 

good_old_shoes

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
@Viranani Yep, I think "being out of touch with the own body" is a common thing. Not only for hiking newbies, but for many people in general. The trick is probably to allow yourself to learn... which some will easily, and some will have a hard time doing so. Something like the Camino can be an incentive, at least!

I noticed in every day life, too, that many people have a hard time realizing things like how they feel at the moment (emotionally), or locating and identifying a source of pain, let alone to treat small injuries or illness, not even a simple cold, without a doctor and pharmacy bought medecine! Whenever you have a problem, go ask someone else what to do (and what to buy!), never solve it yourself... seems a strange concept to me. But then again, we're all different.

@Northern Light About the people running down the mountain in flip flops carrying fire wood... I never saw that in person but I thought of things like that which I saw in tv documentaries when I decided to try sandals in rough terrain. We're brought up to believe we have to buy something new for whatever we do, instead of learning how to deal with what you've got and what works for you already.

Funny thing is, the poorer you are, the easier to realise such things, probably, because you're forced to make it work with what's available. ;)
 
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Albertagirl

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances (2015); Aragones-Frances (2016); VdlP-Sanabres (2017); Madrid-Frances-Invierno (2019)Levante
There is no final answer for foot wear and foot care. That is why we go on talking about it. I agree with David that well-fitting footwear is essential and many women do not get any, certainly for outdoor wear. I wear boots for long walks on varied or challenging terrain. I have never worn women's boots. I think that when I bought my first pair of hiking boots there may not have been such a thing as women's hiking boots. I agree with everything David says about fitting hiking footwear. In addition, all other things being equal, it is a good idea to buy hiking boots or other expensive footwear for outdoor use from a supplier such as REI or MEC, which have full guarantees, even after the boots have been worn a lot. I returned a pair of boots which had been blistering my feet to MEC for a full refund after some time.
This year, I am carrying extensive footcare supplies on my camino Aragones. If your feet are in bad shape and you see a figure looking like my avatar striding down the road, shout after me to see if I have what you need in my footcare kit. I no longer have the pink base layer shirt in the photo, but otherwise am very much the same. Buen camino to all.
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Buen Camino, @Albertagirl! Please let us know how you go--I am looking to walk that way (if I can get out of my March rut)...so I'm curious.
[And giving first aid supplies to a fellow walker is such a satisfying experience...wonderful...]
 

biarritzdon

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Seriously, back up to the virus in the OP. I know Jenny and I know she is generally very healthy. I am pretty healthy also but when I did a 3 week Red Cross deployment to Texas during the flooding in March I got a "head cold." Months later it was still there and now I have learned that I lost 25% of my hearing.
 
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JRO

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santiago to muxia
Hi. I am just back from my first aid mission on the Camino. This year, instead of staying to the first week from St Jean, I used Rabanal as my base, travelling east of Astorga and as far west as Ponferrada.

I converted my little Citroen Berlingo into a micro camping car, very cute and Lilliputian, so was pretty independent.

At the Gaucelmo refugio in Rabanal two of the hospitelaros, friends of mine, went down with a vicious flu-like virus. One, Jenny, had to go back home to Australia as hers morphed into bronchitus and she had trouble breathing, and the other, Angela, from Canada, I brought home with me to Weston-super-Mare in England. I had caught the bug too so immediately stopped doing first aid as it was contagious, and decided that I had better get the long drive over before it really kicked in and she elected to come with me as she couldn’t work, didn't want to spread the plague to pilgrims, nor did she want to be stranded in Spain suffering in a hotel bed somewhere after her refugio stint ended.

I most likely contracted mine during a long late night hospital visit drive to Ponferrada for Jenny, closed windows and all that - no fault, just an implicit part of doing first aid!!

Anyway, the virus has nearly gone, though the rascal is hanging in there.

First aid. Not so many casualties at this section of the Camino. Those who had started far upstream tended to have sorted themselves and become seasoned pilgrims but I did have a number who had started at places such as Leon who had problems.

Very few knees, tendons, or shin splints, perhaps because the terrain east of Rabanal and Astorga is so forgiving - unlike the mountainous area from Roncesvalles that I usually go to. I found, again, that there seemed to be a direct correlation between heavily blistered feet (and other physical problems) and monstrously heavy rucksacks.

The feet were the usual mix of blisters in various areas .. with some it was one or two, with others there were so many that I couldn’t understand how they had kept walking.

I did my usual thing - clean, empty, iodone, cover, cushion, and hand over a few spares so that they could replace on the way to a pharmacist to buy more. I also relaced a number of boots so that they were opened at the front, giving wiggle room for the toes.

And this is the thing - why do they keep walking? Right at the beginning, when there is a hot spot, that burning feeling, why don’t they stop, take their boots off, and stick a plaster over the rubbing point? Why do they ignore it?

As for blisters - and multi-blisters - why don’t they treat themselves? Why do they just let their feet get worse and worse and do almost nothing about it? I just don’t understand.

Also, so many novice pilgrims lace their boots up really tight in the morning and don’t take them off or relace them until they finish in the afternoon, completely ignoring their swelling feet and the pain they are feeling ... such a good idea to take the boots and socks off every hour and a half or so and let those pinkies feel the air.

This ignoring blisters thing ...

Is it because they think that getting blisters is ‘normal’ so they put up with them?

Is it because they think that treating them will hurt more?

Is it because they think that pain is ‘normal’ on pilgrimage?

You tell me!

Most of the multiples of blisters were at the front and front sides of the foot and most were caused by footwear that were too narrow and/or too short, and most were worn by females. I met just one male whose boots were too narrow and too short - A German lad in complete denial who disagreed with me, even when I held the sole of one boot up to his foot and clearly showed that his foot was bigger than the boots that were crushing his feet .. he still refused to believe me, so nothing I could do there really.

But this thing with females and trekking footwear, shoes or boots ... this isn’t sexist nor anti-feminist, this is from observation ...

some females have almost parallel feet, narrow feet, and they can wear “female” boots with no problems but most have feet that are wider at the toe roots and they need footwear that are the same shape. In shops assistants, unless they are properly trained and look at the feet first, always offer from the female range and these are always narrower than from the male range .. so the unexperienced female will trust the seller, buy those, and then suffer.

Also, the female range tend to be in “female colours”, pinks and lavender and so on .. and I have this suspicion that some females go for the colour rather than the fit.

Also, time and again I have met women whose footwear are just too small, really small. What happens here? Do they put on the right size and then discard them because they look too big in the mirror?

I took an Austrian girl to Astorga to buy new footwear as hers were ridiculously tiny for her and her feet were terribly damaged. The owner of the shop was extremely experienced in trekking footwear and pilgrims with problems and offered various styles. She gave her foot size, the owner and I both looked at each other, and then he produced some that were two and three sizes larger, and these fit her. Even then it came down to a choice of two. A truly comfortable and perfect fit male style and a pink female style that although they fit weren’t as good as the men’s ones. Which did she choose? The pink ones.

So - I would say to all female pilgrims out there, and I am only speaking to the inexperienced and the unconverted here!! ... forget the image, forget looking in the mirror, forget going for “ladies” footwear .. ignore untrained assistants .. and go for footwear that fits and fits well, footwear that is comfortable in all areas, then put on really thick socks and buy the size that fits comfortable with those socks on. (for those who don’t yet know, your feet will expand by about one size or more after a few days walking with a pack).

It really is terribly unfair how this “female” thing is carried out and carried on - I mean, this is 2016!

So - it is like this - if you go into a trekking shop and there isn’t a foot measuring device on display be cautious .. ask for one and if they don’t have one then you are in the wrong shop, go elsewhere.

If possible - sorry guys - and there is a choice, have a female assistant who is trained and actually walks for pleasure. If not - look, you are the customer - ask the assistant if they trek on their holidays or are just doing a job ... you want someone with practical experience, your feet are important.

Go for footwear that is the same shape as your feet, ignore any gender labelling, ignore “feminine” colours (they are all ghastly colours anyway).

And whatever you do, do not look into those low mirrors that allow you to see what they look like on you; it isn’t to do with how they look, it is to do with how they feel.

In the trekking shop I go to (Cotswolds Outdoors) all their staff are trained and all of them are outdoors people with lots of experience. They fit footwear, measuring, comparing, and just won’t let you buy what is wrong for you (they are really strict!) and with backpacks they do the same, measuring back length, explaining and demonstrating how to wear it and they will load it so you can feel it on your back properly; a good shop.

I wonder if a post on “female” rucksacks is worth doing ... and on how to wear a rucksack. I saw a few pilgrims (all female again) having a terrible time with their packs cinched tightly around their ribs rather than resting on their hip bones - and I blame, specifically blame, those untrained and uncaring shop assistants.

Buen Camino!
 

JRO

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
santiago to muxia
Hi and thanks for your service! Hope you are feeling much better. About the boots....amen to everything you mentioned. I started out with boots in my usual size...and they were ok. They were womens' boots, but I do have a AA size foot and small as well (7) so I tried on quite a few. I found after 3 months of training for my walk that the same boot in a half size bigger was much more comfortable. I would also encourage folks, especially those who always want or need alot of support in a shoe (especially arch support) to seek out orthotic inserts...use a podiatrist, or find a store that is skilled in outfitting running and hiking shoes. I spent $150 on specially fitted silicone inserts. Never had one blister, and I still move those insoles from my hiking boots to my more everyday running shoes. It felt like too much to spend until I realized that the insoles probably saved my walk.

Same with a pack - agreed that we women (and maybe men too) need fitting help. I'm short, and so glad that after looking for awhile, I went to my local hiking store (same place I got the insoles), which I knew wouldn't be the least expensive, but knew the people. They suggested I work with another woman employee of similar size who hikes and climbs. She immediately knew which bag (Osprey) made a short length, and that pack fit perfectly. I still love using it even post-Camino, and since (like most of us) I am now a Camino addict, I know that the pack will be with me on many more walks. The boots maybe worn out, but now I know of a good brand/maker to start with.

Everything else worked itself out, but to anyone planning their first Camino, put your energy and whatever you feel like you can spend, into your feet (#1) and a light, well-fitting pack. The rest is gravy. Buen Camino!
 

MegH

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
September/October 2016
Hear, hear to sorry state of many people's relationship with their feet! We have scoffed at the Chinese practice of foot binding but are sadly subject to similar attitudes. As a woman, I have fought with my need for elegant footwear and hav just settled on an excellent pair of big walking shoes with lots of support loads of space for my happily dancing toes, and even grey with a touch of purple! I am debating about sandals. Do 'Crocs' mean the standard bulky slip ons with full toe cover, or a form of flip flop? Is it possible to walk in those Teva sandals with no toe protection? Do people keep changing shoes with differ train underfoot? I walk the Camino France's from mid September.
 

Jakke

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Eleven different ones in Poland, Finland, Portugal and Spain
Sandals sounds great, but... My feet need support, so there needs to be space for an inlay sole. Also, my legs torture each other by kicking pebbles into the other leg's footwear whenever possible. I am all for pauses and looking around, but not for the ones needed to empty my sandals:mad:. I am sure I am not alone in this. Who has found a good solution?
 

David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Sandals sounds great, but... My feet need support, so there needs to be space for an inlay sole. Also, my legs torture each other by kicking pebbles into the other leg's footwear whenever possible. I am all for pauses and looking around, but not for the ones needed to empty my sandals:mad:. I am sure I am not alone in this. Who has found a good solution?

Ah, yes, the stones in the sandals! I now wear Keens Newport trekking sandals. Beautifully scientifically shaped insole that really supports the feet and those big bumpers at the front that keep stones out.

Now, it is true that they are possibly the most ugly sandals in the world; I do like a footwear company with a sense of humour, but - they are SO comfortable!!

110220_bison_3q.jpg
 
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good_old_shoes

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés ('15, '19)
Via Coloniensis ('16)
Trier-Nancy + Le Puy-Fisterra ('17)
Aragonés ('18)
Getting small stones into your sandals as well as hitting your toes on larger rocks ect. can mostly be avoided by simply looking where you step.

Walking barefoot for a while can help with that - you'll learn pretty quickly to keep an eye on the ground and to put down your feet carefully. It's a different kind of walking. I guess that's probably not for everyone. But maybe this might be helpful for someone who wants to try hiking in open sandals.

When hiking in difficult terrain, especially with sandals, I constantly watch the ground. Want to have a look at the landscape? Stop, look around, rest a moment and enjoy your surroundings. While walking, concentrate on where you step (that helps avoiding accidents, in general – makes it much more unlikely to stumble over a rock/roots/whatever, for example). After a while you get better at "scanning" the path in front of you for possible "dangers" and need less and less concentration.

Now that I think about it, I might just have found another reason why I'm such a slow walker...
:D

@David The Keens are probably a good compromise between shoes and sandals. They look a bit like the Roman Caligae!

Edit: Wanted to link a picture of the Caligae, but didn't work. Wikipedia has a nice picture if someone is interested.
Caligae
 

Wokabaut_Meri

somewhere along the Way
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés 2015
Pilgrims Way 2018
Via Francigena #1 Canterbury-Dover 2018
Well I must be one of those women that does not particularly likes the trendy colours.
With my European size 41 for walking shoes and the combination of hallux valgus toes and pes cavus ( high arch ) I go for the very brown or grey Hanwag brand. Cheers to Bob's Adventurestore where they give you a wealth of information ;)
We should start a movement for 'Women NOT into pink'. Being more of the bucolic as opposed to princess variety I despair that functional wear such as hiking boots/shoes/sandals is marketed 'at' women for its looks. :rolleyes:
 

SabineP

Camino = Gratitude + Compassion.
Year of past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
We should start a movement for 'Women NOT into pink'. Being more of the bucolic as opposed to princess variety I despair that functional wear such as hiking boots/shoes/sandals is marketed 'at' women for its looks. :rolleyes:


Hahaha true count me in. I am a wintertype...So say the " experts " anyway ;) No seriously everyone can wear what they want. But I think I can dress femininly without wearing pink. Had to check bucolic ( English not my native language ). Thank you for learning me a new word...

And yes the people from Cotswolds Outdoor tried to sell me the woman's Osprey whereas the male version was a better choice. You guess right... the woman's version was pink. Nice when you are five and going to Kindergarten but little silly on 47 old me.
 
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nidarosa

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Inglés 2009+2017, Francés 2012+2018, Astorga-Santiago repeatedly
@SabineP I am 45 and I have the pink Tempest :D I happen to love pink and purple because it brightens up my mood and I do look a bit like a colour coordinated loon compared to some pilgrims, but I have to agree it is ridiculous the way every piece of outdoorsy kit for women has to be black, pink or purple! I have mentioned it to Cotswolds as well as a few other outdoor shops and asked 1) why are there no other colours to choose from and 2) why does all the clothing stop at size UK16? Are larger ladies supposed to stay at home or dress in men's trousers and shirts? Because strangely you can get men's clothing in a range of colours and really large sizes ... And the answer I get is that those are the colours it comes in, and the range of sizes that are available. So I don't think it is always a case of women choosing those colours, it is sometimes all they have to choose from. Either way something is very wrong there!

Being not only on the largeish side but also tall I am now ignoring the man/woman divide and try both before I settle on what fits me the best. I have women's T-shirts, tops and skirts, men's (rain) trousers (they have longer legs) and pack - I have upgraded my S/M Tempest (which is the largest size they do for women!!) to a M/L Talon which has a wider padded section on the hip belt and also wider shoulder straps, so it carries better with more weight in it. When I discovered Hoka super cushioned shoes I tried women's trainers first and love them, but got the men's mid boots because they are wider in the toe box. The trainers are purple and the boots are black ...
 

BeatriceKarjalainen

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Finished: See post signature.
Upcoming: Nothing planned
Ah, yes, the stones in the sandals! I now wear Keens Newport trekking sandals. Beautifully scientifically shaped insole that really supports the feet and those big bumpers at the front that keep stones out.

Now, it is true that they are possibly the most ugly sandals in the world; I do like a footwear company with a sense of humour, but - they are SO comfortable!!

View attachment 28594
I only get stone in through the back side of my sandals, never in the front. But the number of times I have to stop due to pebbles in the sandal is less than once per day. It's requires some technique to walk in sandals but once you get used to it it is great. I really don't have too look down all the time either a quick glance of the surface in front of me and then the brain takes care of the rest as a sub process or something. I have been walking a lot in the woods/mountains. I have a friend who hasn't done that and he had to look down all the time, when he lifted his eyes from the ground he stumbled. But we have trained and trained, quick look, walk without looking and now he manage quite well enjoying the views while walking. It's like everything else a matter of training. So get out in the nature in your sandals :)

Having a closed front doesn't that give the same problem as with shoes, bumping the toes into the shoe front when going down and squeezed toes?
 
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David

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
Having a closed front doesn't that give the same problem as with shoes, bumping the toes into the shoe front when going down and squeezed toes?

I haven't found so. Only the odd stone - true, about one day - coming in the back
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Who has found a good solution?
I have.
Keen McKenzies are the perfect fusion--basically a sandal with open mesh to keep out the pebbles.
Unfortunately Keen has (I think idiotically) discontinued them, hence this thread: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/posts/422480/
But if you have an unusual size you might still be able to find them in your local hiking shoe shop--and if you live in Europe they can be found online.
Forum member @Giselleontour very kindly managed to find them for me and can attest to their wonderfulness.:)
 

JRO

Member
Year of past OR future Camino
santiago to muxia
Hahaha true count me in. I am a wintertype...So say the " experts " anyway ;) No seriously everyone can wear what they want. But I think I can dress femininly without wearing pink. Had to check bucolic ( English not my native language ). Thank you for learning me a new word...

And yes the people from Cotswolds Outdoor tried to sell me the woman's Osprey whereas the male version was a better choice. You guess right... the woman's version was pink. Nice when you are five and going to Kindergarten but little silly on 47 old me.
Huh....my womens osprey is.....well, I would call it a dull red, but certainly not pink. The bright color means I could always find it, such as in overloaded plane overhead bins, or when there were a lot of packs together. Would I have preferred blue, or green? Yes, but at that point, I just needed it to fit! And yes, at 5'2" and 120#, I also get tired of pink and purple, especially since I look about 12 years old with those colors. Not so great at 56... (smile)
 

Suzanne S.

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
(2015) Camino Frances/Muxia/Fisterre (2017) Caminho Portuguese/Fisterre
(2019) Camino del Norte
I'm kind of chuckling as I read about colors. I had a green backpack while I was training for my Camino last year. As I filled it I realized that it just did not fit (despite being "fitted" by a sales person). I took it back ( bless REI) and the backpack that fit best was...bright pink. Ugh!!! I think my family could have tracked me on Google earth! But it fit!

And I had a painless, injury-less Camino.
 

HeidiL

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés (2004-), Portugués, Madrid, 4/5 Plata, 1/8 Levante, 1/8 Lana, Augusta, hospitalera Grado.
Unfortunately, some of us have too short feet to find men's shoes, and thus, have to wear what the shops carry. My present shoes, from Haglöf, were pinkish until they'd gotten properly soaked in mud. They look much more discreet now!

Office shoes - size 38. Camino shoes - 39 or 40 (with loads of wiggle room).
 
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C clearly

Moderator
Staff member
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
If I really hate the colour I won't buy it. Of course that makes me seem superficial, caring so much about the silly colour, even when my choice is anti-fashion! One can't win! (Fortunately my sizes are common and I've been able to find suitable alternatives.)
 

Jodean

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
22 Sept. to 21 Oct. 2015, Pamplona to Santiago
6-23.04 Porto to Santiago 2018
17.09-30.09 CF 2018
Maybe it is cause I live in Germany, but the sales guy gave me nice brown, leather Meindls to try on and they just worked.
Wore them for about 400 km on my city tours before I left, so mainly cobblestones & asphalt. They were always comfortable, and though I only walked about 400 km of the Camino Frances, I never got a blister. 1 toenail turned black, but I don't know when or how. Took it 6 months to fall off and never hurt.

I still wear them almost every day doing my city tours, so put about 10-15 km on them 4-6 times a week. Still comfy and I plan on wearing them next year again on the Camino, though I may get new insoles put in a month or so beforehand.

Raved about these darn boots so much, my husband went and got a pair too. He also thinks they are the most comfortable boots he has ever worn.

My feet are fairly narrow, with arthritis in my big toe. Glad to have comfy boots to stride through town in. If they were purple, would still love them.
 

Phillypilgrim

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
C F Sept.(2013) Camino de Madrid & Finisterre/Muxia Sept. (2014)
Finisterre/Muia June (2017).
After two Caminos and a love affair with my Oboz hiking shoes, I find I require more toe room in ALL my shoes now. Basically had to get all new shoes!
 

West Coaster

Zoomer
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances May-June 2015
Hi:

My experience with people buying shoes is they go first by looks and second on comfort. Problem is there's a lot of manufactures out there that produce very poor products, but they have a lot of shelf appeal to those that don't have any experience. I've seen people half way through the Camino with foot wear that's just falling apart or the entire support structure is shot. The bottom line with footwear is performance over looks and comfort. The only way to test performance is to test walk with them for a couple 100 km's.
Sad to say that most of the people I came across on the Camino that had massive blisters and other foot problems never put any effort into testing things out. I think many people are afraid to put the effort in at home knowing they may break down right at home.

Ultreia!

John
 
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MegH

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
September/October 2016
Nearly there! Most decisions made I think. Osprey talon 33 rucksack, thinking my nice walking shoes and flip flops....all other sandals weigh at least another 1lb, light sleeping bag and inner liner for warmer nights, waterproof breathable jacket and waterproof breathable trousers. John Brierley's longer book......so many decisions. 800ml water bottle and empty extra half litre bottle, very light weight packable little rucksack 2.4 oz in case my feet/ back/ hips/ or whatever protest and I want to send 61/2 Kg rucksack on ahead. Phew feel quite relieved....The anxiety that has gone into these decisions! It feels a bit like being born into a new world/life....the anxiety.... Maybe that is something of what is going on.
Buen Camino everyone and thank you for your help and companionship so far.
Meg
 

Giselleontour

The Alps in Germany. All around the world.
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances- September-Ocober 2016
Camino Frances: May-June 2017
Camino Portugues - May 2019
I have.
Keen McKenzies are the perfect fusion--basically a sandal with open mesh to keep out the pebbles.
Unfortunately Keen has (I think idiotically) discontinued them, hence this thread: https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/posts/422480/
But if you have an unusual size you might still be able to find them in your local hiking shoe shop--and if you live in Europe they can be found online.
Forum member @Giselleontour very kindly managed to find them for me and can attest to their wonderfulness.:)

I really can attest -these Keen McKenzies are perfect hiking shoes. They will go with me as the second pair. Usually I will walk in Hanwag Bunion shoes. Both are highly recommended. Thank you @Viranini for finding my wonderful shoes :)
In 5 days I am at my first Camino and sooooo excited!
 

SabineP

Camino = Gratitude + Compassion.
Year of past OR future Camino
some and then more. see my signature.
I really can attest -these Keen McKenzies are perfect hiking shoes. They will go with me as the second pair. Usually I will walk in Hanwag Bunion shoes. Both are highly recommended. Thank you @Viranini for finding my wonderful shoes :)
In 5 days I am at my first Camino and sooooo excited!

Ohh I love my Hanwag bunion lady !
 

VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
Keen McKenzies are perfect hiking shoes. They will go with me as the second pair. Usually I will walk in Hanwag Bunion shoes. Both are highly recommended. Thank you @Viranini for finding my wonderful shoes :)
In 5 days I am at my first Camino and sooooo excited!
Buen Camino, @Giselleontour!!
Doing a happy dance for you in my Keeen McKenzies. :cool: (Big thanks to you.....)
 

Giselleontour

The Alps in Germany. All around the world.
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances- September-Ocober 2016
Camino Frances: May-June 2017
Camino Portugues - May 2019
Buen Camino, @Giselleontour!!
Doing a happy dance for you in my Keeen McKenzies. :cool: (Big thanks to you.....)

@Viranini thank you! Can`t wait till Wednesday! I will do the same for you first time with the KeenMcKenzies walking on the camino :)
 
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VNwalking

Wandering in big circles
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés ('14/'15)
San Olav/CF ('16)
Baztanés/CF ('17)
Ingles ('18)
Vasco/CF/Invierno ('19)
@Viranini thank you! Can`t wait till Wednesday!
I bet.:)
May your feet be happy! If you're like me, you'll find that the McKenzies that are the 'second pair' end up being the 'first pair'! The fact that they breathe so well and don't have a rigid heel make blisters so much less of an issue.
 

Smallest_Sparrow

Life is rarely what you expect or believe it to be
Year of past OR future Camino
2012: most of some, all of a few, a bit of others
First, thank you for your service to pilgrims! I don't blame the REI staff so much, as I've observed them telling women they need a size Z and hear them protest "OH NO! I wear a size X"...even if s/he can get them to try a size Z, they announce in an I-told-you-so voice that it's too large (when clearly it is not). I would go through this trying to help female friends choose running shoes. No one can see the size when you're wearing it" I would plead and reason, to no avail. Same with packs, as I've mentioned in other threads...rather than get a correctly sized pack, they get hung up over what the label says. Not all women. But as a woman, I say quite a few. I have a wide foot, but a narrow heel...if the heel needs to fit I must search for a wide women's width, if it doesn't, like teva flip flops , I look for the smallest male size...there may be a little extra space at the toe and heel, but who cares. Someone complimented mine once and asked the brand. WHen told they were Tevas, she said, "oh, I have wide feet, I can't wear Tevas." "So do I," I said, these are mens'." She said she'd never thought to look there. My arms and torso are long for a female, I'm not adverse to looking at male jackets and packs (prefer them, actually, since I"m not a fan of pastel). I have never, not once, had someone come up to me and say "hey, is that a man's jacket you're wearing?" And a bonus to the ladies: often we need the smallest male size. These usually don't sell well so are often on sale. I will say that REI did point me at the women's pack section first, but once they measured me steered me back toward the mens, saying I could probably get either one but an XS/S mens might work best.
 
Year of past OR future Camino
cycled from Pamplona Sep 2015;Frances, walked from St Jean May/June 2017. Plans to walk Porto 2020
A few thoughts which summarize my experience, and hours of thinking and looking at shoes:

-Women's normal shoe width is a "B". Men's normal shoe width is a "D".
-Women's shoes have little toe room, allowing for few foot muscles to work well. (The last three toes are scrunched up and under the foot.)
-Women are used to this scrunched foot feeling and believe that their foot should feel scrunched if the shoe fits. Foot muscles have atrophied and it feels uncomfortable for the foot not to have the "support" of the shoe holding the foot in this odd shape.
-Men and women who have spent a lot of money on their hiking shoes don't want to admit their shoes don't fit.
-People continue walking with hot spots because they are afraid if they stop walking they will not be able to start again.
Great post, one small comment, in Australia many males have wide feet "E" & in some cases"EE"! We often have real problems getting European made walking/hiking boots to fit "comfortably". US made boots, or boots made on a US lasts, are often a better choice. So please go for comfort over style every time! Cheers
 
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Hi. I am just back from my first aid mission on the Camino. This year, instead of staying to the first week from St Jean, I used Rabanal as my base, travelling east of Astorga and as far west as Ponferrada.

I converted my little Citroen Berlingo into a micro camping car, very cute and Lilliputian, so was pretty independent.

At the Gaucelmo refugio in Rabanal two of the hospitelaros, friends of mine, went down with a vicious flu-like virus. One, Jenny, had to go back home to Australia as hers morphed into bronchitus and she had trouble breathing, and the other, Angela, from Canada, I brought home with me to Weston-super-Mare in England. I had caught the bug too so immediately stopped doing first aid as it was contagious, and decided that I had better get the long drive over before it really kicked in and she elected to come with me as she couldn’t work, didn't want to spread the plague to pilgrims, nor did she want to be stranded in Spain suffering in a hotel bed somewhere after her refugio stint ended.

I most likely contracted mine during a long late night hospital visit drive to Ponferrada for Jenny, closed windows and all that - no fault, just an implicit part of doing first aid!!

Anyway, the virus has nearly gone, though the rascal is hanging in there.

First aid. Not so many casualties at this section of the Camino. Those who had started far upstream tended to have sorted themselves and become seasoned pilgrims but I did have a number who had started at places such as Leon who had problems.

Very few knees, tendons, or shin splints, perhaps because the terrain east of Rabanal and Astorga is so forgiving - unlike the mountainous area from Roncesvalles that I usually go to. I found, again, that there seemed to be a direct correlation between heavily blistered feet (and other physical problems) and monstrously heavy rucksacks.

The feet were the usual mix of blisters in various areas .. with some it was one or two, with others there were so many that I couldn’t understand how they had kept walking.

I did my usual thing - clean, empty, iodone, cover, cushion, and hand over a few spares so that they could replace on the way to a pharmacist to buy more. I also relaced a number of boots so that they were opened at the front, giving wiggle room for the toes.

And this is the thing - why do they keep walking? Right at the beginning, when there is a hot spot, that burning feeling, why don’t they stop, take their boots off, and stick a plaster over the rubbing point? Why do they ignore it?

As for blisters - and multi-blisters - why don’t they treat themselves? Why do they just let their feet get worse and worse and do almost nothing about it? I just don’t understand.

Also, so many novice pilgrims lace their boots up really tight in the morning and don’t take them off or relace them until they finish in the afternoon, completely ignoring their swelling feet and the pain they are feeling ... such a good idea to take the boots and socks off every hour and a half or so and let those pinkies feel the air.

This ignoring blisters thing ...

Is it because they think that getting blisters is ‘normal’ so they put up with them?

Is it because they think that treating them will hurt more?

Is it because they think that pain is ‘normal’ on pilgrimage?

You tell me!

Most of the multiples of blisters were at the front and front sides of the foot and most were caused by footwear that were too narrow and/or too short, and most were worn by females. I met just one male whose boots were too narrow and too short - A German lad in complete denial who disagreed with me, even when I held the sole of one boot up to his foot and clearly showed that his foot was bigger than the boots that were crushing his feet .. he still refused to believe me, so nothing I could do there really.

But this thing with females and trekking footwear, shoes or boots ... this isn’t sexist nor anti-feminist, this is from observation ...

some females have almost parallel feet, narrow feet, and they can wear “female” boots with no problems but most have feet that are wider at the toe roots and they need footwear that are the same shape. In shops assistants, unless they are properly trained and look at the feet first, always offer from the female range and these are always narrower than from the male range .. so the unexperienced female will trust the seller, buy those, and then suffer.

Also, the female range tend to be in “female colours”, pinks and lavender and so on .. and I have this suspicion that some females go for the colour rather than the fit.

Also, time and again I have met women whose footwear are just too small, really small. What happens here? Do they put on the right size and then discard them because they look too big in the mirror?

I took an Austrian girl to Astorga to buy new footwear as hers were ridiculously tiny for her and her feet were terribly damaged. The owner of the shop was extremely experienced in trekking footwear and pilgrims with problems and offered various styles. She gave her foot size, the owner and I both looked at each other, and then he produced some that were two and three sizes larger, and these fit her. Even then it came down to a choice of two. A truly comfortable and perfect fit male style and a pink female style that although they fit weren’t as good as the men’s ones. Which did she choose? The pink ones.

So - I would say to all female pilgrims out there, and I am only speaking to the inexperienced and the unconverted here!! ... forget the image, forget looking in the mirror, forget going for “ladies” footwear .. ignore untrained assistants .. and go for footwear that fits and fits well, footwear that is comfortable in all areas, then put on really thick socks and buy the size that fits comfortable with those socks on. (for those who don’t yet know, your feet will expand by about one size or more after a few days walking with a pack).

It really is terribly unfair how this “female” thing is carried out and carried on - I mean, this is 2016!

So - it is like this - if you go into a trekking shop and there isn’t a foot measuring device on display be cautious .. ask for one and if they don’t have one then you are in the wrong shop, go elsewhere.

If possible - sorry guys - and there is a choice, have a female assistant who is trained and actually walks for pleasure. If not - look, you are the customer - ask the assistant if they trek on their holidays or are just doing a job ... you want someone with practical experience, your feet are important.

Go for footwear that is the same shape as your feet, ignore any gender labelling, ignore “feminine” colours (they are all ghastly colours anyway).

And whatever you do, do not look into those low mirrors that allow you to see what they look like on you; it isn’t to do with how they look, it is to do with how they feel.

In the trekking shop I go to (Cotswolds Outdoors) all their staff are trained and all of them are outdoors people with lots of experience. They fit footwear, measuring, comparing, and just won’t let you buy what is wrong for you (they are really strict!) and with backpacks they do the same, measuring back length, explaining and demonstrating how to wear it and they will load it so you can feel it on your back properly; a good shop.

I wonder if a post on “female” rucksacks is worth doing ... and on how to wear a rucksack. I saw a few pilgrims (all female again) having a terrible time with their packs cinched tightly around their ribs rather than resting on their hip bones - and I blame, specifically blame, those untrained and uncaring shop assistants.

Buen Camino!

It's an excellent question you ask about why people do not just stop and care for the hot-spots.... I think it's a "social animal" problem. Nobody wants to be the one in the group to say, "Hey, can we stop for a minute to take care of me?" Pilgrims become afraid of losing their "Camino families", of becoming isolated or lost... and so the put off taking care of their feet until the *group* decides to rest in a village....
I recall how difficult it was for me to say "Adieu" to my walking companions, with whom I felt very socially safe, because they were just walking too hard. I realized, however, that I was doing myself damage physically for the sake of staying with people who had become familiar... and so I said good-bye to them at Castrojirez. However, by that time, I'd been suffering increasing tendonitis from Los Arcos, and had been led 5km off track by relying on the "leader" near Burgos, and I had missed a detour to Atapuerca....
I ran into that leader again a few days later when my knees had rested and I'd been able to pick up some speed, and when I mentioned that I was improving but that the knees were still sore, he advised that I just push through and have knee repair surgery later if necessary. I thought about that comment, and thought abut what I would tell my own child if he were to take such an approach, and I thought to myself, "That is terrible and cavalier advice, and if my kid were to follow it I'd tell him to give his head a shake."
But there, you see, is an outline of how we can end up going astray, against our own better interests when we are in unfamiliar circumstances.
I propose that when people decide to walk together, that they make a pact to watch out for each other. If you want to race to Santiago, let it be known early and often that you intend to leave people behind.
 
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