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Shoe advice for a newbie

Camino(s) past & future
October 2018
#1
I will be walking my first El Camino CF in Sep/Oct and have been busily trying to prepare. I have spent hours reading threads on this site and others regarding hiking shoes/trail runners and a full day at REI trying on shoes. I decided on a pair of Merrell Siren Edge hiking shoes (1/2 size bigger than normal size) . I took a few 9-10 mile hikes around San Francicso (mostly pavement) with a loaded pack on to try them out. Last weekend, I did a full three days of hiking in much steeper terrain with an average of 12 miles a day. After the first day, I had such bad blisters (on both pinkie toes and on the foot pad right under my big toe) that were so painful, I had to hike in my sandals for the next two days. I did hike in cotton socks on that first day rather than wool.
My questions is, how do I know if the problem is with my shoes, the cotton socks, or something else? Could it be that I just need to toughen up my feet? When do I know if it is time to try a new pair of shoes. I am a runner and have run full marathons in cotton socks and running shoes with no blisters at all.
Any advice would be much appreciated.
 

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markmcilroy

Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances august sept 2016
Camino Frances Sept October 2017
Le Puy to SJPDP (May 2018)
#2
Hi Jennifer...walking the Camino without getting blisters is like living a life without having problems....very difficult to do.

Most pilgrims walk with blisters.

I went from having 11 on my first Camino down to 1 on my 2nd Camino.

I would ditch the cotton socks, any sort of cotton absorbs moisture and rubs on the skin. There are many threads here on blister prevention. I would try out merino socks, maybe double layer socks like Wright Socks which I now use and a lot people like Darn Tough socks or 1000 mile socks.

If the blisters are just on your pinkies you can get silicon "sleeves" to go over them or just some paper tape will help. Before you walk each day.

The blister on your foot pad, again I would put on paper tape before you start walking.

Remember to change your socks every couple of hours at least if not more often. I just have a large safety pin which I attach my "wet" socks to so they dry out and swap them over every hour or so.

Also apply a vaseline type product all over your feet after you have taped up helps.

There will be times when you can't do much ie. the days are just too hot so you feet sweat so much that they are always wet or in the rain.

You will get plenty of advice here.
 

davebugg

DustOff: "When I have your wounded."
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances...
Sept. 2017: SJPdP to Burgos
Sept./Oct. 2018: SJPdP to Santiago de Compostela
#3
Hi, Jennifer.

Thousands of backpacking miles and I have avoided blistering. It's not luck of the draw as much as recognizing what the various causes for blistering are. From there, there can be some varied strategies which mediate those causes.

With blisters on your pinkie toes, it sounds like the shoes are not wide enough. Blisters are a product of shear force between your skin and another surface. That usually is because the sock is being forced to move against the skin from how the shoe fits, is tied, socks are too big, etc...

As you have seen, what happens during running sports can be quite different than what occurs while hiking. The mechanics of foot strike and release can be different.

Socks are important to remove shear force from your skin. A snug fitting wool or synthetic wool blend is best. A lighter padded is also good because the thicker the padding, the more movement can occur against the skin and the more moisture is collected; that also means it takes longer for a thick-padded sock to dry out. If you go with a double sock configuration (not necessary, but you can try it), then a very thin, tighter fitting inner sock should be used with a thin padded wool / synthetic wool.

Body Glide, vaseline, or my favorite, Hiker Goo, etc, can be prophylactically applied and then frequently reapplied while walking. Pre-taping blister prone areas is also effective using Leukotape P with an application of tincture of benzoin to the skin to improve adhesive hold.

Recognize what the earliest stages of a hotspot on your feet feels like. When you feel that, immediately stop and take action. Friction is starting to burn the underlying dermal layers and will blister if left for even a short time. Use the Leukotape P and tincture of benzoin to cover the hot spot. If there is an actual blister with fluid, then drain the fluid if it is pronounced, cover the top of the blistered skin with a thin smear of antibiotic ointment / vaseline / body glide /etc. The idea is to keep the tape from sticking to the top of the blister itself. The surrounding skin should be cleaned and dry for the taping.

If you go back to REI to return the shoes for a different pair, take your fully loaded backpack, the socks you will wear while walking, and your insoles. The pack and socks should be on and the insoles placed inside any shoe you try on. The same applies if you get your feet measured. Keep in mind that a formal foot measure is only a suggestion; it simply puts you in the ballpark. It is always how the shoe feels that matters while in the store.

The shoe should be wider than your usual size, even compared to the shoe size you run in. With a loaded backpack and the number of hours that you will walk puts a different level of stress and accomodation than needed for even marathon length running events.

Likewise, you are likely going to need a shoe at least a full size longer than your running shoe. Maybe even 1.5 or 2 sizes longer. Keep in mind that one shoe size longer is actually not that great a difference. The objective is to be able to keep you toes from banging the front of the shoe, when tied snugly, while descending a steep decline with the extra weight of a pack.

Walk around the store, up and down stairs for a good 30 minutes. REI has inclines and rock piles specifically to allow one to see if the shoes are big enough to keep toes from banging around.

Because REI has a great return policy, when you get home be aggressive in putting through their paces outside, just like you did with your current pair. They should stay comfortable. If not, back to the store they go. Be picky; it will pay off.
 
Last edited:
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria - Santiago 2016 Camino Ingles Oct 2018
#4
Hello SF Bay Area neighbor!!!

Any 12 mile hike through is SF is challenging with the elevation changes. Sounds like you are ready for the Camino, just need to find the right shoe.

I hiked in Merrells for years and never got a blister after my first hiking season. I recently changed to a Solomon trail runner and like them even more.

Hopefully your feet are just getting adjusted to long hikes and will get better with time. Or a new shoe will be a solution. How about trying some soft dirt trails for your hikes? Plenty of fun spots around the bay. Let me know if you want any suggestions.
 

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domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x3), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham.
2018? Vf again or Via Lemovicensis
#6
Really? I've walked the Camino twice with just one tiny toe blister, and have met many others who have walked blister free. Blisters are not inevitable!
So can you share your secret(s) to help the OP? :)
 

trecile

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Aug - Sept (2016) SJPDP - Finisterre
July - Aug (2017) SJPDP - Muxia - Finisterre
#7
So can you share your secret(s) to help the OP? :)
I wear lightweight trail runners, about one size bigger than normal. I wear lightweight WrightSocks double layer socks. I put an anti friction balm on my feet. Last year I put Omnifix tape on the balls of my feet, because that's the area that seems like it might be blister prone, and I wrapped my second toes with tape, just in case. Every time I stopped I took off my shoes and socks to air out my feet and examine them. As soon as I feel a hot spot I stop and attend to it.
 

Lleslie

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2013)
Camino Via Podiensis (2018)
#8
I agree that blisters can mostly be prevented, or maybe it is just luck! I and two friends walked from SJPP to Santiago in 2014 and each of us only had one insignificant blister, mine in the last week after having to get new insoles. (and i think i got lazy about changing socks midday!) We had read alot of advice on this forum which really paid off. Two of us had AKU boots and the other hiking shoes. Our boots are two full sizes larger than our usual shoes and are roomy in the toe area. We lace them so they aren't tight over the toes and foot but secure enough around the ankle to prevent our feet sliding forward. All of us used only one sock at a time, bridgedale merino/bamboo blend, and did not use any vaseline type products. We (mostly!) aired/changed our socks midway thru each day. We used 'hyperfix' tape on any area we thought we might have problems with to prevent friction/shear. We are hoping these same strategies work again as we leave mid May for the Via Podiensis:)
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x3), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham.
2018? Vf again or Via Lemovicensis
#9
I wear lightweight trail runners, about one size bigger than normal. I wear lightweight WrightSocks double layer socks. I put an anti friction balm on my feet. Last year I put Omnifix tape on the balls of my feet, because that's the area that seems like it might be blister prone, and I wrapped my second toes with tape, just in case. Every time I stopped I took off my shoes and socks to air out my feet and examine them. As soon as I feel a hot spot I stop and attend to it.
Thanks. Reminded me that the only thing I haven't tried is taping, will give it a go.
 

domigee

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF(x3), VdlP, Jerusalem, VF, Walsingham.
2018? Vf again or Via Lemovicensis
#10
I agree that blisters can mostly be prevented, or maybe it is just luck!
Or bad luck lol.
I have walked many kms, in rain, in sunshine etc and only suffered the occasional small blister, as you say, insignificant. Last year on the other hand, the skin of my entire foot detached itself! No warning.
Needless to say, pretty crippling! So I am rethinking my blister management techniques :)
 

ShaLaw

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances, fall of 2015
#11
I will be walking my first El Camino CF in Sep/Oct and have been busily trying to prepare. I have spent hours reading threads on this site and others regarding hiking shoes/trail runners and a full day at REI trying on shoes. I decided on a pair of Merrell Siren Edge hiking shoes (1/2 size bigger than normal size) . I took a few 9-10 mile hikes around San Francicso (mostly pavement) with a loaded pack on to try them out. Last weekend, I did a full three days of hiking in much steeper terrain with an average of 12 miles a day. After the first day, I had such bad blisters (on both pinkie toes and on the foot pad right under my big toe) that were so painful, I had to hike in my sandals for the next two days. I did hike in cotton socks on that first day rather than wool.
My questions is, how do I know if the problem is with my shoes, the cotton socks, or something else? Could it be that I just need to toughen up my feet? When do I know if it is time to try a new pair of shoes. I am a runner and have run full marathons in cotton socks and running shoes with no blisters at all.
Any advice would be much appreciated.
I had purchased Vasque hiking boots and they started to rub my pinkies after about 70kms. I then purchased KEEN boots because they have an extremely wide toe box. When I left for my Camino, I had 5kms on them and they were fantastic!!

As far as if it’s your socks or boots, I’d say it’s likey the boots and you need to find wider ones.

Buen Camino!!
 

Pam Scott

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Santiago compostella 2015
#12
So can you share your secret(s) to help the OP? :)
I am so sorry for your foot issues, Its no fun starting a walk with that worry. I have done a lot of long disance walks carrying weight and I'm one of the lucky people who never get blisters. Unlike a lot of people I don't wear trail runners or trainers but light weight leather boots professionally fitted. They are so comfortable. I don't think there is any boot /shoe that has the magic formula, but the boot/ shoe must fit your feet not the other way round. I know the Scarpa boots I wear fit me, but if I changed the style even in the same brand I could easily start getting blisters. Wishing you a buen and blister free camino.
 

Praorn

New Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino frances (2001, 2002, 2003, 2009. 2011)
Via de la Plata (2018)
#13
I will be walking my first El Camino CF in Sep/Oct and have been busily trying to prepare. I have spent hours reading threads on this site and others regarding hiking shoes/trail runners and a full day at REI trying on shoes. I decided on a pair of Merrell Siren Edge hiking shoes (1/2 size bigger than normal size) . I took a few 9-10 mile hikes around San Francicso (mostly pavement) with a loaded pack on to try them out. Last weekend, I did a full three days of hiking in much steeper terrain with an average of 12 miles a day. After the first day, I had such bad blisters (on both pinkie toes and on the foot pad right under my big toe) that were so painful, I had to hike in my sandals for the next two days. I did hike in cotton socks on that first day rather than wool.
My questions is, how do I know if the problem is with my shoes, the cotton socks, or something else? Could it be that I just need to toughen up my feet? When do I know if it is time to try a new pair of shoes. I am a runner and have run full marathons in cotton socks and running shoes with no blisters at all.
Any advice would be much appreciated.

Hi
I am walking now. I use Merrell Moab. I bought the boots in the afternoon (feet get bigger in the afternoon) 1 size bigger than my usual shoes, and wide width.
For socks I use liners (toe socks) Injunji (Merino wool) and a pair of socks Darn Tough socks (also Merino wool).
I have been walking about 40 days with no blisters.
Good luck!
 

AlwynWellington

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sarria 10
Le Puy 16
Thames Path 16
Southwark-Canterbury 16
Estella 17
Paisley-Whithorn 17
#14
I am a runner and have run full marathons in cotton socks and running shoes with no blisters at all.
Hi Jennifer. I am not a runner. For about five years now I have used New Balance running shoes. About 1 to 1.5 sizes bigger than my town shoes and width 4E. And very breathable and felxible upper to better shape to the front half of my foot. For four years now I have consistently worn NB 860 and covered around 5,000 km in training and on Camino.

In that time I would have used less than 10 compeed. My very very occassional issue is when something foreign get between the top of a toe and the upper.

A particular delight I have is to wade through streams I encounter knowing the natural warmth of my feet means much of the water will have evaporated away within 10 to 15 minutes.

And I usually wear an (inner) ankle sock and an (outer) longer hose. Both pairs are synthetic to ease drying time.

Kia kaha (take care, be strong, get going)
 

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