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Thoughts on boots and training


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Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (SJPDP - Santiago); Via Podensis (Le Puy en Velay - SJPDP); Via Francigena (Canterbury - Rome); Via Portugues (Tui - Santiago); Via Francigena del Sud (Rome - Bari).
To Do Via Egnatia (Durres - Thessaloniki); INT & Jerusalem Trail (Tel Aviv - Jerusalem)
:| While on a full dress rehearsal "work hardening" walk today, I had time to think about some practical matters (and a few philospohical ones as well - see other posting).

Boots - What fit is right? If buying a new pair, try to walk a few hundred metres before trying them on, so the feet are warmed up. Feet swell when heated!

If practical, take a loaded pack as well - or ask if the shop has some sort of load or weight you can wear/carry while you try on new boots and walk around the shop. Feet spread considerably under load. That's one reason (apart from cost) why porters in Nepal often prefer thongs or sandals rather than rigid boots - their feet spread and flex remarkably under their extreme loads (usually 50kg for trekking porters and sometimes double that for labouring porters).

With warm feet and carrying a load, your toes should wiggle freely and the longest toes should never press (even lightly) into the front of the boots. If they do, the boots are too small and may cause toe blisters or toenails to become bloodied, especially on downhill walking.

I have always used thin socks next the skin and then thick wool socks and have never had a blister.

Training: Gym work is excellent training for gym work. Cycling is excellent training for cycling. Neither are really useful for a long walk such as the camino that is not testing aerobic fitness but is testing other physical and mental attributes.

For the Camino you should train by walking similar stage distances (say 20km) over varied terrain, with a full load, ideally for a a few days in succession. I think the term "work hardening" is better than "training" because it captures the idea of repetitive work in the conditions (physical, climatic, mental) faced on a trek. In work hardening, all the muscles, tendons and joints are being exercised, not just the obvious major ones. The skin and circulation are reacting to weather and loads often in ways we are not actively conscious of.

Why a few days in succession? Because you are trying to judge recovery between daily stages - not how tired you are at the end of a day. You should start each new day refreshed, with minimal soreness, and mentally keen to get going again. If you find you are not recovering like that overnight and it is getting a bit of a drag, then you may not be properly work hardened, or you may be carrying too heavy a load, or perhaps you are not mentally ready just yet.

Of course, very few people will have the time or be sufficiently motivated to set aside 3 days for final work hardening. Experienced walkers/trekkers will already know how their body and mind react, so they don't necessarily have to do the full-on work hardening thing.

The next best thing is to closely monitor you body and mind during the first few days of the camino and adjust the pace (rest days) and load (post stuff ahead) accordingly.

I hope these few notes are helpful.


Bob M


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