Updated by Judy on 10.9.10 – this post has been picked up by Camino Buddies http://caminobuddies.com/blog/ Thanks so much, Max, and a warm welcome to pilgrims and new friends who are visiting us via the Camino Buddies link. We wish you all a ‘buen camino’ …
I’ve never thought much about my feet – they’re a size 7, they wobble in high heels and they get cold in winter. Until now, when I have this crazy expectation that my 2 feet will carry me and my 12kg rucksack 800kms to Santiago de Compostella …. and beyond!
So now I’m being nice to them. I’m wearing a very well-worn pair of Columbia hiking boots that cost me a fair bit of money 7 years ago. Walking 20+ kms a day is not the time to wear in a new pair of boots. Every morning I go through a little routine to try and avoid blisters and other damage to my marvels of pedal engineering. I’ve mostly been successful, but have still managed to collect 4 or 5 blisters on various bits, mainly on the sides of some smaller toes. Greg, through good luck or good management, has completely avoided any problems so far. However, our Belgian friend Jan has just got some blisters after walking for 11 days, so they can strike anyone, anytime.
As an aside, the hospital in Logrono – 160km from the start of the Camino Frances (the French Camino which is the route we’re following) specialises in foot injuries – extreme blisters, tendon, ligament and joint damage – you name it, they’ve seen it all thousands of times. Anyone in a health profession wanting to specialise in feet shoud think seriously about spending time at Logrono to get experience.
So, back to my feet. Every morning I smother them in Vaseline (marvellous stuff!), then put on 2 pairs of socks, a thin pair, then Explorer socks. Then my boots. At the end of the day, as soon as we have a place to stay, the boots and socks come off and I inspect my feet for further damage or improvement. There are a few bits of Compeed (kind of a compressed, padded bandaid), but they’re pretty good otherwise. Especially compared with other feet we’ve seen – some are covered in sticking plaster or bandaids. On our second evening in Pamplona we were having dinner in a restaurant, sitting near a large group of people. We thought they were pilgrims but weren’t sure until I glanced under the table at their feet – covered in bits of Compeed, bandaids and sticking plaster – yep, they were pilgrims. We ended up joining them and had a lovely evening in spite, or perhaps because of, our sore feet.
When we walk, we prefer to walk on dirt, gravel or grass surfaces, which have more ‘give’ than concrete, paving or asphalt. Wherever possible when walking on hard surfaces, pilgrims will walk on the dirt beside the road or footpath. We often find ‘pathways of desire’, which are either shortcuts or softer tracks worn by the pilgrims who have walked before us.
Walking poles help ease the load on our feet too. Having 4 points of pressure instead of just 2 will take a bit of the load off our feet. Until today, we didn’t use our poles when we walked on paved roads through towns and villages, but we did today and while the ‘tap, tap, tap’ sound is a bit irritating, if it eases the load on our feet, it’s worth our while.
I’ll just add a couple of other ways of dealing with large blisters, and hope most sincerely that no one reading this post ever has to resort to either of them. I have actually used the first technique on myself, mostly out of interest and for research purposes. Blisters that are big and have a large fluid sac can be drained with a needle and thread. Use a sewing needle that has been sterilised by pouring boiling water over it and thread it with white cotton. Insert the needle into one side of the blister, and bring it out on the other side, drawing the thread through. Cut the thread off close to the eye of the needle and leave the rest of the thread in the blister sac. The fluid in the sac will drain out along the thread. When it’s all drained, cut the thread close to one side of the blister, then pull the remainder through and discard. Dress blister with Compeed, bandaids, whatever your dressing of choice.
The other, more radical way of treating bad blisters is to apply Tinc. Benz. Co. I don’t know much about this, other than that it hurts like hell, although it is apparently very effective, if you can stand the excruciating pain. Sorry folks but my quest for knowledge in the name of research doesn’t extend that far, so I’m not planning on trying the Tinc Benz Co treatment out on myself