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The Eternal Shoe Question

Discussion in 'What equipment should you use and take' started by Sara Smirks, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. Sara Smirks

    Sara Smirks Guest

    Hi everyone!

    So I've decided to take the plunge. I'm walking the Camino from the end of March until the first week or so of May.

    First hurdle. I'm not "sporty". I mean, I'm fit enough in the physical sense. But I don't have technical clothes, trail shoes, camping gear, and all that. The shopping list is getting longer by the day. I don't even own a proper raincoat!

    One thing I'd like to cross off the list is footwear. I'm open to buying hiking boots, if necessary. But, well, I already have a pair of wonderfully broken in Doc Martens. They're perfect for days I have to be on my feet, slogging through the mud, or in rough conditions (such as I encounter in New York City). They have lovely thick soles. They did great schlepping around the Andes in Peru a couple years ago. They're even half a size too big, perfect for allowing my feet to swell after a long day's walk.

    But everyone says you've got to have the right boots. A friend attempted the Camino in sneakers a couple years ago, lost all her toenails, and ended up buying boots in Pamplona. Are my Docs going to be enough, or do I need a true hiking shoe? If so, what kind is the best? Trail shoes? Light hikers? Stout leather ones for humping up mountains with a 40lb pack?

    If you could start fresh with the perfect shoe for walking the Camino, what would that shoe be?
     
  2. HuskyNerd

    HuskyNerd Super Moderator

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    Sorry to leave you so long without an answer. While Doc Martens are a stylish and dependable shoe, I'd suggest something more hiking-oriented myself. But before we get there . . . . what's this about a 40 lb pack? The best thing you can do for yourself is to limit your weight to a max of 20 lbs -- with food and water. Anything approaching 40 lbs will be much, much more than you need and I guarantee you'll regret lugging so much stuff across Spain. Check out the section of this Forum about what to pack. You'll see lots of strategies for keeping your weight down and your endurance up.

    OK, shoes. There are actually many opinions about this. I've heard experienced pilgrims describe how their hiking sandals are the best things they ever purchased. On the other hand, I've seen people throw away their hiking sandals and shoes because they didn't work for them. My own preference is a modern, lightweight, breathable hiking boot with the thickest soles possible and tall uppers for ankle support. Here's an example of what I've worn on three caminos: Salomon Quest 4D GTX Hiking Boots - Men's - Free Shipping at REI.com

    Why do I like them? For these reasons:
    • they're waterproof -- on my first camino my feet were wet for two days and the result? Blisters galore. I threw out my low-cut, non-waterproof hiking shoes in Burgos and bought a pair of Salomons like in the link. My feet dried out quickly and my blisters disappeared, never to reappear;
    • they have ankle support -- one of the biggest issues in the camino is walking downhill. If your boots don't keep your ankles against the back of your boot you'll potentially get blackened toenails from banging your feet against the toe of the boot. That's the value of the tall uppers.
    • they're breathable -- hot feet get wet through perspiration, so your boots have to breathe. If they have old-fashioned leather uppers they'll be damp inside in just a couple of hours. No good. Blisters. So make certain they're GoreTex or some breathable fabric.
    • Cushioned soles -- the trail runner technology allows for a thick sole while also retaining flexibility so your foot can bend. You're walking on jagged stones, rounded stones and gravel much of the time (as well as asphalt) so the soles are the most important piece of the boot. Cushioning is very important since you'll walk farther each day than you'd ever done. Tennis shoes have only soft cushions, while traditional hiking boots are as hard as rock. The new trail runner technology is just right.
    All that said, the most important piece is the fit of the boot itself. Have them professionally fitted while wearing the socks you'll hike in (and, if you're like me, sock liners). Your feet will swell while walking, so there needs to be additional room to grow, as it were. Tightness and pinching leads to blisters, so you have to anticipate the need for some extra room. A good boot fitter will know this and will help you find the right match.

    These are just my opinions. Other long-time pilgrims have their own thoughts, but I've covered nearly 2000 km on caminos so far and this formula has worked well for me. Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Feb 11, 2012
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  3. Lipka149

    Lipka149 Active Member

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    Hi Sara !

    Tough question, as there are so many different terrain features that have to be considered.

    Quite honestly, I would go with the Scarpas I wore the first time. They fit all of Sandy's criteria, and still fit like a glove.

    The "trick" I might offer revolves around the right fit. Get 2-3 different thicknesses of good wool socks and experiment with them. My feet are not the same size, but the boots are. I corrected this by wearing a different thickness sock on each foot as the situation dictated. I even changed up as my feet swelled. Being able to adjust the fit of my foot inside of the boot by changing the sock thickness was extremely effective. Sock liners, BTW, did not work for me at all. They actually GAVE me blisters.

    Traction is another aspect I consider important. Ankle support and cushioning the soles work to make 99.99% of your steps comfortable. There are, however, those 3 or 4 steps that catch you off balance, going downhill, with a cliff on the right and a killer slope on your left, that you will thank your heel traction for. Not sure how to recommend a boot for this, but I do know my Scarpas saved me several times.

    A tremendous amount of wisdom comes from adjusting as you walk. Changing lace tightness, changing socks to minimize wetness and respond to swelling, applying moleskin to hot spots, resting, taking the boots off and putting them on again, shifting the weight you are carrying ... all of this is part of "getting to know yourself" that makes the Camino so instructive. A millimeter here, a millimeter there ... and it changes from hour to hour.

    So I suppose my answer would be that there is no "perfect" shoe for walking the entire Camino. Given one, I would go with what I knew worked for me. I'll take the Scarpas again.

    But for sure ... I would take a different kind of footwear for when the Scarpas come off !!!

    :D
     
  4. zzotte

    zzotte Member

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    Hi Sara

    I normally don't say much about shoes here because the difference in opinions varies way too much which means most either work or don't :) one thing is common (but they won't admit) the people that walks with tennis shoes, sandals etc, they either endup with knee pain, feet, hips pain or blisters, just read they post or blogs. Here is my two cents most boots with man made materials by the time they are broken in they are trash, synthetic material usually work like sand paper on you feet go with Limmer boots, they are family owned boot makers for over 50+ years (so when you talk with them its always one the owners) the boots are all leather inside and out very well made and its right there in NH, googled or (pm me) and call then see what you think, they have custom made and of shelf my is off the shelf and the customer service is superb (custom made waiting list is 18 months) I'm very happy with my off the shelf pair. Oh whatever you decide don't forget gaiters they will keep the tinny little rocks of your feet that can cut your skin like a razor before you can say ai.:)
    Again just my 2 cents

    ZO
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2012
  5. zenb

    zenb Member

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    Your safest bet would be to get something with ankle support, lightweight but with a bit of stiffness. I wouldn't go in your Docs, they're simply not designed for long-distance. You'll find over distance, seemingly insignificant problems you'd find on a 1/2 day trek are amplified greatly and can leave you in trouble.

    I can't really recommend a specific boot, because everybody's feet are different.. certain brands often fit people better than others; unfortunately there's no real way to test without walking a reasonable distance first!
    For example I've trekked 3 pairs of Scarpas and been really comfortable, then bought a top-line pair of Brashers and had terrible problems within a few miles (lucky I got a return!).

    One thing you should seriously consider is replacing the stock insoles. The insoles you get with most boots are usually flat and quite soft. Softness sounds nice, but they won't offer much support. I got SuperFeet insoles for my Scarpas and they give proper contoured support and don't wear down, for me they help prevent aching tendons in the foot. If you have flat feet, supporting insoles are a must.

    The boots are the most important objects in your life on the Camino, so don't cheap out.
    I can't say Scarpa will fit your perfectly, but I can say they'll last you a long time. Superb Italian-made boots.

    Other brands I would personally recommend are Salomon and Meindl
     
  6. divergordon

    divergordon New Member

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    Hi
    I agree on the Miendl boots. I am on my second pair of Miendl's. The first pair, a lightweight trekking shoe with increased ankle support were great on the lower flanks of the southern alps and my guess (I start my 1st camino 28 May) is they would work well on the Camino Frances, possibly excepting the first few days. I have since had Saloman boots and found I didn't really take to them. Like the previous posters on this and other forums have commented, boots become a very serious issue, very quickly, if you get the wrong pair. I'd recommend you make a short list (2-3) of the good outdoor stores (most that sell mountaineering gear will probably be well-stocked), visit all three. Try on as many different boots as you can. Listen to the sales clerk and ask for advice. Tell them you are doing the Camino de Santiago and they will be happy to be a part of your Pilgimage by helping you. I consider my Camino started when I first decided to do it. I digess! Back to the boots! I love my Meindl Burma Pro's. They were the most expensive boots in my local store but they have performed fantastically in many circumstances. On another point, WEIGHT. I cannot stress strongly enough how important this is. We would all love to bring along loads of stuff that would heighten our enjoyment of any walk/hike/trek/Pilgimage, but, believe me, too much weight and you will be miserable all day every day! 10% of your body weight is a good guide. This should be considered as something that can potentially ruin your trip. Sorry to sound so negative, but from one pilgrim to another, 10 Kg (22 pounds) should be considered an Absolute maximum.
    Buen Camino
     
  7. YogaWalk

    YogaWalk Member

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    I'll second the Superfeet rec. I've had a bear of a time finding the right boot and the add of Superfeet in the pair I've got now really made a difference. They add a little bit more cushion, but the huge bonus for me are the arch supports that help keep my feet in proper position. I start the Camino Frances in June and have been walking 6 days a week for about a month. The last two weeks with new boots (one toe was hitting old boot side/front) and Superfeet have been dreamy. There are tons of great boots out there (I loved my Lowas til that darned toe kept hitting and now have equal affection for the Ahnus), the fit is really the key!
     
  8. Sienna Moon

    Sienna Moon New Member

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    We are going next year for a couple of months or more with a tent and camping as we wish to do some serious photography and so do not wish to rush but to take in all that we can emotionally, physical ally spiritually, and expose all of our senses to this beautiful pilgrimage. I am currently testing Saloman Lowa and Merrell hiking boots. All Gortex and on putting on feel like gloves. One pair appear to send my toes numb after a few hours and will take these to a shoe man for help. They all have very comfortable cushioning but have also purchased sorbathane inner soles. It is a long process then the training starts. I am 63 unfit and overweight, likewise my partner but this is our goal and so now we start in readiness for May 2013
     
  9. BrianForbesColgate

    BrianForbesColgate New Member

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    Can you give a model for the Scarpa you wear. My outfitter has everything from mountaineering boots to some that look like ballet slippers with a velcro strap :) Thanks! Brian
     
  10. cw18

    cw18 New Member

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    I've experienced the same problem with running shoes, but (in the main) manage to rectify it by lacing in a different way and/or scrunching my toes before lacing. The former means the laces put pressure in different places, which the latter means my feet have room to expand without causing the laces to dig in too much. The scrunching of toes seems to be the more successful of the two methods for me :)
     
  11. lhlyda

    lhlyda New Member

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    what do you walk in daily??? Dont change, if it is working now, go with it
     
  12. nathan

    nathan New Member

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    a week before we left my son got some solomon xa 3d ultra 2 on special offer £80....after tryinging them in the shop the next time he tried them was on the morning of departure. He had no problems and a third of all summer pilgrims were in the same brand of shoes.They coped well with everything the camino threw at him...hill, wet tracks, gravel and boulders.
    On the way to the airport i noticed my trusty footwear was falling apart, i arrived in St. jean to late at night and spent 3 days in them till pamplona.....no inosoles...held together with tape.I slurgged in pamplona on a pair of "praylas" trail shoes for 20 euros(yes 20 euros)
    The kind lady at Cisur Mayor blocked and re laced them for me and they too went the distance.
    By the end of the summer camino i noticed that many pilgrims had thier boots attached to thier packs and ere walking in lighter options such as running shoes and sandals
    Even after heavy rain the route drained well and although boots gave better support they were in the summer a bit of overkill
     
  13. akshay ortho

    akshay ortho New Member

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    I have been wearing normal sandals for over 5 years now. Orthofeet brand is wonderful for my feet issues. I would never change. I have tried other proper sandals but I always come back to the pedic walker style. It might not be the best looking one but it sure is the most comfortable brand.
     
  14. Jacob

    Jacob New Member

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    I’ve done the Camino Frances twice — SJPDP to Santiago. I traveled every km in a pair of Chacos Z-1 sandals and toe socks. 1000+ km without a single blister. I cannot reccommendcthem highly enough. There’s no need to even take other shoes.
     
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  15. Wily

    Wily Francés 2016; Portugués 2017; Inglés/Fisterra 2018

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    Hey Jacob - Welcome to the Forum. Although I can’t comment about walking the Camino in sandals, I completely support your observation on toe socks. My first blister on the CF occured on a spot where two toes were rubbing together. After that experience, I switched to Injinji toesocks, and like you, haven’t had any further blisters. But, taking care of feet is a multifaceted issue. In addition to the toe socks, I now religiously apply Bodyglide to my feet before hiking and use paper tape on any sensitive or hot spots. So, that combination of shoes, socks, insoles, foot lubrication, and immediate footcare when a issue does arrive can really minimize foot problems. Buen Camino!
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2018
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  16. RJS

    RJS Well-Known Member

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    Hi Jacob and welcome to the Camino Forum.

    I am very pleased to hear that you have successfully walked The Camino Frances twice wearing a pair of Chaco’s Z-1 sandals and toe socks without getting a single blister :)



    I was also fortunate enough not to get a single blister when I walked my own Big Camino, 1000 miles from my home in Cumbria to Santiago de Compostela – I wore Lowa Boots and appropriately named 1,000 miler socks.



    My point is a simple one and that is, as far as footwear goes, what you wear comes down to personal choice and what is Ideal for one person can be completely unsuitable for another :)



    I have been fortunate enough to do a reasonable amount of walking over the years and now write “Travel Tips” for a local magazine – My “Footwear” Tips can be found online at http://www.trpub.net/assets/applets/Tethera_11_March_2018_-_Strands.pdf#page=40&zoom=auto,-169,565 for anyone interested.



    Best Regards

    Rob
     
  17. Jacob

    Jacob New Member

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    Hmmm... personal preference is correct. I guess you could say that whatever people wear is/was their “personal preference.” But you cannot prefer something you haven’t tried.

    I look at it this way: the percentage of pilgrims wearing boots (and other foot-covering shoes) who have at least some blisters is pretty high (90-95% — maybe more?). (The best/most ironic example I ever saw —in Cizur Menor—was a podiatrist from Texas who had horrible blisters.)

    I cannot believe that such was their “preference.” On the other hand, the number of pilgrims wearing sandals is pretty low (less than 5%?). And the number wearing Chacos sandals AND Injinji toe socks even lower.

    I’m betting that NONE of the latter have ever had blisters.

    Soooo, I guess my point is that folks should TRY this footwear combination. If they do I’m pretty certain that it’ll move to the top of their “personal preference” list.
     
  18. Ryedalerambler

    Ryedalerambler Active Member

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    I'm just wondering where you have got these figures from?
     
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  19. Jacob

    Jacob New Member

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    Obviously it’s an estimation.

    But it’s based on conversations with nearly all the pilgrims I met on two CFs. Nearly everyone gets at least some blisters.

    It’s true that most people find solutions over the course of the trek, but I’m wondering why one should have to get any blisters at all, from day one!

    I realize that I may sound a little “fanatical” in my advocacy for the Chacos/toe socks solution. Please forgive my enthusiasm. But it’s such an untried combination...

    I convinced two skeptical friends to give it a try. They both had excellent results. Better results than I did, actually, as one of them even got virtually NO stones between his feet and footpads ( I think he wore his tighter than I).
     
  20. danvo

    danvo Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Hi Jacob, welcome to the forum!
    I walked my caminos in Teva Terraluxe sandals and portuguese route from Porto in Teva Terra Fi4. In addition I used Merrell Moab low GTX - on first Camino ca half of the way - and with blisters. Second camino from Saint Jean up to Muxia and Finisterre, I walked in sandals ca 850km (Pyrenees, then from Cruz de ferro and O'Cebreiro - these parts in my Merrells) without any blister. My result - toe socks are not necessary if you use open sandals like your Chacos or Teva, etc. (I used ordinary socks) Another problem are cobblestones (camino Portugues) where Teva (Terra fi4 or similar) are I think better option thanks to very comfortable sole (though cobblestones are problem in any shoes I think....)
     
  21. Jacob

    Jacob New Member

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    Thanks, Danvo, I’m glad to hear of another sandalista on the Camino. I believe that the toe socks make Chacos blister-proof. But in actuality I only wear them to prevent blisters or irritation from the straps. Any socks would do that, but I find that toe socks fit more tightly on the feet and don’t slide around. Other socks tend to work their way forward on my feet and end up “hanging” off my toes. Toe socks also take away any risk of blisters created by toes rubbing against each other, which although unlikely in sandals, could still happen.
     
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  22. danvo

    danvo Super Moderator Staff Member

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    As I always say: shoes are most important thing on Camino - and additional info - Camino (Frances, Portugues...) is not hard trek but walking on coutryside. So wear whatever you want, what is most comfortable for you. (not for your friend, or someone else...) For you. Of course I agree with you that sandals are probably most blister-proof.
     
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  23. El Condor 2014

    El Condor 2014 Well-Known Member Donating Member

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    I have just finished doing Camino Via Serrana/Camino via de la Plata/ Camino Sanabres.
    During a conversation at one of the Albergues I met an Australian pilgrim that has done 9 caminos and he was also an Hospitalero at Miraz.

    I asked the Australian pilgrim what was the best way to avoid blisters.
    He responded
    "I have seen people wear two pairs of sock, cover their feet in Vaseline, Change socks 3 times a day, wear expensive shoes/boots , etc etc. and most of them got blisters.
    The reason is that everyone has a different foot print.
    Some people will walk with toes IN, others toes OUT, ankles roll IN , ankles roll out, weight on the ball of the feet others on their heels , etc etc. Therefore what works for some people will not work for others. "

    Conclusion: Before you start your 1st Camino , try different methods till you find what works for you .
     
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