(The Houghton Line, November 1965)
"If you want to forget all your other troubles, wear too tight shoes"
For those who walk the caminho for the first time, the feet often cause problems. Choosing the right shoe for your pilgrimage is one of the secrets for a good, comfortable caminho. You should take good care when buying your boots, as a bad decision here will stay with you for hundreds of kilometres. Shoes bought for walking should be at least 2 sizes bigger than day-to-day shoes, because your feet will swell as you walk and “grow” :)
- "Should I buy new shoes for my pilgrimage?" It depends on how much time you have to "break in" the shoes, before the day of departure. You should do at least 6 10km hikes, for shoes. For boots and sandals, it depends on the rigidity of the boot and how the feet adjust, but we recommend doing at least 10 10km walks before your pilgrimage.
- "Break in" the shoes? We're not talking about ruining your shoes ... but finding a balance between wearing them out and adjusting them to our feet. After a certain time, the shoes mould themselves to the shape of the foot and become more comfortable.
- Choice of footwear according to the season. Regardless of the season, feet should always be dry, never sweaty or moist, due to rain, other waters or perspiration. Our climate is not too cold, as such, most winter boots and shoes, sold in Portugal, are too hot, as they were designed to walk in freezing temperatures. They are very comfortable while we are standing, but when we start walking, our feet will start to sweat, causing rubbing, followed by blisters ...
- Shoelaces. It is essential to tighten shoes very well from the tip of the foot to the heel.
- Sandals. These have been the footwear favoured by pilgrims for centuries. Until we do a pilgrimage in sandals, we will never truly feel the Caminho. After a few years of pilgrimage experience, we recommend this experience to all pilgrims. It is not easy or clean and causes great wear and tear on the feet ... But the pleasure of feeling the fresh grass in the morning, going through a stream quietly without being afraid to wet your feet, seeing the other pilgrims struggling with the heat, while we're fine, is indescribable... There are disadvantages, however. Our feet get sore quicker. Stones come in and have to be cleaned and, due to the direct contact of sandals on skin, it is likely that they start to smell. We recommend washing the part in contact with the skin with mild soap, as soon as you arrive at the hostel, and dry them after. Never leave sandals inside your room, to avoid bad odours. When wearing sandals, don't forget to put sunscreen on the top of your foot.
- Sandals with socks? This can help protect the feet, but it makes removing stones much more complicated and the socks get damaged quickly. Normally, pilgrims from northern Europe are in the habit of putting on sandals with socks at the end of the day; because it keeps the feet cool but warm. It's not pretty, but it's efficient. Modern walking sandals have multiple adjustments, which allow you to adjust your foot to ensure a tighter fit. We recommend sandals with "Vibram" soles or similar. This type of sole offers a good balance between protection, ergonomics and comfort for the feet.
- Walking shoes. There is an almost endless supply on the market ... Some more stylish, others more resistant, for all types of terrain, with laces, with velcro, more or less breathable, with or without suspension, reflectors, etc. We recommend choosing shoes with a Vibram sole or similar, with little suspension, that are very breathable (gore-tex or similar system), have metallic eyelets and lace up almost to the top of the shoe, that feel completely adjusted to the feet when tightened, with good protection rubber front (to protect from terrain and rocks), with a semi-flexible and comfortable sole (when standing and walking).
- Hiking boots. Except for the flexibility of shoes, everything else also applies to boots. You should choose boots that are very breathable. The boots work like the "all-terrain" on the Way. You can walk everywhere, without spoiling yourself. However, like "off-road", the suspension is harder, and on the road they are less comfortable than a shoe. It is necessary to learn to walk with boots. The great advantages of the boots are: the sole, which isolates the foot from the irregularities of the terrain; support the heel and ankle; and help to stabilize the feet, inside the shoes, protecting the ankles from accidental twists. The disadvantages: it is necessary to adapt the feet to the boots, they are warmer and give more work to remove stones. They have little or no flexibility. They are heavier. It is necessary to be very careful with the grip of the laces, in the ankle area, to avoid injury to the climber.
WE DO NOT RECOMMEND:
- Barefoot hiking. It is a health risk, because of cuts, dirt on the ground in the city, and the damage for the rest of your life that this experience may cause. If your goal is to suffer, why not make your suffering useful by helping other pilgrims?
- Five-toe shoes. We do not recommend these, because you will feel all the bumps on the path and because they protect very little from the heat of the ground. These shoes can be nice for an hour of running or walking ... But not for 12 hours of pilgrimage.
- Leather shoes. We do not recommend these, as they do not tend to be very breathable.
- Arcopedico shoes ... These are an airy and low-cost alternative with thick soles. We're not crazy about these shoes, but we have to admit that they fulfil their function, Grandmothers will get there.
- Sneakers with thin soles, ballerinas and the like. These should never be worn when walking your caminho.
Take your time choosing and do this alone. Do some research on the Internet, talk to people who have the shoes you'd like, take the exact measurement of your feet, without forgetting that there are size differences in some brands. Try walking around the store with well-fitting shoes and walking socks. See if there are any imperfections in the finishes of the shoes. The most expensive are not always the best, nor the cheapest the worst.
(Noortje de Bijl )
“Cinderella proved that a new pair of shoes can change your life.”