Today, I would like to tell you about an essential practice that is advisable to take both in short hikes in the mountain and long hikes like the routes of El Camino de Santiago: Taking care of our feet.
In the same way that the car tyres are an essential part of our vehicles, our feet are an essential part of our locomotive system and therefore, we need to take due care of them in order to avoid problems. They keep us in touch with the ground and any injury, even the tiniest, can lead us to walk incorrectly, which in turn, can have an adverse effect in other parts of the body such as the knees or hips.
UN BUEN CALZADO EVITA AMPOLLAS
The first rule to keep our feet healthy is to wear appropriate shoes. A shoe that allows breathing will avoid excess moisture retention and sweat, that awful feeling that our feet are “cooking”. As I have mentioned in a previous post about equipment, in my opinion waterproof boots that guarantee that feet stay dry in rainy, snowy or muddy conditions are essential. A shoe that is properly lined will avoid chafing and sores because of the stitching.
El Camino de Santiago can be very challenging for our bodies and one needs to be ready and prepare for it. It is advisable to practice before we start our adventure, and I do not mean only to be in good fitness level, but also try our shoes well in advance if we are wearing new boots, or if we are trying different socks. It is better to try and “tame” your boots before you are out in your way, in case they cause you blisters or chafing.
It will be amazing if we never get blisters once we are out on our way, this is possible if we take some steps before and after walking. Some people try to prevent chafing by applying vaseline to their feet and then wear their socks. I am not a big fan of this because the idea of artificially moistened feet is not very appealing to me and because I think it is very easy for vaseline to attract dust or sand that could result in unnecessary abrasion. In my humble opinion, there is nothing that works better that some taping of the feet properly done and the use of a technical sock.
PREVENIR MEJOR QUE CURAR
What I am going to explain here is something I learned from a man who made his living tending the injured feet of the poor pilgrims in the shelter of Santo Domingo de la Calzada. After I met him it turned a corner for me, physically and mentally, I had been lagging around a tremendous pain in my toes. I thought it was simply chafing, but he realised that I was carrying blisters under a thick layer of skin, so he had to be ruthless (only with the blisters, though…) he even had to apply an antibiotic cream. He did not only cured my poor feet, he also taught me to tape my feet to avoid what had happened.
Basic kit for the care of feet:
- White silk tape (It is softer and it is easier to make a bandage than the brown type)
- Paper tape
- Povidone Iodine solution
- Talc powder
- Needle and thread
How to tape toes before we start walking, to avoid blisters and chafing:
Cut the gauze in small parts and stick to a length of tape. Stick the tape to the finger leaving the gauze attached to the part of the toe we want to protect.
Repeat the step one but this time we will stick the tape transversally to the the first tape.
Cut the silk tape in thin strips, allowing enough length to cover the toe completely.
Cut one more strip of white tape, in the normal width, and long enough to cover the whole toe again.
The same technique can be used for heels, or in the part of the feet that flex. It is important not to crease the tape, but specially if we tape the part of the feet where it flex.
If the chafing and blistering is on the small toes, this is what to do:
Once you have followed steps 1 to 4, we will put the foot on the ground and pay attention to where the toes open apart. Cut two long strips of white tape long enough to bind together the small toe and the one next to it, wrap them with the tape. This will stop the foot opening at every step and avoid rubbing with the boots.
Once you have finished walking, take the tape off, wash your feet (this is something that ideally every pilgrim will do, specially if sharing sleeping accommodation) and dry very well. This is the time to check if the feet are undamaged, if it is the case, then apply some talc powder to remove any possible moisture and put cotton socks on and comfortable shoes if you are going to be out and about. It might be a bit of a chore to do everyday, but it is the best alternative to walking 30 km with blisters in your feet. Also, if you do the tape before you go to sleep, in the morning you will be ready to put your socks and boots on.
If despite your best efforts you still could not avoid getting blisters, then piercing measures will be needed, but that will be the subject matter for another post: “How to take care of your feet in El Camino de Santiago: Healing blisters”
I hope you found interesting the exciting world of taking care of your feet. I invite you to leave a comment and share your tips to keep your feet in top condition.
All the best, walkers and pilgrims!
Translation: Elvira Sánchez.