Your feet need proper care and attention every day to keep you walking comfortably.
You should prepare your footcare regime before you set out on pilgrimage. Choose well-fitting boots or walking shoes and break them in. Decide what type of socks or combination of sock layers you will wear and try them out before your camino. Also decide whether you want to coat your feet with silicon-based preparations, vaseline or sports products like Bodyglide to prevent friction.
Don’t have a pedicure just before a camino as soft feet may be more prone to blisters.
Wash your feet well every day, dry thoroughly and try to leave them exposed to the air as much as possible in the evening. Keep your nails trimmed and treat any fungal infections like athlete’s foot. Wearing flip flops or crocs in the showers will limit your exposure to such infections.
Don’t walk with wet feet. If your feet get wet, dry out your boots as best you can and change into dry socks before continuing.
Some people air their feet and change socks when they stop for a rest. Do what works for you.
If you do develop hotspots, gel dressings like Compeed, lambswool or zinc oxide tape work very well at protecting the sore areas.
The general medical consensus seems to be that blisters should be left alone (since the unbroken skin acts as a barrier to infection) and simply covered with a protective dressing before you start walking again. Larger blisters may have to be padded with a cushioned dressing of some sort that is taped in place.
Very painful blisters that prevent you from walking may have to be drained with a sterile needle, cleaned and treated with antiseptic and dressed. This may be best left to a medical professional in order to avoid risk of infection. Dressings for broken blisters should be changed daily. If you have diabetes you should always seek medical advice for foot injuries of any sort.
If you do develop very painful blisters, a rest day can work wonders.
There are as many different opinions on types of boots, socks, anti-friction methods and dressings as there are reasons for going on camino. Good outdoor shops should be able to advise you or come to one of our Practical Pilgrim days or visit the office to talk to experienced pilgrims. You can also check out Ivar Rekve’s Pilgrim Forum for footcare discussions.