How to pick the right shoes?
Well, when you think about the long hike, especially 900km or more, first thought which comes to your mind is that you definitely should choose the hiking shoes. I think 99 percent of people thinks that. I did the same. And that’s a huge mistake.
Let me explain why.
I did my first Camino in 2009 with hiking shoes and I threw it away very gladly almost in the end of my trip in Muxia (I will talk later about Muxia as this cosy town is not really a part of Camino Francais). I didn’t throw them before, because of constant fear to get wet during any day (if it rains all day) and do not have an extra pair of shoes. I always had two pairs of shoes with me. You may think that if you get wet, you just simply dry the shoes in any albergue, but that’s not the case. In 2009 most of albergues had very few heating radiators and most of albergues were so full of people that most of the time you have no place to put your wet stuff. Second thing: it’s no cool thing to walk 30-40 km with wet shoes. Not at all. Believe me 🙂 So it’s nice to have a pair of shoes to change in the middle of the day if rain is pouring constantly. And that happens. Few days I walked 8 hours with rain being my best bud all the time.
So if I throw away my hiking shoes in the middle of my trip, I am left just with one pair of shoes and that’s a constant fear 🙂
Next thing is that I truly believed that hiking shoes is the best possible way to hike the Camino. So I used my second pair of shoes (which was simple pair of running shoes) very rarely.
Why hiking shoes are bad for a long hike?
Actually they are not bad for a long hike, they are perfect for a long hike if you go through difficult terrain (stones, constant mud, up mountains, down mountains, ect) or the weather is cold (0 degrees and below).
Simply because hiking shoes are constructed that way: they are sturdy, little bit harder sole, they keep the foot warm (especially if you move a lot), ect. They are made for such conditions and they are perfect for that.
I have a pair of Goretex hiking shoes which are perfect for such hard conditions, but in no way I would use them for all the Camino de Santiago, no way at all.
So why not for the Camino?
Because Camino de Santiago in most parts of the whole way to Santiago de Compostela is in a very good condition. It is mostly paved, with some gravel or just simply nice meadow/forrest paths which are definitely are not hard condition roads. I would say that 85-90 percent of all the way is pretty good.
Yes, in some places you will have stones on the road, some places are very bad especially during the rain (mud everywhere) and in few places you will have to go up the mountains which can get pretty difficult to climb with bad shoes.
But still, as I said, 85-90 percent of the way has very good quality, so to do it all with hiking shoes is nonsense.
And let me tell you why:
- Hiking shoes are very warm and most of the time Spain is very warm as well. I did start Camino once in the end of January and 2nd time in the end of February and it was almost all the time above 0 degrees by Celsius. It may get cold in December or in the middle of January, but definitely not all the time. So if you walk in pretty warm weather in hiking shoes, your feet is sweating like crazy and that causes one of your biggest enemies in a hike: blisters. And blisters can get you crazy. You have no time to heal them properly as by the “laws” of Camino you have to walk every day. And you do not want to walk next day 20-30km if you have several blisters on your foot. Believe me 🙂
- Hiking shoes has pretty hard sole, because they are made for hard conditions and this is not the case in Camino de Santiago. Most of the way it is decently paved or graveled. So it’s a nice and hard surface. When we combine hard sole and hard surface and walking 30km a day, that causes huge and constant feet pain. And it doesn’t go away. I’m not going to lie here, with my hiking shoes I had constant pain in my feet for the whole trip first time. All 36 days. Everyday. That can drive you nuts. I had no pain in my joints, tendons, knees, calfs or thighs. But just constant pain in my feet. And that killed me everyday. It was very demotivating to start every day again.
So what to do?
I found the answer just later on then I came back home.
In that time I could easily run 20-30km, no problem at all. And I have never had any feet pain while running. NONE. (Ok, I had some when running a marathon on a paved road, but that’s another story).
So I decided to try walking longer distances with my simple running shoes, like 20-40km. And guess what happened, the feet pain with running shoes is like 20 times smaller. Still you have some pain, because when you run, your feet most of the time are in the air, when you walk, it’s the opposite.
But that was such a nice discovery for me.
So, next time, in 2014 I did all the Camino with running shoes and I had almost zero pain in my feet. If saying the truth, I was pretty afraid to do all the Camino, because I knew that I may have that constant pain in my feet again, but with running shoes that was not the case.
Some people walk Camino just with one pair of shoes, because you have to put another pair in your backpack and that’s an additional weight.
As well, I really saw the improvement in 2014 regarding heating in albergues, but still, sometimes it’s quite hard, especially if you decide to sleep in popular albergues. But I am sure, the situation is even better in 2017 and will get better 🙂
Still, I would strongly recommend taking two pairs of shoes with you. You may get wet, your shoes may get torn or something may happen what can cause very uncomfortable situation.
And my suggestion wouldn’t add too much extra weight.
The best duet for me would be these two shoes:
- GoreTex running shoes
- Light running shoes with soft sole
I would definitely not offer you to take those simple leisure time shoes as they are not sturdy enough and the sole is very thin, this combination could cause the same amount of feet pain as hiking shoes.
So, my duet: GoreTex running shoes and light running shoes.
GoreTex running shoes are pretty light, sturdy and DO NOT LET RAIN WATER to get into your shoes at the same time. That’s a perfect combination for Camino de Santiago. They are good for almost any weather condition in Spain 🙂
So why to take another pair of shoes? Simply because feet in GoreTex shoes may get pretty hot as well, especially if it’s +20-30 degrees there, so to have those light breathing running shoes is a very good option 🙂 Just better take running shoes with thicker soft sole, as walking on hard surface with thing sole is painful as well. Do not choose those professional race running shoes which are designed to be extremely light and the sole is very thin in them.
And both of these shoes weight is pretty small, so you won’t have too much problem carrying them around 🙂
Still, if you have any other GoreTex or waterproof shoes with you already, do not rush and buy GoreTex running shoes, as you will be ok with what you have as well. Just do not use them when there’s no rain, sun is shining and the road is very easy to walk 🙂
As I said before, you may get along with one pair of shoes, but I always suggest to take couple of pairs, because walking with wet shoes can kill your motivation to continue the trip.
Have one pair of shoes who has GoreTex fabric in them or any other waterproof stuff 🙂 That will save you a lot of pain and tears 🙂
And another pair of light shoes as you will be able to enjoy sunny weather and light breeze most of the days 🙂
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