Having packed away the hiking boots and washed all my incredibly grotty hiking clothes that could possibly have walked home on their own, I thought it might be timely to share some key learnings from my latest long distance walk through Italy.
We learned the hard way about the importance of correctly-fitted boots. When planning our first camino we received some bad advice about what socks to wear and we bought our walking boots off the shelf. Wrong, wrong, wrong!
As we limped our way across Spain, we listened to other walkers as they shared their pearls of wisdom about how to best care for blisters, and compared notes on thick socks vs thin, and boots vs shoes vs sandals vs sneakers. We quickly dispensed with the double socks we started out wearing, and rued the day that we had not thought (ignorance is bliss) to spend more money and have our boots professionally fitted. In some ways it was a case of ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’.
When lining up for my second (and much longer) camino, I was determined to be smarter about my footwear. Following a recommendation from a fellow pilgrim, I telephoned in advance (I live 4 hours west of Sydney) and made time to talk with Stephen Crowfoot at the Paddy Pallin, Kent Street store.
Needless to say, my boot buying experience the second time around was COMPLETELY different. I tried on about three different brands and styles, and still Stephen was not happy with the way they looked/sat on my foot. He recommended I come back in a month or so when they had some new stock in store. On my next trip to Sydney – BINGO – a perfect fit and I walked out with a pair of Scarpas. Not cheap of course, but worth every cent considering the kilometres I was planning to cover in them.
(As an aside, the boots were 1.5 sizes larger than my normal shoe size. All the better to allow my feet to swell/expand as they warm up and wear out! This extra space is critical and was one of major mistakes we made with our initial boot purchases.)
That ol’ saying, ‘You get what you pay for’, was even more relevant throughout this exercise as I learned a brilliant lacing technique that made such a difference to the way the boot fitted and moved (or in this case – didn’t move) on my foot, ankle and leg.
I realise that this will not be gripping reading for some of my blog followers but it made such a difference to my foot comfort, I feel compelled to share with any other novice walkers out there. Or maybe it is a case of small things amusing small minds!
I am not 100% sure but I think the steps below refer to the ‘heel lock’ method which minimises the up/down (vertical) movement of your foot in a boot i.e. the tightness of the lacing around the leg stops the leg sliding in and out of the boot.
I will do my best to explain it in a number of steps:
Lace the toe box as normal. Be sure not to lace it too tightly so that your feet have room to expand (as mentioned previously).
Cross the laces over as if you are going to tie a bow.
Loop the laces straight up, behind the hooks.
Take the end of each lace and thread them diagonally across the front of the boot and through the gap/space in between the hooks (on the opposing side).
Pull the lace all the way through, ensuring each lace stays caught behind its top hook.
To tie the boot off, pull the lace out and away from the boot horizontally, not vertically.
Pull it tight.
This will snugly cinch the boot around the leg.
Tie off the laces.
I use a double bow to ensure the whole thing doesn’t come undone and trip up my two left feet!
N.B: I still got the odd blister on both my second and third caminos but nothing like when walking the Camino Frances. After 1 000km I think my feet have every right to blister and protest!