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  • Writer's pictureTaryn Watkins

Taking care of your feet: a sewing lesson

When you're walking your feet are essential for each step. And so on a walking pilgrimage the need is obvious: take care of your feet! The second day of the Camino de Santiago (my first walking pilgrimage) we were still walking too quickly, not taking breaks and not letting our feet breathe. Halfway through the day I decided to take off my hiking boots in order to see why I was having such terrible pain. As I removed my sock slowly... on my pinky toe was a blister the size of my pinky toe. Um...yeah... In the weeks that followed I learned a lot about how to take care of my feet as I was walking.

After having been on many pilgrimages I know that the first week is usually the most difficult in terms of blisters. So these are my tips as one who walks and one who is prone to blisters.

When I walked the Camino I started out with hiking boots but found that those did not adequately breathe. Moisture is the enemy of the feet. And boy are my feet moist, wet really. By the end of that walk I had exclusively started using my sandals. And that worked really well. So I thought on the Via Francigena that I would just bring sandals. That was a mistake. Because the first two weeks plus some, it rained every single day. This changed the dynamic: on the Camino it was dry and made sandals a perfect choice. When my feet were constantly being drenched from rain and grass, it made not only blisters but blisters open to the elements.

So I would say depending on the weather hiking boots or shoes or sandals have their advantages and disadvantages. Certainly you want something with a good tread but, for me, mitigating moisture is key.

Now, I have used compeed, blister Band-Aids, moleskin... all of it. I find that Band-Aids actually seem to work better than the moleskin or compeed but blister tape works really well too.

But no matter what I do I always get blisters. So at night take all of the Band-Aids and everything off so that they can dry out. During the day having things covered but able to breathe and to release any moisture is important.... In order to do that I sew my blisters. Now this is not any sort of medical advice because I know people have told me I'm not supposed to do this. But I have found no other way to be able to still walk without lancing the blisters and sewing them. By sewing them I mean literally using a needle (I like to have little alcohol swabs to sterilize the needle but if I am completely honest, I usually don't even have that.) and thread and sewing through the top part of the skin forming the blister and leaving the thread in the blister in order to leave that opening in order for the water to drain out during the day as I'm hiking. Sometimes I will also leave the thread in at night but take off any Band-Aids and everything so that again it dries out. Have I mentioned how important that is? It helps to heal the skin and get callused up.

I have had blisters under blisters, and blisters under those, and next to the OG. It's a constant process of checking your feet every single day. Take shoes off often during the hike and making sure that you give adequate rest to your feet. Even though taking your shoes off or stopping... at all... can sometimes make your feet hurt more immediately as you start again, it is incredibly helpful to long-term health and comfort as you hike.

Take care of yourselves out there.

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