Choosing the Best Walking Footwear for Your Camino

Footwear is important, no question about it.

Choosing the best walking footwear for your Camino depends on a number of factors. 

What route do you plan to walk?  Are you going during a hot, cold, or rainy season?  Do you have problems such as pronation of the feet that need to be considered?  To make for a more pleasant Camino, it's important to find shoes that fit well and are suited to the weather and terrain of the trip you're planning.

There are lots of questions you need to ask yourself when looking at buying shoes...

Getting the Right Fit

It’s a good idea to get walking footwear professionally fitted to ensure the correct size.  However, your correct size in walking shoes may be a half or even a full size larger than normal.  This is because the repeated pounding of the feet during long distance walking causes them to swell and spread.  So always try on new walking shoes at the end of the day, preferably after walking at least several kilometres.  Also take along socks and any replacement insoles you plan to wear on your Camino.

Waterproofing or No Waterproofing?

If you’re walking in a cool, wet time of the year, waterproofing helps keep feet dry and warm for longer.  However, in hot weather waterproofing will hold in heat and moisture which can lead to blisters.  Shoes without waterproofing have better ventilation but take in water quickly on rainy days.  But because they also dry much quicker, they may be a better option during warm weather.

What Type of Footwear

The question of boots versus trail shoes or even trainers is hotly contested.  Historically, long distance hiking and walking footwear meant sturdy, leather boots.  The school of thought was that they provided good support to the feet and ankles and kept feet dry.  All true.  Sort of.

However, more recent evidence indicates that while a thick boot may give more support to the base of the foot on rocky ground, it also gives less ‘ground feel’ than lighter soled shoes and therefore impairs balance on uneven surfaces.  The ankle support theory has also been largely debunked.  Lightweight walking shoes with better ‘ground feel’ cause you to make constant balance adjustments and thereby strengthen the feet and ankles.

Breaking Them In

Whatever walking footwear you choose, make sure you break them in for at least a few long walks of 3 to 4 hours or more before you leave.  That way you’ll know if there are any issues with the fit which need to be addressed pre- Camino.  Do bear in mind that full leather boots often take longer to break in than shoes made of composite materials.

You can read the full guide from Follow The Camino here.