As I said before, the Camino de Santiago is mostly about your feet. Take care of them with the right shoes and socks, and they will take care of you. Blisters are inevitable. But, if you treat them properly, they’re not too bad.
There are many theories about socks and as many types of socks as there are theories. Here are the two that I used. I started out with Wrightsock Men’s Coolmesh Socksthat are a sock within a sock. The theory of this type of sock is that the inner sock moves with your foot while the outer sock moves with the shoe. If all works as planned, the friction is between the socks rather than between foot and sock, and blisters are prevented. This sort of works. I got blisters while wearing the Wrightsocks, but who knows if they would have been worse without them?
This two-sock method could also be tried by actually wearing two pairs of socks, and I did see people with a very light pair of inner socks and a heavier pair of outers. I don’t see why this wouldn’t work, except that that’s just one more layer of heat being held into your shoe as well. And heat means sweat, and sweat increases friction, and you know the rest. Blisters.
Friction prevention and heat and moisture dispersion isn’t the only function of your socks. Padding is also important. On many days you’ll be walking for hours over sharp broken rock. On many other days, you’ll spend a few hours on asphalt or hard crushed pebbles. On most days, you’ll get a little of both. That pounding bruises feet.
I ended up buying a pair of Lorpen Coolmax socksat a store along the way. These were trekking socks, medium weight, made in Spain, and provided the padding that the Wrightsocks were lacking. (In fairness, Wrightsocks are available in heavier varieties. I was using the Coolmesh variety, which are pretty thin.) The Lorpen socks were made of a material called Coolmax and did a great job of wicking moisture. Those turned out to be my first socks of the day from then on.
First socks of the day?
Probably the best piece of advice I got, and will now pass on, is change your socks midway through your daily walk. Sit down, take off your pack. Take off your shoes and take off your socks. Take a rest while you let your feet dry out in the air. Rub them for a while and work out any knots. Repowder or regrease your trouble spots. Take out a fresh pair of socks (which I packed every day in the outside pocket of my pack) and put them on. It will change your whole outlook on the day when you stand up and your feet feel like you’re just starting out instead of like you’ve already been going for three hours.
There are, again, two theories of how to treat your feet before putting on your socks: powder and grease. I’m a powder guy. Specifically, Gold Bond Medicated Foot Powder. Some people insist putting a Vaseline-like substance on your heel and between your toes is the best way to stop friction, and they’re entitled to their opinion. I like keeping my feet as dry as possible as the best way to reduce friction. And that means powder. Put it between and on the top and bottom of your toes, on your heels, the top of your foot, your instep. In fact, just coat your foot in it before you put your sock on. Do it again when you change your socks midday. The other advantage to powder is that it’s light. A small container will last you the entire Camino, with enough left over to treat the inside of your shoes every now and then to help dry them out (and smell better.)