My latest visit to REI had me sitting in the shoe section, right foot propped up against that sloped wooden bench thing, an employee across from me, looking down to my feet.
He paused, considering. “Have you always had sort of flat feet?”
This was when I knew that my ‘shoe’ problem might not be a shoe problem at all, but rather, a foot problem.
I wasn’t sure how to answer him. My feet have always been wide, but to my knowledge, never flat.
Never flat, that is, until the Camino.
The Camino has the potential to change many things in your life. But at this point, 10 months after the end of my pilgrimage, I assumed all the changes would be the inner ones. Shouldn’t the physical changes have happened on the long walk?
Well, they probably had, it just took a new pair of shoes for me to recognize the changes to my feet. A month ago I bought the same pair of shoes that I’d used on my first Camino, and promptly began breaking them in with some steep hikes in the mountains of Virginia. Almost immediately I felt a pressure on the top of my right foot, but I continued to walk, thinking that it would probably go away. It didn’t go away, and instead only became more insistent with each walk/hike I took. A simple stroll through my neighborhood had the top of my foot muttering at me after about a mile. So I slowed down, and took some time off from the new pair of shoes.
I grew antsy, so I went back to my old pair of Camino shoes and continued to walk. The pain in my foot gradually faded, and about a week ago I went on a 12-mile hike and I felt amazing (tired, at the end, but strong throughout).
So I returned to REI, hoping that there was some defect in the shoe I had bought, thinking I could simply replace them with a new pair and try it all over again.
But the instant the REI employee asked if I had ‘sort of’ flat feet (whatever that means), it was like something clicked. I didn’t know for sure that my feet had changed after the Camino, but there have been times in these last months when I’ve looked at my feet and thought, “You guys look a little different.” It’s probably my imagination, because all of my shoes still fit just fine, and I’m not sure that any change in my feet would be even remotely visible. And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something had changed.
I still don’t have any concrete answers, but what the REI guy said made a lot of sense. After 500+ miles of walking, my feet had probably flattened out a bit. And my Camino shoes changed their shape along with my foot (if you remember the photo I attached in this post, the old shoes look so different from the new ones). My feet adjusted very gradually to the 500 miles of the Camino, but what they couldn’t adjust to quite as well was the new pair of shoes, with their high arches.
It seems as though the solution is a simple one, thank goodness. Just tie the laces in a different way. So far I’ve been on two hikes with these new shoes laced in a different way, and my foot feels fine. I’m not out of the woods (haha) yet, but I’m hopeful that these are the shoes I’ll be taking on my next Camino. And I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to walk pain free (except for the normal Camino pains, of course).
So this slight foot/shoe issue aside, preparations for my second Camino are coming together. I’m picking up a few items that I need to ‘refresh’ since my last walk, lately my training walks and hikes have felt great, and I’m getting that grin-on-my-face feeling of excitement again. About four more weeks to go!!
Buen Camino Nadine,
I leave for my 7th Camino this Friday. It is doubtful we will meet in Santiago as I will be leading a group on the Camino Portugués, I’ll be in Santiago around the time you will be in your first week on Camino.
Do enjoy every step of the way, I know you will. It is such a magical place to be, I absolutely love it!
Thank you Arlène! Maybe one day we will either be on the same path or our timing will match up and we can celebrate in Santiago together… I hope so!
In the meantime, I hope you enjoy every step of YOUR way, as well! Have you been on the Camino Portugués before?
Yes, I walked the Camino Portugués last April.
I thought it would be a good short (2 weeks) tour to run. I have started a hiking tour company called Choose Happiness Adventures and this is the first tour I will be leading. It must be the right thing because I advertised and within a few weeks I had 16 people signed up – I now have a wait list for the next tour of the Portugués.
It is amazing to me how many people are anxious about walking the Camino alone, or maybe they just feel more secure with somebody making all the arrangements for them, I don’t know, but whichever it is good for me. I might be in the market for somebody to help guide other tours on different routes.
When you and I both return, let’s chat via email, you never know what may develop. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org, do contact me.
Your tour company sounds like an incredible idea… I hope this first one is a huge success! It certainly sounds like something that fills a need for many people. I can’t wait to hear about it! And I’d love to touch base with you after we return from our Camino’s. 🙂
Well, I’m about 2-1/2 months behind you, leaving August 30 on the Norte . . . have you thought about going to a foot doctor to get some orthotics? They helped tremendously on my walk in 2013. I’ll take them with me again . . . shoes . . . and feet . . . can’t live with ’em, can’t trust ’em not to change on you! Buen Camino!
I think if I continue to have any foot problems, I’ll get some advice from a doctor… my feet were fine on last year’s Camino, and I’m hoping that for now, all I needed were some minor lacing adjustments. But we’ll see… feet are so important (and not just for a Camino)!!
How are your Norte preparations going?
I agree with Woodswoman. Custom made orthotics saved my feet (and knees).
Hmm, maybe I will have to look into this…
Yes, Keens! I’m a big fan 🙂
I’m (obviously ;)) no expert on the Camino or on hiking shoes, but what struck me in your post is “the REI guy.” It’s so meaningful how people who may only make brief and mundane appearances in the journey (whether that journey be a Camino pilgrimage or the journey of life as a whole) can shape it for the better by inadvertently offering insights or perspectives we may not be able to see at first when contemplating our own journeys.
I always enjoy reading your posts! Hope the rest of your preparations for the Camino are wonderful and dotted with many happy and helpful encounters 🙂
Thank you for this! I totally agree- REI guy’s appearance truly was brief, but it was remarkable (quite literally so, since I wrote about it!). I’m not sure that everyone would have taken the time to carefully consider my feet and my situation, and to give such good and thoughtful advice (beyond the lacing of the shoes, he was very clear that I take ONE hike, going no further than 5 miles from my car, to see if the problem persisted. I love clear advice like this!!). On the Camino these people are called “Camino angels” and I’d like to think of them in this way in ‘real life’, as well. Because we meet angels all the time, though often we don’t realize it. 🙂