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!!